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Jatropha over-hyped?

The Jatropha plant, heralded as a top candidate for biofuel production, has been somewhat over-hyped, according to Dr Karl Hilding Thune at the Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute.

By Renewable Energy Focus staff

Thune says: “Jatropha has undoubtedly been over-hyped somewhat in recent years. Expectations have become more realistic now, but there is no question that Jatropha has major potential.”

Thune has studied the Jatropha in Ghana and Niger looking at pest risk factors and how to best cultivate the biofuel plant.

“Jatropha is indeed a hardy tree that thrives in hot, dry climates, but it is not as invincible as some people have trumpeted.

“It’s true that Jatropha does well in quite extreme conditions, but in order to yield plenty of fruit for producing oil, it needs sufficient water, fertiliser and care. A poorly tended plantation of Jatropha is an easy target for destruction by a grasshopper swarm,” he says.

Although a number of species consume the biofuel crop, Thune has not found serious pest threats to the Jatropha he studied in Africa as long as the trees are properly cared for.

Thune has experimented with irrigation and fertilisation of Jatropha trees at the International Crops research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), which is an institute in Niger under the auspices of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

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