India's CJP works to develop alternative biodiesel feedstocks

By Erin Voegele | December 14, 2011

The India-based Centre for Jatropha Promotion & Biodiesel (CJP) recently announced it is working to develop a variety of nonfood oil-bearing trees and crops for use as biodiesel feedstock. According to CJP spokesman Abhishek Maharshi, the organization has identified, developed and cultivated as many as 15 nonfood oil crops. Crops the CJP has identified as potential sources of biodiesel feedstock include jojoba, pongamia, kokum, algae, and a wide variety of other plants.

The CJP first began to cultivate jatropha in 2003, Maharshi said. Since then, the organization has branched out into other areas of energy farming. “The CJP intensified its collaborative research approach with regards to perennial oilseed-bearing trees like pongamia, pinnata, moringa oliferia, jojoba, simarouba, mahus, calophyllum, in combination with other annual nonfood oil crops like castor, flax, safflower, camelina, colocynthis…to have more oil yield per [hectare] and to improve its product,” Maharshi explained. “The CJP’s mission is to perform cutting-edge plant science research in genetics, breeding and horticulture, and further develop technologies to allow for the economic commercialization and sustainability of energy farms globally. In essence, CJP scientists are continuously working on enhanced genetics, agronomics and horticulture sciences to drive new varieties, more knowledge around the plants’ nutritional requirements and more science-based processes for the care and custody of the plants.” According to Maharshi, the group has achieved reliable and scalable results in the cultivation of jatropha and several other crops.

Regarding field trials, Maharshi noted that extensive work has been completed to data on pongamia and moringa. In fact, he said that improved varieties of pongamia have been able to achieve up to 330 gallons of oil per hectare in their fourth year of growth. By the 10th year of development, he said that yield could increase to nearly 1,000 gallons per hectare as the trees mature.

“There are many promising crops on the horizon, but they need to be properly vetted scientifically,” Maharshi said. “Good scientific research done by CJP’s scientists has shown how oilseed crops grow best across different oil conditions and climates, and how they fit into existing production systems determining what consequences might result from growing these crops in terms of sustainability.”

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