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Jatropha : Green Biodiesel from African Tree

ScienceDaily (Feb. 8, 2011)

Jatropha : Green Biodiesel from African Tree

ScienceDaily (Feb. 8, 2011) Jatropha has been championed as a major environmental opportunity for developing countries with a semi-arid climate and marginal soil. Scientist Karl Hilding Thunes of the Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute has been investigating whether this small, hardy and relatively pest-free tree lives up to its billing.

Jatropha is a top candidate for future large-scale biodiesel production. TIME Magazine reported that jatropha could yield 6 tonnes of biodiesel per acre (15 tonnes per hectare) annually. Furthermore, since it can grow in soils and climates poorly suited for cultivating edible crops, jatropha poses little threat to food production in developing countries.

"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," asserts Dr Thunes. The scientist has conducted studies and field trials with jatropha in Ghana and Niger. He has surveyed the pest risk factors that threaten jatropha crops, and studied how to cultivate the tree in order to minimise pest problems and prevent mass invasion.

"Jatropha is indeed a hardy tree that thrives in hot, dry climates," explains Dr Thunes. "But it is not as invincible as some people have trumpeted." The entire jatropha tree, including its oily fruit, is toxic when consumed by people and most animals. But its oil is highly suitable as a fuel alternative to the burning of coal in power plants, for instance. By weight, jatropha fruit contains more energy than coal.

There is keen interest in the potential for blending jatropha biofuel with petrol or diesel for more climate-friendly energy consumption. International airlines have conducted successful trials in which fully 50 per cent of jet fuel was replaced with biofuel from jatropha.

Native to Central America, the toxic, foul-smelling jatropha tree has been employed for centuries to deter animals from grazing on edible crops. In Mali alone, farmers grow it so extensively for this purpose that all the trees lined up in a row would stretch 22 000 kilometres.

Throughout Africa, in places without electricity, jatropha also represents opportunities for localised oil production for running small, local power-generating plants.

Pour en savoir plus (ScienceDaily)

Page publiée le 18 novembre 2011, mise à jour le 4 août 2014