An increasingly recognized source for the production of biodiesel, Jatropha is seen by many to be the perfect biodiesel crop. Jatropha grows on less fertile soils, is drought and pest resilient, and produces oil-rich seeds.

Jatropha requires less than 600mm (24 inches) of rain annually and preferably alkaline soils to thrive, even though it can survive 3 years of drought by dropping its leaves. Jatropha prefers an annual temperature range of 18-28 degrees Celsius, and, for the emergence of seeds, a hot and humid climate. Flowering is induced by rainy seasons and fruit bearing follows during cooler months.

Some farmers plant the Jatropha seedlings as closely as 2m X 2m or 2m x 3m.

Typically, 20% of seedlings planted will not survive. Jatropha seedlings yield seeds in the first year after plantation. After the first five years, the typical annual yield of a Jatropha tree should be at least 3.5kg of beans. Jatropha trees are productive for up to 30-40 years. Up to 2,200 trees can be planted per hectare (approx 1,000 per acre), although Agritech believes a lower density is more suitable to Burkina Faso.  Depending on the seed’s oil content, 2-3 tons of oil can be produced from each hectare of land.

In addition, press cake (seedcake) is left after the oil is pressed from the seeds. This can be composted and used as a high grade nitrogen rich organic fertilizer (green manure). The remaining oil can be used to make skin friendly soap.

African countries, such as Burkina Faso and Mali, parts of the Indian Subcontinent and parts of Western China – all of which suffer from poor or depleted soils and/or semi-arid lands – are often mentioned as ideal locations for the propagation of

Jatropha.  Still, similar locations may also be found all over the world, including certain parts of Southeast Asia and South America. In the final analysis, however, it is not just a question of land, but also the people needed to tend the plantations that will determine the success or failure of Jatropha plantings.