Establishing a Jatropha plantation


Plantations, farms or small plots planted with Jatropha, all have their specific requirements. Without neglecting the preset conditions as mentioned in the page about intercropping (never use existing agriculture production area's for Jatropha only !!) there still are various planting systems.

In the case of outgrowers or  small contract farmers usually the Jatropha plants are provided by a centralized body like a co-operation or government owned nursery.  As a result the Jatropha plants are being delivered in poly bags. The success rate with this type of planting  is high, but so are the costs of transport. Depending on local climate one could chose for bare root planting, which is easier, quicker, less expensive and almost as good as poly bag planting. In fact the root system in the poly bags might be poorly developed and the root ball will break apart during transport, before the plant reaches the planting hole, which effectively results in a very expensive bare root plant.


Preparing an area to plant

Plenty of Internet messages will tell you that Jatropha grows everywhere, it is a tolerant plant, grows without fertilizer and less that 600 mm of rain. tolerates very high and very low pH values, is salt resistant etc. etc. As an agronomist I can tell you that there are many plants on this world that will survive the same tough conditions and they all have one aspect in common: They produce nothing, they are just hanging in and we call them weeds oor wild plants as soon as they pop up in area's where we want to grow something useful. So the challenge is to turn Jatropha from a wild weed into a useful plant.

This procedure starts with proper care, which is even more important when growing Jatropha in combination with other crops. So we do proper soil preparation, we make proper planting holes with a little bit of manure in it, we do proper weeding and we make sure that cattle is not destroying the young plants.

Direct seeding is the easiest and cheapest way to start a Jatropha plantation but it will only be successful when the following conditions are right.

  1. Planting area should be clean
  2. Seeds should be fresh, with a high germination rate (80-90%). Put 2 seeds in a hole.
  3. Rain or irrigation should start right after planting and continue for several months with regular intervals.
  4. Weed control should be guaranteed during the first 6 months of irrigation/rain.

One of the most serious drawbacks with direct seeding is that in general people do not realize that proper preparation of the planting plot is crucial for a good development of the Jatropha seedling. You can drop a seed in a very small hole and it will germinate even without soil preparation, fertilizer of manure but it will not develop into a  healthy, vigorous growing plant.

It has been said before. Jatropha should be grown as any agricultural crop. This means proper cultural practices like soil preparation, fertilizing and weeding.


Difference between direct seeding and poly bag planting (Bukoba, Tanzania 2012).Poly bag plants do not pick up nursery time.


Bare root planting is facing the same risks as direct seeding, but when conditions are right, a more even stand of Jatropha will be achieved. Conditions for bare root planting ar

  1. Rain or irrigation should start right before planting and continue for several weeks.
  2. Plants should be uprooted at the nursery and replanted in the field the same day. (Although I personally observed that the plants do survive intervals of several days )

Direct cutting is even more risky than direct seeding. A seed will survive if it does not get water the first weeks after planting. A cutting needs water right away. I would not recommend this method except for planting hedges, where large cuttings are being used.

Planting Poly bag plants. As explained before, poly bag plants are relatively expensive so you better make sure that they are properly planted. Prepare and clean the area before planting. Put sticks where you want to plant the Jatropha in relation to the intercrop. (Picture D1 Philippines.) Standard planting distances for Jatropha are 2x2 or 3x3 (irrigated or high rainfall. Other distances in relation to intercropping are discussed on de intercropping link



Prepare planting holes in advance (30x30x30),apply compost (1 kg) or at  least rockphosphate (100 gr) and make sure that plants get water right after planting. (picture D1 Philippines)

In stead of drilling or digging holes, one can also plant on ridged soil, provided that the depth is at least 30 cm. Ridged soil keeps the moister quite a while, there is no competition from weeds because weeds have to start growing all over again and new nutrients become available for the young Jatropha plants. Jatropha planted in ridges should not be to young. Plants should at least be 40 cm and very well hardened off.