Jatropha curcas is a drought-resistant perennial, growing well in marginal/poor soil. It is easy to establish, grows relatively quickly and lives, producing seeds for 60 years or more. Jatropha the wonder plant produces seeds with an oil content of 50 to 60%. The oil can be combusted as fuel. It burns with clear smoke-free flame, tested successfully as fuel for simple diesel engine. The by-products are glycerin, press cake a good organic fertilizer, oil contains also insecticide.
It is found to be growing in many parts of the country, rugged in nature and can survive with minimum inputs and easy to propagate.
Medically it is used for diseases like cancer, piles, snakebite, paralysis, dropsy etc. Jatropha grows wild in many areas of Africa and even thrives on infertile soil. A good crop can be obtained with little effort. Depending on soil quality and rainfall, oil can be extracted from the Jatropha nuts from the first year onward. The annual nut yield ranges from 1.5 to 2 tons. The kernels consist of oil to about 60 percent; this can be transformed into biodiesel fuel. Family: Euphorbiaceae Synonyms: Curcas purgans Medic. Vernacular/common names: English- physic nut, purging nut.
The advantages of growing Jatropha in nurseries are twofold: first, seedlings can grow under controlled, optimal circumstances and slow or abnormally performing plants can easily be removed.
Another advantage is that nursery plants are stronger when planted in fields and can more easily survive when the conditions for establishment are sub-optimal (drought, weeds, presence of browsing cattle and insects).
There are, however, drawbacks of nursery plants. The root development of seedlings is hampered because of growing in the smaller containers. This is especially disadvantageous when the seedlings are not planted timely in the fields (< 1 month).
There are also extra labour and capital requirements, and there is the possibility of spreading pests and diseases to all seedlings and the field during planting.
A nursery is a good option in case you have very low quality seed material because the best performing plants/seeds can be easily selected.
Flowering and fruiting habit
The trees are deciduous, shedding the leaves in the dry season. Flowering occurs during the wet season and two flowering peaks are often seen. In permanently humid regions, flowering occurs throughout the year. The seeds mature about two to three months after flowering. Early growth is fast and with good rainfall conditions nursery plants may bear fruits after the first rainy season, The flowers are pollinated by insects especially honey bees.
Jatropha curcas grows almost anywhere, even on gravelly, sandy and saline soils. It can thrive on the poorest stony soil. It can grow even in the crevices of rocks. The leaves shed during the winter months form mulch around the base of the plant. The organic matter from shed leaves enhance earth-worm activity in the soil around the root-zone of the plants, which improves the fertility of the soil. Regarding climate, Jatropha curcas is found in the tropics and subtropics and likes heat, although it does well even in lower temperatures and can withstand a light frost. Its water requirement is extremely low and it can stand long periods of drought by shedding most of its leaves to reduce transpiration loss. Jatropha is also suitable for preventing soil erosion and shifting of sand dunes.
WHAT IS JATROPHA
Jatropha is a small tree or shrub with smooth grey with fairly dominant green bark, which exudes whitish coloured, watery, latex when cut.
Normally it grows between 3 and 5 meters in height, but can attain a height of up to 8 meters or 10 meters under very favourable conditions.
Jatropha is a fairly indestructible crop that produces fairly black oil-seed, which is not edible to both man and animals. It can survive 3years of drought.
⦁ Jatropha curcas is resistant to drought and can be planted even in the desert climates, and it thrives on any type of soil, grows almost anywhere; in sandy, gravelly and saline soils. Needs minimal input or management.
⦁ Jatropha is not grazed by any cattle or sheep.
⦁ Jatropha curcas can survive long periods of drought.
⦁ Jatropha propagation is easy
⦁ Jatropha curcas growth is rapid; forms a thick live hedge after only a month’s planting.
⦁ Jatropha curcas starts yielding from the first year onward and continues for 60 years.
⦁ The meal after extraction excellent organic manure (38% protein N.P.K rations 2:7:1:2:1).
⦁ Jatropha curcas quickly establishes itself and will produce seeds round the year if irrigated.
⦁ Very low labour requirement as to other perennial crops.
Jatropha seeds can produce 60% oil depending on the following factors:
⦁ Yielding capacity of the plant(hybrid)
⦁ Advanced pruning techniques
⦁ Soil moisture level
⦁ Soil nutrient level
⦁ Application of fertilizers
⦁ Stage of ripening
Land required for Jatropha is usually cleared of too much shades and weeds. If it is a large plantation, the use of tractor sparingly can be employed. However care must be taken to preserve the top, soil as this will be of great benefit to the young growing plants.
Plantation distance is usually 2m x 2m or 6feet and 1000 saplings in 1acre of land; this will give room for intercropping.
Pits of about 5inches to 8inches are dug manually or using a post hole digger, attached to a tractor, for each saplings after planting, the Technology Nutrient Spray is applied to enhance the growth of more branches to increase seed production..Dead plants are equally replaced
In subsequent years, normal but minimal maintenance is required.
Flowering starts from the 6th month of planting
Seeds get matured as from 8th to 10th month after transplanting from nursery.
Jatropha needs sufficient amounts of nutrients in order to grow into a full size plant and to produce seeds.
In the first 4 year nutrients are needed to build up good plant architecture (roots, stems, leaves).
Also in this period an increasing amount of nutrients is needed to produce flowers and fruits. After 4 years, when the plants have developed to their final shape and size nutrients are primarily needed for maintenance of the plant and for fruit production.
Nutrients requirements during Jatropha establishment
In the first year, nutrients are needed for maturation and development of high-yielding Jatropha plants. Under conditions of poor soil fertility extra nutrients are required for plantation establishment and seed production in the first 4 years.
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