JOil achieves first-year yields in India jatropha field trials

By Bryan Sims | March 13, 2012

JOil Pte. Ltd., a joint venture jatropha development company that consists of Singapore-based Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, TATA Chemicals and Toyota Tsusho Group, has achieved first-year yields in its India field trials of more than 2 tons of seeds per hectare. The results from marginal land plots in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, according to the company, are a significant advancement compared to current jatropha plants that typically don’t flower or fruit within the first year.

“Our [JO S1 and JO S2 variety] seedlings started flowering three months after planting and in five months yielded their first harvest of fruit,” stated Hong Yan, chief scientific officer for JOil. “Most current jatropha plants have no fruiting in the first year after planting and any first-year yields are negligible.”

In the recent trials, JOil achieved 2.4 tons of seeds per hectare at a plantation near the city of Coimbatore. The other trial, in the city of Madurai, produced 2.15 tons of seeds per hectare, according to the company.

Hong continued, “We put the JO S1 and S2 seed into trials in multiple locations around the world for local climate adaptation and field performance evaluation. After 12 months, we achieved the first-year harvest on two plots of marginal land more than 200 kilometers (124 miles) apart in Tamil Nadu, South India. Given that jatropha matures and reaches peak yield in three to four years, this shows that the JOil open-pollinated varieties have the potential to reach mature yields of more than 5 tons of seeds per hectare, at which point the production of jatropha seed reaches a level that allows it to be a sustainable feedstock for large-scale commercial production of biodiesel for airlines and motor transport fleet operations.”

According to JOil, the company’s JO S1 and JO S2 jatropha seedlings, along with other JOil varieties, are undergoing field trials at a number of locations across Asia with plans to implement an expanded program to include locations in Africa. Currently, tests are being carried out by JOil in two states in India and in West Java. JOil’s partner, Toyota Tshusho, is conducting trials in the Philippines and Cambodia.

“In all these trials, JOil’s open-pollinated seedlings have shown excellent growth, uniformity, early flowering and fruiting,” said Srinivasan Ramachandran, chief technology officer for JOil. “We are embarking on an expanded field trial program that will see our elite jatropha grown in Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, China, Malaysia and Vietnam.”

Ramachandran added, “Multi-location trials help us evaluate the performance of our elite varieties and help identify which ones work best in different agroclimatic environments.”

In its commitment to continuously improve jatropha through breeding, tissue culture and genetic modification to achieve higher oil yield and quality, Yan announced at the INSULA/Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels Conference last December that JOil’s efforts on jatropha improvement through application of biotechnology will lead to tripling productivity over the next seven to eight years to a target yield of greater than 3 tons of seeds per hectare.

In 2011, JOil acquired PT Monfori Nusantara, a leading tissue culture facility in Indonesia. The company is also an active member of Jatropha Working Group of RSB.


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