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Jatropha curcas or psychic nut has become a new source of biodiesel. It is native to central America but is now found in tropical regions of  Asia and Africa. Various banks and government agencies offer several incentives for jatropha cultivation.

 Compared to other vegetable oils like palm oil and sunflower oil, which are expensive, non-edible oil from jatropha curcas is cheaper. The plant can be grown on arid waste lands. It was earlier used for fencing as the seeds are poisonous (contain toxalbumin curcin)  to human beings, most animals and birds. The plants can grow on any type of soil.

The jatropha seeds are black in color ad two centimeters long. If you purchase jatropha seeds,  not all seeds will germinate. Jatropha plants can also grow from cuttings. The jatropha curcas plant is a small tree or a large shrub which can grow to up to 6 m in height. The rate of growth and yield of  seeds depends to a large extent on the rainfall and temperature variations. If the rainfall is plentiful,  the plant will start yielding seeds within a year. On an average a plant has a life of  about 50 years. The flowers are usually pollinated by moths at night which are attracted by the scent of the plant.

 Jatropha curcas is mainly cultivated for extraction of  biodiesel and is one of the best sources of  biofuels. In studies of  various biofuels, one hectare of  Jatropha Curcas yields 6-8 MT of  seeds . One ton of  Jatropha Curcas seeds yields 300kg oil products and 700 kg oil cake . Before Jatropha oil is mixed with diesel, it has transesterified. This results in production of glycerine, and disposal of this glycerine is a problem. In India, jatropha oil is used for powering farm equipment and diesel generator. Southern Railway also uses the biofuel jatropha oil

Jatropha oil is also used for making candles and soap. The seed fruit shell is used as a fuel for burning. The seed cake that remains after extraction of  jatropha can be used as organic fertiliser or for animal feed. The government plans to reduce the import of petroproducts by selling a mixture of  diesel with 5% biodiesel. Jatropha seeds which cost Rs 6 a kg a few years ago, cost Rs 26 per kg due to increased demand. (as of  September 2006)

Reference: Jatropha Curcas , Jatropha sapling prices, Jatropha seed and oil prices

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