Jatropha is a genus of approximately 175 succulent plants, shrubs and trees (some are deciduous, like Jatropha curcas L.), from the family Euphorbiaceae. Jatropha is native to Central America [1], and has become naturalized in many tropical and subtropical areas, including India, Africa, and North America. Originating in the Caribbean, the jatropha was spread as a valuable hedge plant to Africa and Asia by Portuguese traders. The mature small trees bear male and female inflorescence, and do not grow very tall.

The hardy jatropha is resistant to drought and pests, and produces seeds containing 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.[2]

Goldman Sachs recently cited Jatropha curcas as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production.[3] However, despite its abundance and use as an oil and reclamation plant, none of the Jatropha species have been properly domesticated and, as a result, its productivity is variable, and the long-term impact of its large-scale use on soil quality and the environment is unknown.


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