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Is there life after hype for Jatropha? Exploring growth and yield in Indonesia

Authors
  • Tjeuw, Juliana
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2017
Source
Wageningen University and Researchcenter Publications
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown
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Abstract

<p><em>Jatropha curcas</em> L. is a biofuel crop that has not lived up to expectations due to a combination of hype and disappointment and biophysical factors. This PhD thesis is based on the plant production component of the JARAK programme which aimed to bridge the gap between truth and fiction. This study reviewed the jatropha hype and disappointment and further investigated the hypothesis that jatropha growth and yield are limited by biophysical factors of plant characteristics, cropping systems, and management. My review of the hype and disappointment shows that despite the high expectations fuelled by market pull and technology push, and numerous actors, the commercial potential for jatropha is limited by policy and governance, economics, social, technology, logistical, and environmental. A study of the biophysical components confirms that no current varieties suited to different cropping systems and locations are available. Jatropha aboveground biomass is partitioned predominantly into a structure of stem, branches, and twigs. The below to aboveground biomass ratio was 0.5 and fruit which was found only on productive twigs accounted for the smallest portion of biomass measured. Seed yields were disappointingly small (109 kg ha-1) and were largest in monoculture, followed by intercropping and hedgerows in that order, although yields were influenced by age and management of pruning and fertiliser. Seed yield across the three cropping systems can be predicted using plant height and the number of productive twig/branch, although the number of inflorescence clusters per productive twig may be important. Intercropping between jatropha and maize (<em>Zea mays</em> L.) resulted in competition for resources both belowground and aboveground that reduced maize yields. Shoot pruning was effective in managing aboveground competition, while root pruning and root barriers effectively managed competition belowground. Leaf prunings provided a limited, but positive fertility effect on maize yield comparable to 21 kg N ha-1. Jatropha - maize intercropping has potential for long-term productivity provided management practices such as fertiliser, pruning, and planting density can be developed to minimise competition and enhance complementarity. Based on my review of the jatropha hype and disappointment and my biophysical research results, the planting of jatropha by smallholders, or as a plantation crop cannot be recommended. Once the issues I highlight have been resolved and market confidence restored, jatropha may finally become a commercial source of biodiesel able to provide improved socio-economic and environmental benefits.</p>

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