Increased investments are being made in next generation crops that can be converted to energy without competing with food or causing significant disruptions to local ecosystems. Within this environment, Jatropha is recognized as one of the most sustainable feedstocks.
Because Jatropha is non-edible and can grow on marginalized land that is considered undesirable for food production, Jatropha avoids the direct and indirect land use issues associated with other biofuels feedstocks such as corn, soybean or palm.
Top yields for Jatropha require NPK fertilizer inputs. Jatropha seedcake (the residue after the oil is extracted from the seeds) is a rich organic fertilizer source that can be applied as fertilizer. This significantly reduces the need for chemical inputs, helping to lower the carbon footprint for growers, reducing impacts on surrounding ecosystems and insulating growers from volatile petrochemical markets.
Jatropha crude oil has been tested and verified to be a high quality, clean burning source of biodiesel and bio jet fuel. Independent life-cycle analyses by Ecofys shows Jatropha-based biodiesel provides a nearly 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over petroleum-based diesel. Scientific findings released by Air New Zealand following a test flight utilizing a 48 percent blend of Jatropha oil and traditional jet fuel showed a 60 to 65 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. A study by Yale University confirmed that renewable jet fuel made from Jatropha can reduce GHG emissions by as much as 150%.
As with any crop, top yields for unimproved Jatropha require an adequate amount of water – an amount that can be realized through rainfall when planted in proper growing conditions. Similar to many other established crops, Jatropha requires between 1,000mm to 1,800mm of rain per year, but not less than 800mm without additional irrigation. Jatropha is drought resistant, but yields of current, unimproved Jatropha cultivars will be lower with insufficient rainfall.