Centre for Jatropha Promotion announces pongamia progress
The Centre for Jatropha Promotion & Biodiesel (CJP) recently announced progress on its work with pongamia, a legume tree that bears inedible oilseeds. According to the CJP, it has developed a highly productive variety of the plant and a set of best practices that will enable high oil yields.
CJP CEO Abhishek Maharshi said the organization’s research team has identified and collected 42 high-yielding pongamia candidates and evaluated genetic association and variability in seed and growth characteristics in order to develop improved varieties. The CJP team’s pongamia work is currently focused on genomic and genetic research. Maharshi said that the work will enable highly productive plantations of the crop to be grown.
“We are also seeing very good field trial data for our new variety with traits like better uniformity, improved self-branching, early flowering and higher productivity,” Maharshi said. “CJP’s elite pongamia variety ‘Derris indica (D103SAP)’ will yield at maturity as high as 1,000 [gallons of oil per hectare,] which shall reach as high as 3,400 gallons in its 15th year with proper nutrition and irrigation.”
Regarding the CJP’s future work with pongamia, Maharshi said that efforts will focus on further understanding the unique properties of the plant that can be manipulated to coax it to reach its fullest potential. This work will address horticultural practices, agronomics and sustainability.
According to Maharshi, CJP researchers have overcome several challenges that will help enable commercial cultivation on pongamia. “The first challenge was to get the required yield, to get the plant to grow and understand its productivity over a number of years, and another problem was its maturity, which is about seven years,” he said, noting that the CJP’s D103SAP variety has overcome these programs. Maharshi also points out that the CJP’s proprietary variety flowers three years sooner than standard varieties. While pongamia traditionally flowers in its seventh year, D103SAP flower in the fourth.
Maharshi also notes that the CJP is not working to develop a high-etch agrarian concept for pongamia cultivation that warrants maximum inputs and delivers bumper crops. Rather, he said the CJP is looking to develop a model for cultivation that is compatible with the practices of local farmer in India. The goal is to make pongamia growth profitable for rural growers while requiring minimal inputs. “The CJP experts working on the pongamia plantation have developed the best method of cultivating these plants, which require the lowest possible investment of money, labor and materials,” Maharshi said.