Jatropha Tree Could Be Key to Florida Biodiesel

John Davis

JatrophaResearchers at the University of Florida are looking into the feasibility of using the jatropha tree as a source for biodiesel.

This story from the University’s web site, says the plant is a native of Mexico and produces an oil that is ideal for biodiesel:

“For maybe a year and a half now, I have been working on an idea that here in deep South Florida we can grow a biodiesel crop that does not conflict with food and that we have a comparative advantage in growing,” said Roy Beckford, a Lee County extension agent who specializes in sustainable farm development.

Beckford, who works for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, has been pushing Jatropha as an alternate crop to South Florida farmers the past couple years through IFAS newsletters.

The hardy trees can live for 50 years and can be ready for twice-a-year harvests just 18 months after planting. Each acre can produce 600 to 1,000 gallons of oil a year… although researchers are working on even more productive varieties. It even grows in land not suitable for other types of agriculture.

Just recently, 1,500 Jatropha seedlings were donated to Lee County by a company called Dream Fuels in hopes of getting the plant established as a biodiesel feedstock in Florida.