Jatropha Biofuel Yields in Indian Wastelands 80% Below Forecasts

jatropha plantation photo

Jatropha plantation in Rajasthan, photo: The Jatropha System

Though plenty of reports have been done in the past two years indicating that while jatropha curcas does grow in marginal conditions, to produce consistent crops yields at levels suitable for commercial biofuel production, it needs just as much attention as other biofuel crops. The latest validation of that view comes from The National by way of Biofuels Digest:Citing the results of a Navsari Agricultural University's test farm in Gujarat, The National quotes Prof RR Shah on the results of their jatropha planting without fertilizer,

There is no yield. The literature said that with dry land, after four year's growth, you can get a yield of 1kg per plant. For us it is hardly 200g per plant.

Jatropha Needs Fertilizer to Get Good Yields
This contrasts with plots which Shah's team planted and fertilized,
Suman Jha, a researcher on Prof Shah's team, shows me patches where he is growing the plant with fertiliser, intermingled with other crops and trees. Even here, it is a dull and unremarkable green shrub, but at least it is thriving, producing as much as 4kg per plant. "This is not a wasteland crop," Dr Jha says. "It needs fertiliser, water and good management. Yes, it grows on wasteland, but it doesn't give you any yield."

The amazing thing about this to me isn't the results of Prof Shah's team, it's that this comes as a surprise to anyone. Even a cursory review of the literature on jatropha supports these results, and that literature has been out for some time now.

Not to Mention Wastelands Aren't Always Wasted
Despite great claims to the contrary by the government of India, and of state governments, the idea of achieving large crop yields on marginal wastelands—which organizations such as Navdanya have rightly pointed out as not truly being wastelands, often being important ecosystems instead—just doesn't bear fruit.

via: The National, Biofuels Digest

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