Conference discusses jatropha, while D1 Oils plans to test alternative feedstock

By Craig A. Johnson | July 14, 2008
The Jatropha World 2008 conference was held in Miami on June 9-11 and promised to bring participants up-to-date on jatropha developments internationally. The conference was meant to highlight the status of jatropha in several countries around the world via speakers from India, Brazil, the Philippines, Madagascar, Norway, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
According to Charles Fishel, chief executive officer of Abundant Biofuels Corp., who is interested in jatropha as an economic development tool for third-world countries, the conference had an "air of excitement." He estimated attendance at between 400 and 450 people. "That was about 50 percent more than the conference organizers expected," he said.
According to Fishel, reasons for the excitement surrounding jatropha are fourfold: jatropha's absence from the "food-versus-fuel" debate, the low amount of mechanical energy it takes to harvest, added revenue from jatropha exports and profitable prices.

Highlights of the conference, according to Fishel, included new analysis of jatropha as an energy crop, and the feeling of openness on the part of investors and scientists. "There was the feeling that [conference attendees] were on the edge of something brand new and very exciting," he said.

Attendees also participated in a series of conference calls before the event began. The phone meetings allowed attendees to ask questions and raise issues before the conference.

New plans to cultivate jatropha were on the minds of many of the attendees.

In other jatropha news, D1 Oils, a U.K.-based biofuels technology company, announced in May its intention to carry out trials in Indonesia to assess the cultivation potential of Jatropha curcas in the poor soil conditions on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.

D1 intends to work with the University of Bengkulu in South West Sumatra to test the performance of jatropha in acidic "ultisol" soil types. These soils, which are generally defined by their lack of nutrients, usually can't be used for sedentary agriculture without the aid of lime or fertilizers.

Jatropha curcas, which is well-adapted to poor-quality soils, will strive for better yields through a balanced application of fertilizers to support plant growth. With the help of the University of Bengkulu, the trials will compare the growth and yield of Jatropha curcas under different regimens of fertilizers to determine the right level of support for the best plant growth and yield. "Jatropha can be grown on a wide range of soil types, including marginal land, and grows in drier areas than other food oil crops," said Henk Joos, director of D1's plant science program. "We expect Indonesia to be a key area for Jatropha curcas cultivation, particularly in Sumatra and parts of Java where agricultural production is limited by low levels of soil nutrients."

The Indonesian trials are the latest in a series of strategic research and development partnerships that D1 is developing worldwide. D1's objective is to gather data to improve the cultivation and productivity of jatropha. D1's cooperation with UNIB aims to produce a crop that Indonesian farmers can grow on poor soils with high commercial yields and without heavy applications of fertilizers.
 
 
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