Seed Farming for Jatropha May be Banned

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    Cultivation of jatropha, a plant used to produce environmentally-friendly biofuels, using seeds may be banned under a proposal being considered by the government because of concerns over crop yields, officials say.

    NEW DELHI — A ban will impact plans of public sector oil companies such as Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Hindustan Petroleum Corp (HPCL), Bharat Petroleum Corp (BPCL) and D1-BP Fuel Crops, a joint venture in India that has Britain’s BP Plc as a major investor. The companies have announced plans to cultivate jatropha over 3,00,000 hectares of wasteland across the country.

    Jatropha is a hardy plant that is resistant to drought and pests, and produces nuts that can contain up to 40% oil. When the seeds are crushed and processed, the resulting oil can be used in a standard diesel engine while the residue can also be processed into biomass to power electricity plants.

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    An official in the ministry of new & renewable energy (MNRE), who did not wish to be identified, told ET that a meeting of experts last month had decided in favour of discouraging jatropha plantation through seeds because of concerns among scientists over the genetic purity of crops and concerns that propagation using seeds resulted in lower yields. “It was decided that jatropha should be propagated either by vegetative propagation or by tissue culture,” he said.

    Experts say nuts obtained from jatropha plants propagated using seeds have low oil content and plant yields can also be up to 30% lower than when other cultivation methods are used. The meeting was attended by policymakers and experts from MNRE, the government’s department of biotechnology (DBT), Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and other research institutions.

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