GUANGZHOU, China, Sept 12 Oilseed plant jatropha
does not offer an easy answer to biofuels problems as some
countries hope, because it can be toxic and yields are
unreliable, experts and industry officials warned on Wednesday.
The woody plant can grow on barren, marginal land, and so is
increasingly popular in countries such as China that are keen to
boost biofuels output but nervous about food security.
But its nuts and leaves are toxic, requiring careful handling
by farmers and at crushing plants, said experts at an oils and
In addition, it is a labour-intensive crop as each fruit
ripens at a different time and needs to be harvested separately.
Its productivity is also low and has yet to be stabilised.
M. R. Chandran, adviser to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm
Oil, told Reuters it would take five years of intensive research
before jatropha could achieve productivity that would make its
cultivation economically viable.
The oil yield of the plant, originating in Africa and still
largely a wild species, is less than 2 tonnes per hectare with
large swings from year to year.
An engineer specialising in oil and fat processing plants,
including for biodiesel production, said special facilities were
needed for crushing jatropha nuts as they could produce a toxic
The engineer, who declined to be named, said his company
hoped to seal a deal with a private investor to build one of the
world's first large-scale jatropha-based biodiesel plants in
China's southern province of Yunnan before the end of this year.