Non-edible Jatropha Curcas L / Harvesting Machine‏.

Jatropha curcas L. (further called Jatropha) belongs to the family Euphorbiaceous and is closely related to the rubber plant.

Jatropha – origins and history.
Jatropha is believed to have originated in South America, where from ancient times extracts from its leaves and seeds were used as medicine. Jatropha’s medical qualities derive from curcin, a chemical present in the plant’s shoots and leaves, which is effective as an antiseptic but can be anti-nutritional if ingested in large quantities.

It is said that Portuguese sailors learned of jatropha’s medicinal qualities when they came to South America in the 16th century. They took jatropha to Africa and India, where its fast growth and inedible leaves made it ideal as a stock fence to prevent animals grazing crops. It is also widely grown as a shade tree for dwellings. Jatropha now grows from the forests of Brazil to the tropical islands of Fiji. Jatropha is still used as a traditional medicine in India and Africa.

Jatropha vegetable oil can be extracted from the seeds by crushing. It is inedible and was used for centuries to make basic oil lamps. Industrial production was undertaken in the nineteenth century in the Cape Verde Islands to produce lamp oil for the Portuguese market, but this was abandoned with the advent of cheap paraffin oil. Until recently there has been no concentrated attempt to pioneer jatropha as a commercial source of vegetable oil to make fuel.
Jatropha – a new energy crop.

Jatropha has the potential to become one of the world’s key energy crops. Crude vegetable oil, extracted from the seeds of the jatropha plant, can be refined into high quality bio-fuel. Under optimum conditions jatropha seeds can yield up to 40% oil content. Crude Jatropha oil is inedible and its price is not distorted by competing food uses.

Jatropha grows in tropical and subtropical regions in a band around the earth between latitudes 30 degrees north and south of the Equator. Jatropha is hardy and relatively drought resistant. Trees have a lifespan of up to 30 years. Jatropha grows on a wide range of land types, including non-arable, marginal and waste land, and need not compete with vital food crops for good agricultural land.

The residual meal (seedcake) left after oil extraction is excellent organic fertiliser and can be burnt for power generation. Quinvita has also developed commercial technology for the removal of anti-nutritional compounds from the jatropha meal after oil extraction. Jatropha meal has the potential to be a valuable animal feed. Efficient use of by-products ensures that jatropha growing and processing is economically viable and energy efficient.