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Home HortTechnology Producing Jatropha in Greenhouses
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HOMESTEAD, FL—The jatropha plant has been touted as a potential source of sustainable biodiesel production because of the high oil content in its seeds. Jatropha-based biofuels have been used since World War II in some parts of the world, and countries around the globe have recently scaled up production of this natural source of bioenergy. Seeking to identify best practices for producing jatropha in greenhouses, researchers at the University of Florida designed experiments to evaluate a variety of growing techniques. The team examined greenhouse production of jatropha using different growing substrates, fertilizers, and irrigation frequencies. The study, which appeared in HortTechnology, proposes best production practices for growing the promising crop.

Scientists Kimberly Moore, Scott Greenhut, and Wagner Vendrame transplanted jatropha seedlings into 1-gallon containers filled with bark mix, coir, or peat-based substrate and fertilized the seedlings with four different application rates using a controlled-release fertilizer. They watered the plants every 2, 3, or 4 days for 80 days in the greenhouse. "Our results showed that jatropha plants grown in peat-based substrate had greater stem diameter and shoot dry weight than plants grown in bark mix," said Moore.

For each growing substrate, plants fertilized with 8.3 and 5.9 oz/ft3 of controlled-release fertilizer had greater shoot dry weight (SDW) than plants fertilized with 4.1 and 0 oz/ft3 of the fertilizer. Plants irrigated every 2 or 3 days had greater SDW than plants irrigated every 4 days for all three substrates. "We observed significant growth responses to substrate, irrigation frequency, and fertilization rate and significant substrate-by-irrigation frequency and substrate-by-fertilization rate interactions," Moore added.

The authors noted that, although jatropha has been classified as a drought-resistant plant capable of growing on marginal soils, the results of their experiments suggested that jatropha growth in the greenhouse was increased when irrigation and fertilization were increased.

The researchers recommend the practice of growing jatropha in containers filled with the peat substrate, fertilizing plants with 5.9 oz/ft3 of controlled-release fertilizer, and irrigating plants every 2 days for optimal results in the greenhouse.


The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site:

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Original Article:

Greenhouse Production of Jatropha, a Potential Biofuel Crop
Kimberly Moore, Scott Greenhut, and Wagner Vendrame
HortTechnology 21:193–197. [Abstract][Full Text][PDF]

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