Research Journal of Agricultural Sciences 2011, 2(2): 193-198
Critical Review of Diversity in Jatropha curcas for Crop Improvement: A
Candidate Biodiesel Crop
Ashok Surwenshi, Vinod Kumar*, U K Shanwad and B R Jalageri
University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur – 584 102, Karnataka, India
*National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, Regional Station, Hyderabad – 500 030, Andhra Pradesh, India
A B S T R A C T
Major bottleneck in cultivation and commercialization of Jatropha curcas as biodiesel crop has been lack
of high yielding varieties or hybrids for oil content and yield. Therefore, assessment of diversity at
genotypic and molecular lever assumes greater significance as it is pre-requisite for any sound breeding
programme. The diversity within the species of J. curcas as well as among species is also helpful in
evolving high yielding varieties. Therefore, in this review an attempt has been made to gather research
finding on species identity, taxonomy, geographical distribution and ecological requirement. Diversity has
been assessed with available literature for oil content, yield and other agro-morphological traits for
effective utilization in genetic improvement programme by means of conventional breeding, interspecific
hybridization and biotechnological approaches.
Key words: Jatropha curcas, Genetic improvement, Biodiesel
The word Jatropha derived from Greek word jatros
meaning physician or doctor and trophe means nutrition
or food indicating wide spectrum utilization in
ethnomedicine in ancient times. Jatropha curcas is
hardy plant with high adaptability due to its phenotypic
plasticity and potential to grow under arid and semi-arid
conditions. Recently, it received attention of the
researchers and policy makers as alternative source of
biodiesel. Biodiesel is expanding very fast because of
demand, policy support and technological availability.
Government of India launched ―National Mission on
Biodiesel with a view to find a cheap and renewable
liquid fuel based on vegetable oils (Shukla 2005). The
shortage of raw material to produce biodiesel is major
constraint (Wani et al. 2006). The oil-bearing species
ranges from 100 to 300, and of them 63 belongs to 30
families and hold good promise for biodiesel
production. Many developing countries using edible oil
for production of biodiesel. However, India has dearth
of edible oil (6.31 million tonnes) for consumption and
cannot afford to use edible oils for production of
biodiesel. In this back drop, Jatropha curcas has been
identified as potential biodiesel crop with additional
criteria to meet greening wastelands without
compromising the food, fodder security and improve
livehoods in arid regions of the country (Reddy et al.
2008). J. curcas also meets the American and European
biodiesel standards (Tiwari et al. 2007).
J. curcas, a large shrub grows up to 3-4m high.
Leaves are 3-5 lobed, cordiform, stipules deciduous.
Inflorescence is complex, monoecious with protandry.
First branching is racemose and subsequent branches
are cymes. Inflorescence is a cyathium which appears as
a single flower. Each cyathium is surrounded by
involucres of five connate bracts and between these;
large glands are present which bear a petaloid
appendage. Cymes are up to 12cm in length, flowers
greenish white and unisexual (Ratha-Krishnan and
Paramathama 2009). The inflorescence is axillary 178
paniculate polychasial cymes formed terminally on
branches and 179 are complex, possessing main and co-
florescences with paracladia (Divakar et al. 2010). In
the middle of the cyathium, there is a single female
flower with tricarpellary gynoecium. In the axil of each
bract are present a number of male flowers with a single
stamen and joined half way up to the stalk in scorpioid
cymes. Calyx segments 5, nearly equal, elliptic or
obviate. Corolla is campanulate, lobes 5, connate, hairy
inside, exceeding the calyx, each lobe bear inside a
gland at the base (Divakar et al. 2010). The oldest
flower is nearest to the centre and thus the maturation is
centrifugal. Normally the male to female ratio varies
from 16/27: 1 to 108: 1. Generally flowers between
September and January and second flowering in June is
also reported. The inflorescence, once it begins
flowering, flowers daily, and the flowering lasts for 11
days. Cross pollinating by insects encouraged by
hermaphrodite 13. Staminate, slightly fused petal-based,
stamens 5 + 5, 5 outer filaments only basally united,
inner 5 completely united; pistillate petals are free or
basally slightly united. Fruits ellipsoid, mostly trilobed,
hardly tetralobed, dehiscing loculicidally; seeds
compressed ovoid–ellipsoid by 1 cm, caruncle minute
and weights about 0.417 to 0.575 g. Propagated by
seeds or by cuttings (Ratha-Krishnan and Paramathama
2009). This 50 years of rotation species can yield 2-4
tonnes of seed/ ha with 30-42% of oil content after three
years of planting (Raina et al. 1987). Commonly it is
known as physic nut and other synonymous names
associated are Purging nut, Barbados nut, Purgeernoot,
big-purgenut, black vomiting nut (Makkaretal 1998),
Curcasbean, Purgeerboontjie, Purgingnuttree,
(http://www.inchem.org), Bubble bush, Fig nut, Pig nut,
The main bottleneck in cultivation of J. curcas are
lack of improved hybrid/ variety, locally available
inferior planting material, less number of female
flowers, early maturity, resistance to lodging, resistance
to pest and disease, reduced plant height and high
natural ramification of branches. Therefore, success of
genetic improvement of J. curcas depends on collection
of large number of germplasm from diverse agro-
ecological regions and existence of genetic variability
for desired trait in the collected germplasm. The present
study was an attempt to review the recent advances
made in assessment of diversity and genetic
improvement of J. curcas as potential biodiesel crop,
which will facilitates the breeder to utilize the available
literature for further improvement of J. curcas for oil
and yield under varying agro-ecological region.
Overview of diversity studies
The systematic work on germplasm exploration,
characterization, utilization and documentation has been
at nascent stage. Whatever the provincial variability is
recorded it is due to genotype and environmental
interaction. Priority should be given to assess intra- and
inter-accessional variability in the available germplasm,
selection of pure lines and then multiplication.
Existence of natural hybrid complexes between J.
curcas-canascens in Mexico (Dehgan and Webster
1978), J. integerrima–hastata complex in Cuba and
West Indian islands (Pax 1910) and J. curcas–
gossypifolia (J. tanjorensis) in India (Prabhakaran and
Sujatha 1999). Sudheer (2008) reported that highest
interspecific genetic divergence (0.419) was found
between J. glandulifera and J multifida. The least
interspecific genetic divergence (0.085) was found
between J. gossipifolia and J. tanjorensis.
Sun et al. (2008) reported that existence of low
variation in microsatellite simple sequence repeat (SSR)
markers within populations of Jatropha even in its
natural distribution (Mexico). Studies based on genetic
markers uncovered only modest levels of diversity in
India indicating that the gene pool applied at a large
scale may rest on a fairly fragile genetic foundation
(Basha et al. 2007 and Ranade et al. 2008). Tatikonda et
al. (2009) studied the diversity of 48 accessions from
India based on AFLP markers and found 680
polymorphic fragments, which provided discriminative
power for the classification of germplasm accessions
into five major clusters. Ganesh Ram, (2007) studied 5
accessions of Jatropha and 7 Jatropha species and found
that highest genetic similarity co-efficient (0.85) was
measured between TNMC 1 and TNMC 6. Cluster
analysis indicated that three distinct clusters one
comprising all the accessions of J. curcas while second
cluster included six species viz J. ramanadensis, J.
gossypifolia, J. podagrica, J. tanjorensis, J. villosa and
J. integerrima. The J. gladulifera formed the third
cluster. The latter species has genetic distinctness and
wider geographical distribution in India compared to
other seven species studied. Makkar et al. 1997,
reported large variations in contents of crude protein,
crude fat, neutral detergent fiber and ash on 18 different
provenances of Jatropha from countries in West and
East Africa, the Americas and Asia. Indonesian
accessions recorded variation for oil content ranging
from 36.06-53.08% as reported by Hasman (2007). In
China, Li Kun et al. (2007) studied variation in
Jatropha curcas in different regions and reported that
maximum seed weight (698.9g) was recorded from
Liuku of Lujiang river and minimum seed weight of
500.7g was recorded from extensive heat regions of
Yuanmou basin. The oil content of seed ranged from
53.3 (Yuanmou basin)-64.25% (Taoyuan of Yongsheng
country) which is considered as hot region. Heller
(1992) conducted multi-location field trials in 13
provenances from 1987 and 1988 in two countries of
the Sahel region: Senegal and Cape Verde. Significant
differences in the vegetative trait were recorded except
leaf shape among the various provenances at all
A total of 1855 candidate plus trees were identified
by National Vegetable Oil Development Board
(NOVOD). Beside this, around 5000 accessions were
collected through network of various inter institutional
research initiatives with an oil content ranging from 26-
42.7% (Punia 2007). The production of quality planting
material (30-40% oil content with 3-5 tonnes seed yield/
ha) under micro mission was undertaken by Department
of Biotechnology, Government of India. Kumar et al.
(2008) recorded that female flower/ inflorescence
showed maximum variation while it was narrow
number of male flowers/ inflorescence. This may be due
to intracellular and extracellular activity at different
development stages. They also reported that strong
correlation existed between plant height and branch
length, number of branches and collar diameter which
help in the selection of superior genotypes.
Wide variation in 100 seed weight (57-79 g) and oil
content (30–37%) for accession collected from Andhra
Pradesh, India (Rao et al. 2008). Kaushik et al. (2006)
reported that accessions from Uttaranchal recorded high
percentage (73%) of high yielding plants. Kaushik et al.
(2007), explored the variability in the accessions
collected from the state of Haryana-India and found
wide variation in 100 seed weight (49-69g) and oil
Surwenshi et al.
content 352 (28-39%). Wani et al. (2006) recorded
variation in Indian accessions for oil content (27.8-
38.4%) and 100 seed weight (44-77g). On-farm trial
conducted involving 103 accessions over a period of
five years at RARS; Tirupati revealed that mean seed
yield ranged from 39g to 1312g per plant with an oil
content ranging from 20 to 30%. Similar trails were
conducted at ICRISAT, Patancheru and it was found
that 100 seed weight ranged from 49.2 to 77.2g with an
oil content ranging from 27.8 to 38.4%.
Phenotypic variation in plant height (34-225cm),
number of primary branches (1-14), plant spread (14-
161), number of cluster per plant (1-20) and oil content
(21.5-39.8%), from accessions collected from states of
Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh was reported by Sunil
et al. (2008). The same author based on DIVA-GIS
analysis reported that Prakasam district of Andhra
Pradesh had higher CV value for oil content (29-36%).
The richness in oil content using rarefaction method of
DIVA-GIS showed that Ranga reddy found to be the
potential area for germplasm with high oil content.
Kumar et al. (2008) studied the intraspecific variation
for various morphological traits and found that plant
height ranged from 140.95 to 175.30cm, collar diameter
(4.70 to 6.27cm), number of branches (4.75 to 7.93) and
branch length (102.06 to 132.96cm). Rao et al. (2007)
observed four clusters with phylogeo-graphic patterns
of genetic diversity among 32 high yielding candidate
plus trees of J. curcas for seed traits. Gohil and Pandya
(2008) analyzed diversity based on phenotypic traits of
nine jatropha genotypes and suggested that for varietal
improvement, hybridization among the genotypes of
divergent clusters (clusters-III, IV and V) may be done
in order to obtain better results in terms of variability
and diversity. Kaushik et al. (2007) subjected 24
diverse accessions to non-hierarchical Euclidian cluster
analysis for seed traits and found that crossing between
accessions of clusters IV and VI will yield wide
spectrum of variability in subsequent generations. To
increase genetic species diversity and add new alleles,
inter-specific cross-pollination between J. curcas and
other Jatropha species to develop new hybrids with
higher yield potential and resistance to diseases. Among
all the crosses, the cross between J. curcas and J.
integerrima produced successful hybrids with more
seed set, while the other crosses failed to produce seeds
due to existence of cross ability barriers as reported by
Parthiban et al. 2009.
Parthiban et al. (2009) attempted crosses between
Jatropha curcas and other Jatropha species and
identified 27 distinct hybrid progeny clones. Clones
such as FC RI HC 3 (55.26%), FCRI HC 15 (48.50%),
FCRI HC 13 (37.01%) exhibited superiority in terms of
oil content. Other progenies such as FCRI 22 (357.48g),
FCRI HC 21 (328-07g), FCRI HC 10 (325.01g), FCRI
HC 18 (305.43g), FCRI HC 12 (255g), FCRI HC 20 (
252.26g) and FCRI HC 27 (250g) recorded maximum
seed yield, early flowering at 9 months after planting.
These clones can be promoted and utilized effectively
as biofuel crop. Gujarat Agricultural University released
first variety of J. curcas (SDAUJ I, Chatrapati), for
commercial cultivation in India. Regional Agricultural
Research Station (RARS), Tirupati of Acharya N G
Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad, Andhra
Pradesh India has released variety of J. curcas for
cultivation in Rain Shadow Districts of Andhra Pradesh.
The sound breeding programme depends upon the
availability of genetic variability for desired trait.
Collection, characterization and evaluation of
germplasm for oil and yield and agro-morphological
trait are in nascent stage. The major activity of genetic
improvement is selection and breeding. As J. curcas is
often cross-pollinated crop and exploitation of genetic
variation may be carried out through mass selection,
recurrent selection, mutation breeding, heterosis
breeding and inter-specific hybridization.
In the tropics there are number of woody and non-
woody perennial species that have provided many
products of ethnomedicine and other daily needs. Such
Diversity in Jatropha curcas for Crop Improvement
useful plants are virtually undomesticated.
Domestication of crop plants has been continuous
process as result today’s major food crops are the
product of years of artificial selection and breeding. The
domestication of tree species is a dynamic process from
background socioeconomic studies, the collection of
germplasm, genetic selection and improvement to the
integration of domesticated species in land-use.
Domestication is an ongoing process in which genetic
and cultivation improvements are continuously refined.
In genetic terms, domestication is accelerated and
human-induced evolution. Domestication, however, is
not only about selection and breeding. In nature, the
forces of the environment naturally select the fittest
trees in the population. In artificial selection, we choose
those trees that offer the best combination of
adaptability, growth, quality and quantity products, and
disease resistance. It integrates the four key processes of
the identification, production, management, and
adoption of tree resources.
Farmer’s access to good performing and well-
adapted Jatropha accessions with a wide genetic base
seems the most logical domestication strategy for small-
scale farmer systems. A wide genetic base increases the
sustainability of production. Other requirements for
implementation of this domestications strategy are
(Lengkeek 2007, Akinnifesi 2008, Leakey and
Akinnifesi 2008, Akinnifesi et al. 2006, Leakey et al.
2003). Researchers and farmers should disseminate
their agronomic findings on land suitability, agronomy
and integrated pest management, for example; Farmers
will need to team up with other production chain
partners to have a guaranteed offset of their production.
Without market access, farmers should not embark
on joint domestication programs on Jatropha. The next
step will be to establish domestication and breeding
programs with farmers, researchers, extension workers
and, preferably, private enterprises aiming at small-
scale farming and participatory on-farm involvement, as
carried out for fruit trees in west and southern Africa; A
well-designed domestication program will include an
exit strategy for all actors, both the farmers and their
buyers. This exit strategy provides a route towards
independence of all project actors after the project
implementation period; Part of a well-designed program
will be training in seed-collection practices, in order to
prevent narrowing of the genetic base of subsequent
Jatropha generations, and postharvest handling to
ensure viability; Without such basic practices, selection
for favorable traits, such as production, oil content and/
or seed size, will not yield benefits; selection may,
depending on the heritability of the selected traits, give
an initial positive response due to selection of superior
genotypes, but this positive effect could be lost in
subsequent generations, due to a narrowing of the
genetic base (Lengkeek 2007).
Mass selection and recurrent selection
The individual superior plants are selected based on
phenotypic performance and bulk seed is used to
produce the next generation crop for genetic
improvement. To gain genetic improvement for desired
trait, there must be positive offspring-parent regression
which depends on degree of environmental effects in
the parental population. Mishra (2008) devised paired
comparison method for selecting plus phenotypes of J.
curcas with emphasis on seed and oil yield which can
overcome the problem of inbreeding depression by
controlling pollen source and environment effect and
reduced population size. Evaluation trials in J. curcas to
study degree of variability was undertaken by Montes et
al. (2008) involving 225 lines collected from Asia,
Africa and Latin America revealed that low genetic
variability in African and Indian accessions and high
genetic variability in Gautemala and Latin American
lines. This confirmed the studies on evaluation of J.
curcas for phenotypic and genotypic by Basha and
Sujatha (2007). However, wild J. curcas is available in
tropical America, Africa and South Asia as reported
Heller (1996), Dehgan and Webster (2007).
In J. curcas recurrent selection is advantageous to
overcome the deficiencies of mass selection. Heterosis
breeding and improving specific combining ability aids
in isolation superior inbred from the population and
subjected to recurrent selection for further utilization in
the development of hybrid and synthetic varities. This
method increases the frequency of desirable genes
within a population while maintaining variability for
continued selection. Development of open pollinated
varieties using mass selection and recurrent selection
method is under testing in India. After obtaining the
required data on seed yield, oil content and oil quality,
disease and insect pest resistance, the best performing
genotypes will be released as new varieties of jatropha
by adopting the standard procedure as reported by Punia
Mutation and heterosis
Mutation breeding in tree crop is preferred due to
demerits of conventional breeding such as time
consuming, unpredictable results, long juvenile phase,
Surwenshi et al.
high heterozygosity and fear of loss of unique genotype.
Mutation breeding work carried out in Thailand using
fast neutrons and isolated dwarf or early flowering
mutants from the M3 generation, but the potential
productivity of these variants under intensive
cultivation conditions was not proved (Sagakuchi and
Samabhi 1987). Dwimahyani and Ishak (2004) used
induced mutations in J. curcas for improvement of
agronomic characters with irradiation dose of 10 Gy
and identified mutant plants with early maturity, 100
seeds weight (30% over control) and better branch
growth. In India, mutation breeding using chemical and
physical mutagens has been initiated to create genetic
variation for various traits and developed mutants are
being characterized using DNA markers (Punia 2007).
Mutation studies undertaken at National Botanical
Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow, India has led to
induction of cotyledonary 514 variabilities in J. curcas
(Pandey and Datta 1995). The mutants themselves may
not be 515 suitable for direct release, but they do
provide the necessary alleles for developing superior
cultivars with desirable traits.
Heterosis in tree species is evident in many hybrids
and perhaps best example is Eucalyptus and Populus. J.
curcas is often cross-pollinated; heterosis can be
exploited by using inbred lines as parent for production
of hybrid variety. Improvement of seed yield and oil
can be achieved by selection of superior germplasm and
release as cultivar. However, little work has been done
in J. curcas for exploitation of heterosis. Paramathma et
al. (2006) explained the inter-specific hybridization
utilizing J. curcas as the female parent and J.
integerrima as the male parent with wide range of
variation for vegetative, flowering and fruiting
characters in F1 hybrids.
Main breeding objective in J. curcas would be seed
and oil yield per unit area which depends on more
number of pistillate flowers per inflorescence, number
of capsule per shrub, 1000 seed weight, oil content of
seed and plants per hectare. Studies on phylogenetic
significance of interspecific hybridization in jatropha by
Dehgan (1984) confining to identification of
crossability barriers and morphological characterization
revealed that all F1 hybrids, except J. curcas × J.
multifida, were more vigorous than the parental species.
The species that could be crossed unilaterally with J.
curcas as female parent include J. macrorhiza, J.
capensis, J. cathartica, J. multifida, J. podagrica, J.
cordata, and J. cinerea. Interspecific hybridization has
immense scope for improving the genetic architecture
and agronomic attributes of J. curcas Sujatha (2006).
Basha and Sujatha (2009) produced artificial hybrids
between J. curcas and all Jatropha species used in the
study with the exception of J. podagrica without any
crossability barriers. Evaluation of backcross inter-
specific derivatives of cross involving J. curcas and J.
integerrima indicate scope for pre-breeding and genetic
enhancement of J. curcas through inter-specific
hybridization (Sujatha and Prabhakaran 2003, Parthiban
et al. 2009). Parthiban et al. (2009) made crosses
between J. curcas with other species. Cross between J.
curcas and J. integerrima was successful as it evolved
hybrids with more seed set and other hybrids failed to
produce seeds due to existence of crossability barriers.
J. curcas is known for its wide spread distribution
and adaptability under varying eco-geographical
conditions. However, there are several bottleneck in the
commercial exploitation of J. curcas as biodiesel plant
due lack of improved varieties for seed and oil yield
thus making cultivation of J. curcas as risky enterprise.
Apart from agronomic, socioeconomic and institutional
constraints, planned crop improvement programs are
lacking globally. Hence, J. curcas can be improved
through assessment of variation in wild sources and
selection of superior/ elite genotypes and application of
mutation, alien gene transfer through inter-specific
hybridization and biotechnological interventions to
bring the change in the desired traits. Enhancement of
productivity can achieved by evolving hybrids/ varieties
bearing more number of pistillate flower by exploiting
heterosis thus by increasing seed and oil yield per unit
area so as to make it profitable venture.
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