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10 Jun 2009: Jatropha ‘Wonder Crop’ Requires Huge Quantities of Water, Report Finds

The oil-rich biofuel crop jatropha, once hailed as a “green gold” because of its ability to grow in arid regions, actually requires more water than other food and biofuel crops, according to a new report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Jatropha requires five times as much water per unit as corn and sugarcane, and 10 times as much water as sugar beet, the most water-efficient biofuel crop, according to research conducted by the Netherlands-based University of Twente.
Jatropha
In India, the government is subsidizing a program to plant jatropha for biofuels on 27 million acres of “wastelands.”
Native to Central America, and well-adapted to tropics and subtropics, Jatropha Curcas has generated intense interest because it was believed that it would not displace food crops from land with fertile soil, a drawback of other biofuel crops. As a result, governments and private companies from Latin America to Asia have planted millions of acres of the plant. But, as recently reported in Yale Environment 360, the results show that just because jatropha can grow in arid places doesn’t mean the plant will produce much oil. To flourish, the plant needs good growing conditions just like any other plant, said study co-author Arjen Hoekstra. “The claim that jatropha doesn’t compete for water and land with food crops is complete nonsense,” Hoekstra said.


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