In the Fall of 2011, when Dany and I were in Mali visiting Mali Biocarburant, we visited a jatropha nursery, farmers that were growing jatropha, and a seed processing and oil refining facility. We learned a ton about cultivating, planting, intercropping and pruning jatropha trees. Here are some observations:
Jatropha seeds are planted in raised beds made out of earthen mud bricks. Roughly 1,000 seeds are planted in the bed and irrigated daily.
After 60-90 days, the jatropha saplings will be about 18 inches and ready for transplanting.
There are 3 planting strategies that can be used: 1) Intercropping 2) Mono-culture and 3) live fencing.
Mali Biocarburant has intercropped jatropha with sorghum, millet, cotton, sesame, and watermelon. They have also tested mono-culture by planting orchards with about 1,600 trees per hectare. Live fencing is another option that works well as a barricade for animals, erosion control, and a way to demarcate property lines.
Un-irrigated jatropha will develop a deep taproot and a secondary root system for rainwater capture.
After 2 years, a jatropha tree can be as tall as 5 feet and begin producing seeds. At this time, the tree should also be pruned to create 5-7 central branches. A mature jatropha tree can produce up to 3 kg of seeds which can be pressed into a little less than 1 liter.
Please comment with your experiences cultivating Jatropha and correct anything I may have miss-communicated.