Mycorrhized Jatropha

Mycorrhized Jatropha

Seeds of sustainability

Jatropha curcas is being hailed the new solution for vehicular pollution. A wild shrub, it has several traits that make it a favourite with scientists, industrialists, commercial planters, and others –it grows in hostile conditions like infertile soil; is not grazed upon by animals; and yields sulphurless, non-polluting biofuel.

The plant with power

A Jatropha plant with seeds

Jatropha's use for production of biofuel is an exercise in implementing sustainable solutions. It is a non-toxic, 100% natural, biodegradable supplement for diesel. Excited by the possibility of its wide-scale use in transport, electrical equipment, and other machines that run on petroleum or diesel, Jatropha is being grown in India and outside. Through decades of work, TERI has consistently tried to innovate eco-friendly alternatives to some of the most threatening environmental problems. TERI has initiated large-scale plantations of Jatropha, that offer a unique advantage –the use of mycorrhiza as a natural inoculant to initiate early flowering and fruition of this much-sought-after plant.

The crisis

It is common knowledge that air pollution and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions have taken a toll on the health of the planet. Vehicular emissions, in particular, have led to major environmental disaster since non-renewable fuels contain atmospheric pollutants like nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, sulphur oxides, lead, and so on. Besides, many nations in the world, including India, rely on imports to meet their soaring fuel requirements. This dependence can be lessened with a secure supply of fuel and, if possible, clean fuel.

Harvesting bodiesel

A Jatropha nursery in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh
Since Jatropha is a clean substitute to diesel, TERI has developed an unconventional method of growing the plant faster and better. The standard seedling method of Jatropha propagation takes two years for the plant to yield. The year-long clonal culture raised plantations take a year for the first yield. T ERI's mycorrhiza application speeds up the process –the first yield arrives after 7 months of cultivation. Besides this, the technique also leads to higher yield and plant biomass. T ERI has produced Jatropha with mycorrhizal application across the country and tests done on these plants revealed their significantly high-dependence on mycorrhiza. TERI's plantations span seven different agro-climatic zones across the country comprising the Chhattisgarh Plain Zone (at Korba, Madhya Pradesh), the Arid Western Plain Zone (Jodhpur, Rajasthan), Malwa Plateau Zone (Barwaha, Madhya Pradesh), South Gujarat Zone (Mithapur, Gujarat), Coastal Saline Zone (Titagarh, West Bengal), South Zone (Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh), Machhlipattnam, Andhra Pradesh and Kanjivaram, Tamil Nadu ). This takes the total count of Jatropha plantations done by TERI in India to 0.6 million while many more are still being planted.

On yield, 30% of the Jatropha seed gives oil (after processing or trans-esterification), and 65% is utilized in oil cakes. The cakes are rich in nitrogen and make for better organic manure. Jatropha needs minimal management and can withstand tough physical conditions like droughts, and poor, degraded soil.

TERI's mycorrhized Jatropha biofuel

  • 95% seed germination success, vis-à-vis 50% with non-mycorrhized seeds
  • Early fruition and flowering-7 months onwards as against a year with conventional clonal plantation
  • Higher yield (20%-30%) with mycorrhizal inoculation than non-inoculated plantations
  • Widely-tested in different wastelands (marginal lands, fly ash dykes, chlor alkali sludge-loaded wastelands, distillery-effluent-loaded wastelands, solar drying lagoons, and so on)

 

Beneficiaries

Jatropha plaantation over a flyash dyke

Based on its success so far, TERI has been identified by the Ministry of Rural Development, Department of Land Resources, Government of India, to prepare a detailed project report for the National Mission on Biodiesel. Besides collaborative plantations, TERI is also transferring the know-how of the technology to several corporate houses. Several leading industries have approached TERI for assistance in the preparation of their respective DPRs (detailed project reports) and for conducting pre-feasibility analysis of industrial ventures with Jatropha. TERI's 'train-the-trainers' workshops on reclaiming wastelands through mycorrhized Jatropha have enthused both resource-poor marginal farmers and industrialists. TERI has also offered buyback arrangements to poor farming communities owards insuring financial security.

Comparative features of diesel and biodiesel

Fuel property Diesel Biodiesel
Carbon monoxide (%) -42.2 -12.6
Fuel standard ASTM D975 ASTM PS121
Fuel composition C10–C21 HC C12–C22 FAME
Specific gravity 0.85 0.88
Water (%) 161 0.05
Carbon (%) 87 77
Oxygen (%) 0 11
Sulphur (%) 0.05 0–0.002
Boiling point (oC) 188–343 182–338
Flash point (oC) 60–80 100–170
Cetane number 40–55 48–60
Hydrogen (%) 13 12

Applications/benefits

The high-success rate of T ERI's mycorrhized Jatropha propagation is well established. Where conventional methods of Jatropha plantations yielded 200 kilograms per hectare, compact plantations in wastelands produced 325 kilograms per hectare of Jatropha in the first year of production.

Since there is no established 'package of practice' for the plantation of Jatropha in the country as of now, T ERI is developing the first such document. T ERI has also conducted the first-ever provincial selection trials in India (West Bengal) with mycorrhized Jatropha. The versatility of this plant, it is hoped, shall help recover wastelands that could be eventually be transformed into biofuel plantations.

 

Jatropha plaantation over a flyash dyke