Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Jatropha Farming for Biofuel Energy Independence
What Is Jatropha?
Jatropha, commonly known as physic nut or purging nut, is a non-edible oil-yielding perennial shrub that has green leaves with a length and width of 6 centimeters (cm) to 15cm, and can reach a height of up to 5 meters (m). It originated in tropical America and West Asia.
Jatropha can grow in various areas in the Philippines. It is known locally as tuba-tuba. Others call it tagumbao, tawa-tawa, kalunay, kasla and tangan-tangan.
Botanist Carl Von Linne first classified the plant in 1753 and named it Jatropha curcas.
Jatropha comes from the Greek words: jatros (doctor) and trophe (nutrition). It belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae.
2. Are there different types of jatropha?
The genus jatropha has 176 species distributed throughout the world. Twelve species, alone, can be found in India.
3. What type of weather is ideal for jatropha?
Jatropha grows in tropical and subtropical regions.
It is drought-resistant.
4. What type of soil is ideal for jatropha?
Jatropha can be planted on any kind of soil. It can grow even in marginal areas.
However, low yields have been recorded in low rainfall areas while it can be grown with higher yields in high rainfall/irrigated areas.
5. What are the uses of jatropha?
Jatropha is used in traditional medicine. It is likewise used as pesticide, soap and fuel oil for lighting and cooking.
Because of its strong root system, jatropha can grow almost everywhere. It can hold water and survive the driest season. It is, thus, useful in reforestation, soil rehabilitation and soil erosion projects.
In the Philippines, jatropha is mainly used as a live fence for protection of agricultural fields from damage by livestock. As a non-edible plant, it is an effective barrier between livestock and crop fields; thus, the local name tubang bakod.
6. What is the productive life of jatropha?
Jatropha has a productive life that can span from 35 years up to 50 years.
It starts flowering a year after planting.
Economic yield is obtained from the fourth year onwards in the Indian experience.
7. What are the advantages of jatropha over other biodiesel feedstocks?
The advantages of jatropha are mainly its economic seed yield and oil recovery.
Cultivation of jatropha is not capital-intensive.
It can be planted on any kind of soil and grows well under tropical and subtropical climate.
It can easily be propagated by seed/cutting, has lesser gestation period and can generate high yield per hectare.
Lastly, jatropha has a lower price since there is no other application, except for biodiesel feedstock. Other feedstocks are largely food commodities.
Variety of uses
As mentioned earlier, jatropha can be used as traditional medicine, pesticide, soap and fuel oil for lighting and cooking. It can also be used as a plant for live fence, anti-soil erosion, fertilizer and biofuel. It, thus, increases rural and agricultural income and creates livelihood to the poor and marginalized sectors.
Effects on the environment
The use of jatropha biodiesel reduces air pollution.
It has zero sulfur emission.
Tests by the United States Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) have shown that the use of biodiesel almost completely eliminates lifecycle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. It is less neutral in its net addition to global warming because whatever CO2 released in combustion is already sequestered when growing the crop. Indeed, jatropha plantations sequestering CO2 would acquire an additional attraction as sources of “CO2 emission credits” that could be purchased by countries that are unable to reduce their CO2 emission reduction targets. This is in line with the Kyoto Protocol.
8.Is the Philippines ideal for the cultivation of jatropha?
In 2006, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) studied the potential of jatropha as biodiesel feedstock in the Philippines. Its findings showed that the country has sufficient arable areas and favorable climatic conditions with adequate rainfall. These account for large feedstock production every year.
9. Apart from climatic conditions and soil quality, what can affect the yield of jatropha?
These include fertlizer applications, weeding, and pest and disease management, among others.
10. What lands are suited or have the potential for jatropha plantation?
Commercial biodiesel production warrants continuous supply of feedstock. This requires block plantation of jatropha in large areas.
The country has a potential of about 4 million hectares of land for captive plantation of jatropha.
Hedge Plantation in Farm Land
There are about 10 million hectares of agricultural land under farming of various crops. Farmers may be motivated to grow jatropha as a hedge crop to serve as field protection from cattle. As a boundary plantation, jatropha can also provide additional income for the farmers.
The reported area under temporary crop is 5.3 million hectares occupying 54% of the farmlands planted with different annual crops. It is estimated that 10% of the area under temporary agricultural annual crops, equivalent to 0.5 million hectares, can be used for jatropha.
Idle lands, estimated at 0.1 million hectares, can be converted into jatropha plantations.
Of the 4.2 million hectares under this category, the available land for hedge plantation is estimated at 0.2 million hectares. Hedge plantation or intercropping with well-maintained permanent crops will give good yield to farmers.
Meadows, Pastures and Other Lands
It is estimated that about 0.2 million hectares of land under this category can be earmarked and converted into productive land for jatropha plantation.
With proper planning, availability of planting materials, technical know-how and funding, development of nurseries and plantations of jatropha is possible in a phased manner during the next five years.
11. Do we have sufficient areas for jatropha cultivation vis-à-vis the total area required for jatropha plantation to meet the various biodiesel blends?
Based on 2006 FAO estimates, we have sufficient areas for jatropha cultivation vis-a-vis the total area required for jatropha plantation to meet the various biodiesel blends (1%, 2%, 5%, 10% and 20%).
A summary of area requirement for jatropha cultivation at various biodiesel blends at 5,000 kilograms (kg) yield per hectare for one harvest is presented below.
12. What office is primarily tasked by the government to carry on the business of jatropha?
The Philippine National Oil Company-Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC).
It has been officially registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on July 13, 2006, and officially mandated by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, during the National Economic Development Authority-National Anti-Poverty Commission August 8, 2006 Cabinet Meeting to "have the primary responsibility over the biofuels project and to coordinate with the concerned agencies."
The Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, in its Opinion No. 285, dated December 29, 2006, affirms the PNOC-AFC’s primordial role as a direct investor with a purpose to invest its capital and carry on the business of alternative fuels. Given jatropha’s advantages over other feedstocks, as discussed earlier, the PNOC-AFC has considered it as the Corporation’s feedstock for biodiesel production.
13. Is there a market for jatropha?
With the enactment of the Biofuels Act of 2006, the current local demand for biodiesel, estimated at 980,000 liters per annum, is expected to increase on the average of about 78 million liters in 2007, with a minimum of 1% blend; and 167 million liters by 2009 at 2% blend.
14. How will PNOC-AFC address this estimated demand?
The PNOC-AFC came up with an integrated project on the establishment of jatropha mega-nurseries, plantations and biodiesel refineries.
This project aims to secure continuous feedstock supply of jatropha to the biodiesel refineries at the same time control the price of feedstock to ensure competitiveness of locally-produced biodiesel.
It is, therefore, important that the feedstock for the production of biodiesel will be continuously available and the source should be within a reasonable distance to the refineries.
Thus, by 2012, the PNOC-AFC shall have established the following:
1,500-hectare jatropha mega-nurseries cum pilot plantations
700,000-hectare biofuel crop plantations
1-million metric tons (MT) biodiesel refineries
15. Is there an area in the Philippines where an integrated meganursery-plantation-biodiesel refinery is possible?
This is in Mindanao.
It has been identified due to the availability of vast arable lands suitable for mega-nurseries and plantations. In addition, the island is a strategic location for refineries.
16. How does one start to propagate jatropha?
Jatropha is normally propagated through main propagation (seeds/vegetative cuttings) and micro-propagation/tissue culture.
Healthy seeds are selected for raising seedlings.
Before sowing, seeds are soaked in water for 12 hours and seeds are subsequently sown in 10cm x 20cm sized polyethylene bags filled with soil, sand and organic fertilizer in the ratio of 1:1:1, respectively.
The raising of jatropha seedlings in polyethylene bags can accelerate the initial growth of plantation by at least four months. Four-month-old seedlings can be planted in fields.
Jatropha can also be propagated through cuttings.
Proper care is required in selecting the cuttings, which should be at least one-year-old and about 60cm long.
For seedling propagation, cuttings can also be sown in polyethylene bags for raising seedlings.
Mass multiplication of high-yielding varieties is possible only through tissue culture.
Once high-yielding varieties are identified, millions of propagules can be multiplied only through tissue culture. Such plants possess certain advantages such as uniformity in yield and oil content and homogeneity in all respects. The research work on the development of suitable protocol for mass multiplication of elite jatropha has been initiated in India about two years ago. The standardization of protocol is in progress.
17. Are nurseries necessary?
Maintaining a nursery is important in developing a jatropha plantation. This increases the rate of survival of the planting material.
The nursery should be accessible to the planting site, preferably on a non-sloping area close to a water source.
Nurseries established near the site of the plantation will facilitate the distribution of seedlings to the farmers/beneficiaries.
18. What is the ideal size of land for planting jatropha?
The planting density of 2,500 plants per hectare at 2m x 2m spacing has been found to be optimal under rain-fed conditions.
Recent experiences in India showed that spacing of 2m x 3m accommodating 1,667 plants per hectare is more suitable as it provides sufficient area to undertake inter-cropping and also allows easy harvesting and collection of seeds.
It was also observed that a 3m x 3m spacing can be followed if there is a sufficient irrigation facility and a well-distributed rainfall.
The spacing of 2m x 3m and 3m x 3m will facilitate intercropping during the initial three years of plantation operations.
If jatropha is to be planted as a hedge crop, the spacing of 1m x 1m may be adopted.
19. How much is the cost of plantation?
Based on the Indian experience of a 2m x 3m spacing with about 1,667 seeds per hectare, the estimated cost of nursery raising and plantation is likely to be P50,000 per hectare.
20. How many seeds are required in planting jatropha?
The seed requirement has been calculated based on a 1,667 seedlings per hectare for a 2m x 3m spacing and 2,500 seedlings per hectare for a 2m x 2m spacing.
21. How much is the cost of seeds per kilo?
The price of jatropha seeds per kilo varies among localities in the country.
22. How does one go about in planting seedlings?
Two-month-old seedlings should be planted in pits (45cm x 45cm x 45cm) at specified spacings.
Each pit is filled with organic fertilizer and soil mixture at 3:1 ratio (3 parts soil and 1 part organic fertilizer).
The basal application of fertilizer at the rate of 20 gram (g) urea, 120g single super phosphate and 16g murate of potash is mixed with soil and filled into the pits. Then the fertilizer is covered with topsoil in a hill-up manner to avoid erosion and the watering of the plants is done up to two weeks after transplanting.
For cuttings, the same procedure can be adopted provided that the stalk is transferred within five days after cutting.
23. How much is the cost per seedling and per cutting?
With very limited sources of jatropha sold locally, per seedling costs P10 to P15; per cutting P5 to P10.
24. There are different varieties of jatropha. Is there such specific variety that could well reproduce enough seeds for the country?
Jatropha is grown everywhere in the country and planting materials/seeds may be sourced nationwide.
Varieties from other countries likewise need to be assessed to determine, among others, their impact to local biodiversity.
Thus, the PNOC-AFC has conducted several assessments on the suitable/best variety of jatropha through studies and researches.
Before venturing into plantation, for instance, the PNOC-AFC has embarked on a nursery project which also serves as its research and development center with activities, such as different farming systems, germplasm management, provenance testing, and pest and disease management, among others.
25. Who are PNOC-AFC’s partners in jatropha plantation?
Recognizing the importance of research and development, the PNOC-AFC maintains strong partnership with the following institutions:
University of the Philippines at Los Baños
Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development
Jatropha Research and Development Center, Ministry of Agriculture, Indonesia
Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia
Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia
26. How does one maintain a jatropha plantation?
In order to harness the full potential yield of jatropha, plantations should be maintained by providing the required nutrients and need-based irrigation.
After reaching full growth, pruning should be done not only to achieve desired yield but also to give shape, proper aeration and light required by the plant.
27. How many seeds are produced per hectare?
The seed yield of jatropha will vary under different agro-climatic conditions and planting density. Seed yield varies from 5 MT to 7 MT per hectare under different agro-climatic conditions.
The farmers are likely to get the additional income from intercrops following the spacing of 2m x 3m and 3m x 3m under irrigated/well-distributed rainfall.
Under Indian climatic conditions, fruiting takes place once a year. It is likely to be twice a year under Philippine conditions thus resulting to higher yields.
Jatropha is expected to harvest an average of 5 MT per hectare of seeds under favorable conditions. The suitable intercrop may be undertaken during the initial years of plantation as this does not affect the yield of the jatropha.
28. How much oil can be extracted from a jatropha seed?
The oil content in jatropha varies from 30% up to 40% in seed and 40% up to 58% in kernel with good quality seed plantation.
With irrigation, fertile soil, favorable climatic conditions and the right choice of seeds, jatropha can achieve 6-8 oil tons per annum.
29. What are the issues in the cultivation of jatropha?
Superior plant stocks mean excellent fruiting habits, prolific branching habits, and resistance to pest and diseases.
Efficient plantation management requires standardized agro-techniques in harvesting, storage and the like, plus land type (plain rolling land), land size identification, good drainage, sufficient water supply and strategic location, i.e., close to the market or accessible to ports or roads.
By the Philippine National Oil Company Alternative Fuels Corporation
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