Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Jatropha Comes to the US

This is the first US agricultural story about Jatropha I've ever seen where farmers where actually growing it commercially. I will be interested to follow this as farming in the US can get very political.

At this years Sustainable Biodiesel Summit in Florida the very prominent biodiesel expert Dr. Shaine Tyson had some very strong words to say about Jatropha being a poisonous and dangerous crop. That any biofuel crop which didn't provide more food along with energy was a bad policy decision.

From Orlando TV News WESH

LA BELLE, Fla. -- For drivers in Hendry County, expensive gas prices may no longer be a problem.

Residents of the small county in southwest Florida have turned to a farm to grow their own oil to survive the difficult economic times.

"We wanted to find a solution to a problem in the U.S.," said Mark Dalton, owner of Dream Fuel, LLC. "With the rising demand of fuel worldwide, we wanted to create our own fuel."
Farms in La Belle have been busy growing Jatropha trees. Jatropha is widely considered the newest and greatest source of biofuel. The tiny trees produce small, green fruit which contains the vital oil-bearing seeds.

"It's grown in Brazil, China, India, Guatemala, Africa," Dalton said. "In many places all over the country, we're behind in producing Jatropha oil."

Many see potential in Jatropha's ability to stave off the high demand for oil, but it would take an exorbitant amount of plants to make a dent in the worldwide economy.
"It basically takes 20 pounds of seed to make one gallon of Jatropha oil," Dalton said. "So, you would have to grow quite a bit of it."

Farmers especially have been hurt by high gas prices.

"We have tractors that sometimes go through 120 gallons of fuel a day," said La Belle farmer Byran Beer.

On the verge of a recession, farmers need any help they can get. Now, Jatropha can be grown, processed and used in the tractors.

"Hopefully, with technology and enough people's inputs, this thing will really turn into something," Beer said.

To produce the alternative fuel, Jatropha plants require a tropical climate to flourish, such as the one found in southwest Florida. Farmers in Hendry County have planted nearly 1 million Jatropha trees, Dalton said.

"We're seeing good results," he added, "but there's still a lot of unknowns."


Anonymous said...

This miracle bean is formerly known as the lowly castor bean.

It has been here almost forever.

One can sprout the seed and ferment it for over twice the fuel per acre.

FastLane4 said...

Anonymous please check your sources. Jatropha curcus is known as the Barbados Nut. The Castor Bean, Ricinus communis, is a different plant altogether.