Wed Sep 12, 2007 10:44am BST
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GUANGZHOU, China, Sept 12 (Reuters) - 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 fats conference.
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 vapour.
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.
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