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The cultivation of Jatropha curcas in Egypt

M. Reyadh, Under Secretary of State for Afforestation
Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation



The "Greening" of Egypt represents a huge challenge for the government. Afforestation has a very important role in meeting this challenge. Several initiatives have been taken in recent years in different parts of the country to promote afforestation. The Central Administration for Afforestation (MOALR) is now taking up cultivation of Jatropha curcas in many sites of the country, especially in the South. This paper describes the botanical features and potential uses of Jatropha curcas for the future.



It is a small tree or shrub with smooth gray bark, which exudes a whitish colored, watery, latex when cut. Normally, it grows between three and five meters in height, but can attain a height of up to eight or ten meters under favourable conditions.


It has large green to pale-green leaves, alternate to sub-opposite, three-to five-lobed with a spiral phyllotaxis.


The petiole length ranges between 6-23 mm. The inflorescence is formed in the leaf axil. Flowers are formed terminally, individually, with female flowers usually slightly larger and occurs in the hot seasons. In conditions where continuous growth occurs, an unbalance of pistillate or staminate flower production results in a higher number of female flowers.


Fruits are produced in winter when the shrub is leafless, or it may produce several crops during the year if soil moisture is good and temperatures are sufficiently high. Each inflorescence yields a bunch of approximately 10 or more ovoid fruits. A three, bi-valved cocci is formed after the seeds mature and the fleshy exocarp dries.


The seeds become mature when the capsule changes from green to yellow, after two to four months from fertilization. The blackish, thin shelled seeds are oblong and resemble small castor seeds.

Ecological Requirements

Jatropha curcas grows almost anywhere – even on gravelly, sandy and saline soils. It can thrive on the poorest stony soil. It can grow even in the crevices of rocks. The leaves shed during the winter months form mulch around the base of the plant. The organic matter from shed leaves enhance earth-worm activity in the soil around the root-zone of the plants, which improves the fertility of the soil.

Regarding climate, Jatropha curcas is found in the tropics and subtropics and likes heat, although it does well even in lower temperatures and can withstand a light frost. Its water requirement is extremely low and it can stand long periods of drought by shedding most of its leaves to reduce transpiration loss. Jatropha is also suitable for preventing soil erosion and shifting of sand dunes.



Oil Crop

Analysis of the Jatropha seed shows the following chemical composition:

- Moisture 6.20 %
- Protein 18.00 %
- Fat 38.00 %
- Carbohydrates 17.00 %
- Fiber 15.50 %
- Ash 5.30 %

The oil content is 35 – 40% in the seeds and 50 – 60% in the kernel. The oil contains 21% saturated fatty acids and 79% unsaturated fatty acids.There are some chemical elements in the seed which are poisonous and render the oil not appropriate for human consumption.

Raw material

Oil has a very high saponification value and is being extensively used for making soap in some countries. Also, the oil is used as an illuminant as it burns without emitting smoke.

Medicinal plant

The latex of Jatropha contains an alkaloid known as "jatrophine" which is believed to have anti-cancerous properties. It is also used as an external application for skin diseases and rheumatism and for sores on domestic livestock. In additon, the tender twigs of the plant are used for cleaning teeth, while the juice of the leaf is used as an external application for piles. Finally, the roots are reported to be used as an antidote for snake-bites.

Raw material for dye

The bark of Jatropha curcas yields a dark blue dye which is used for colouring cloth, fishing nets and lines.

Soil enrichment

Jatropha oil cake is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and can be used as organic manure.


Jatropha leaves are used as food for the tusser silkworm.

Insecticide/ pesticide

The seeds are considered anthelimintic in Brazil, and the leaves are used for fumigating houses against bed-bugs. Also, the ether extract shows antibiotic activity against Styphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.

Alternative to Diesel

It is significant to point out that, the non-edible vegetable oil of Jatropha curcas has the requisite potential of providing a promising and commercially viable alternative to diesel oil since it has desirable physicochemical and performance characteristics comparable to diesel. Cars could be run with Jatropha curcas without requiring much change in design.

The chemical analysis of Jatropha curcas oil is given in Table (1).



Acid value


Saponification value


Iodine value


Viscosity (31oC) "Fatty acid"


Palmitic acid %


Stearic acid %


Oleic acid %


Linoleic acid %


Other acids %


The comparison of properties of Jatropha oil and standard specifications of diesel oil are shown in Table (2):

Specification Standard specification of Jatropha oil Standard specification of Diesel
Specific gravity



Flash point

240/110 C

50 C

Carbon residue


0.15 or less

Cetane value


50.0 up

Distillation point

295 C

350 C

Kinematics Viscosity

50.73 cs

2.7 cs up

Sulpher %

0.13 %

1.2 % or less

Calorific value

9 470 kcal/kg

10 170kcal/kg

Pour point

8 C

10 C



4 or less

The seeds were imported from India five years ago, and were cultivated in the southern part of Egypt and irrigated by treated sewage water. It is worth mentioning that the cultivation has been very successful. It is now producing seeds, and the next step consists in studying the best means of making use and of its oil product.

Table (3) : Physical and chemical properties of diesel fuel and Curcas oil

Viscosity (cp) (30 C)

52.6 (5.51)2


Speciflc gravity (15 C/4 C)

0.917/ 0.923

0.841 / 0.85

Solidfying Point (C)



Cetane Value

51.0 (38)

47.8 .59

Flash Point (C)

110 /340


Carbon Residue (%)


< 0.05 . < 0.15

Distillation (C)

284 . 295

< 350 . < 370

Sulfur (%)

0.13 . 0.16

< 1.0 . 1.2

Acid Value

1.0 . 38.2


Saponification Value

188 . 198


Iodine Value3

90.8 . 112.5


Refractive Index (30C)





Anonymous. A note on Jatropha Curcas (pinhao)

Banerjee, A,K. (1989). Shrubs in Tropical Forest Ecosystems, Examples from India. World Bank Technical Paper Number 103.

Calvin, M.(1985). Fuel Oils from Higher plants: Prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Shri Ashouk K. Raina, BAIF, PUNE . Jatropha Curcas – A fence against energy crisis

Norman Jones and Joan H. Miller. Jatropha Curcas – A multi-purpose species for problematic sites. The World Bank.

Jatropha Curcas - Multipurpose plants and Source of Energy for Future by, Edgar Munch and Joachim Kiefer (GTZ).

Oil Gloom To Oil Boom; Jatropha curcas by, Vinayak Patel and Kawarjit Singh, Agro-Forestry Federation, Maharashtra, India.

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