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JATROPHA: A Goldmine Plant

Introduction
Jatropha is a hearty multipurpose shrub type tree that grows wildly in Nigeria with little or no maintenance. The oil-rich seeds are very attractive feed stock for biofuel production. The kernel consists of about 60% oil which can be transformed through esterification into biofuel. The green energy of the plant can be used to power various machines while the biofuel mix was reported as being more efficient and burn less fuel in total than the conventional one. It burn with clear smoke-free flame.
Additionally, the plant is cherished for its medicinal value and the cake can be used as livestock feed if properly processed. It is noteworthy that, the distribution, establishment, management, harvesting and uses are not documented in Nigeria. The fact that the biofuel can be used to replace fossil fuel or substitute fuel wood is enough to encourage its cultivation in Nigeria hence, this paper discussed on the values of Jatropha plant in Nigeria.

Common Names
The plant is known as Lapalapa in Yoruba, Wuluidu  in Igbo and   Cini da zugu  in Hausa.    It is equally known as Physic Plant or Purging nut or big purginant In other countries.

Botanical Description
Jatropha  is a   shrub-type tree which belongs to the family, Euphorbiaceae . The plant has grey bark and of 8 - 10 metres in height. It is a drought resistant perennial plant with a productive life of more than 40years.  The leaves are green to pale or pale red in colour depending on the variety. Leaves are alternate to sub-opposite with three to five lobes. The flowers are formed terminally/ individually with female flowers slightly larger and occur mostly during the dry season. The plant produced fruit throughout the year while multiple fruiting could also occur during a year on the same plant. The seeds are matured (2-4months) when the capsule changes from the usual green colour to yellow.

Variety
The two varieties found in Nigeria are

1. Jatropha curcas
Jatropha curcas

 

 

2.  Jatropha glandulifera

 Jatropha glandulifera

 

OTHER SPECIES OF JATROPHA PLANT INCLUDE:
a.    Jatropha cuneata (Limber bush)
b.    Jaatropha gossyoifolfa (Belly ache bush)
c.    Jatropha integerrima (Spicy Jatropha )
d.    Jatropha multifida (Coral plant )
e.    Jatropha podagrica ( Buddha belly plant )

Origin /Distribution

The plant which is native to Mexico and South America was introduced into Africa in the 1500’s by the Portuguese sailors and found growing sparsely in Nigeria and /or used as hedge plant. Apart from University of Ilorin Jatropha plantation there is no record of its plantation in Nigeria.
 
Ecology

The plant would survive on any undulating soil (stony, gravel, sandy, saline or even crevice of rocks). It grows in both tropical and sub-tropical conditions and even likes heat. It can tolerate low temperature and light frost. The plant requires less water and can withstand drought condition. It needs a mean rainfall of between 300 and 1000mm and a mean temperature of 20-28oC .