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    Prospects for Jatropha-based Biodiesel in LAC

    By Keith R | September 26, 2009

    Topics: Biofuels | No Comments »

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    From the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA):

    Jatropha touted as “one of the best alternatives” for biodiesel production in the Americas

    According to Jamil Macedo, coordinator of a hemispheric agroenergy network, “Despite its limitations, the crop Jatropha curcas L. is one of the best alternatives for the production of biodiesel in the hemisphere.”

    Macedo, who is also the Executive Director of the Cooperative Program for Agricultural Research, Development and Innovation in the South American Tropics (PROCITROPICOS), participated in the videoconference “Presentation of the Network for Research, Development and Innovation in Jatropha curcas L. for the Production of Biodiesel in Latin America and the Caribbean – LAC Jatropha Network” held on September 23.

    Participating in the videoconference, organized by the Hemispheric Agroenergy and Biofuels Program of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), were representatives of technology and research centers, ministries of agriculture and the environment, universities, international organizations and businesses interested in the topic, in Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica.

    Orlando Vega, IICA Specialist in Agroenergy and Biofuels, explained that the videoconference provided an opportunity to address common problems and identify possible joint efforts in the areas of cooperation, technology integration, knowledge management and the sharing of experiences in the field.

    In addition, the countries made presentations on their policy frameworks in the area of agroenergy and on experiences in the generation of biofuels from jatropha in the private sector and in research centers and institutions.

    The LAC Jatropha Network is part of the PROCITROPICOS Agroenergy Network and its members are research institutions in Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

    The objective of the Network is to promote the partial replacement of fossil fuels with renewable fuels from crops, specifically those derived from Jatropha curcas L. , also known as physic nut or piñoncillo.

    According to Macedo, the use of jatropha in producing biodiesel has several benefits. Its seeds produce a very high-quality oil; it is a perennial crop (does not need to be replanted each year); it is highly adaptable; and since it is not a source of food, so it will not compete with food production activities.

    In addition, the cultivation of jatropha is suitable for family agriculture, and since it can be grown in combination with other crops, farmers interested in this crop can produce energy and food on the same land.

    Nonetheless, there are challenges that must be overcome. Jatropha is susceptible to many pests and diseases, there is a lack of knowledge regarding its cultivation and genetic diversity and, there is a need to develop non-toxic varieties.

    Despite these limitations, he is convinced that Latin America has “an abundance of land and water for agricultural production, which makes it possible to produce food, fiber and energy in a sustainable and non-competitive manner, and that the cultivation of jatropha is one of the best alternatives for the production of biodiesel.”

    In his opinion, it is necessary to invest more in research and development and promote regional cooperation in research to contribute to reducing the gap between countries and make the best use of the potential of the region.

    The LAC Jatropha Network provides an opportunity to exchange scientific knowledge and promote the technological innovations required to make the production of jatropha viable,” he stated.

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