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Experts For Cautious Approach On Jatropha Plantation In AP.


Hyderabad, July 21: While the Andhra Pradesh government has declared about 15 lakh hectares of land for growing jatropha and kanuga plants for producing biodiesel oil over a period of five years, industry experts opine that this a hasty decision.

The reason: the knowledge levels are very low or almost non-existent right from the availability of saplings to the plantation practices. To top this, there are unrealistic expectations of a massive output of biodiesel with hardly anything on the ground.

Though the government has decided to promote nursery activities on a mission mode, the saplings are expected to be available only during the month of November-December. By then the rainy season would have been over and the saplings are unlikely to survive due to lack of required water.

According to YS Ramakrishna, director of Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), "there are no seeds at this moment for such a huge capacity."

Ruling out import of seeds due to quarantine restrictions, he said that though there are extraction technologies in the country, there are not enough seeds for these plants to cover over 15 lakh hectares.

Because of the huge subsidies offered by the government, there is also a possibility of a shift in cultivation methods from agricultural produce to biodiesel plants in the same cultivable lands.

On the production and buyback front, it is too early and still in the experimental stages, he said adding that the small and medium farmers are left a confused state whether to opt for their regular agricultural crops or go in for jatropha or kanuga plants.

"The package of practices for cultivating these kind of plants is still not known to our farmers," said Mr. Srinivas, Managing Director of Tree Oils Ltd.

Mr. Srinivas, who has about 50-acres of Jatropha plants, is still trying to get proper information from the research institutions for various issues in the cultivation including pest attacks and harvest.

However, there was not a single research done so far on cultivation in huge capacities, he said.

Interestingly, last year, the Maharashtra government had decided to fell about 26,000 hectares of jatropha plants as a the inter-space was reduced a considerably thus leading to overcrowding and causing faster pest multiplication.

Hence, it is better if we do it I gradually, wait for about six months to get the saplings ready by next May and undertake model plantations and trials, Mr. Srinivas said.

Few other industry officials pointed out an interesting fact that processing facilities are mushrooming near the Kakinada port for refining crude palm and 'rename' it as biodiesel oil. This could be one of the options for a faster buck as growing these plants take nearly 10 years to become bulk raw materials which is a lengthy gestation period for massive production.

Meanwhile, the state government has deputed a three member team along with the CRIDA director to procure 10 tonnes of seeds from Orissa and commence the plantation activities. It still to be seen what amount of seeds will germinate or remain buried in the ground.