The discipline is engaged in selection, improvement and agrotechnology development of non traditional oil bearing deserter economic (Jojoba & Jatropha) and halophytic (Salicornia & Salvadora) plant species with a view to develop under utilized non saline and saline wastelands. The work involves improvement of species through forced selection, breeding and also through biotechnological approaches for cost-effective and sustainable production.
For utilization of non-saline wastelands, the discipline has introduced Jojoba (Simmondisia chinensis), a desert plant from American desert and the species was domesticated. Based on yield and other desirable parameters, selections were made both for male and female plants. Superior genotypes were identified for high productivity from mother as well as progeny populations. Productive indices were worked out for all these elite genotypes and their performance was compared with other Jojoba plantations raised in different countries. CSMCRI germplasm ranked 2nd after Israel material performance for yield potential .To optimize the male-female ratio in the plantation with selected plants, tissue culture protocol was perfected for large-scale production of elite plants.
Jatropha curcas has been considered as one of the most important non-traditional oil yielding plant species, which is being used for the production of biodiesel.
The discipline is extensively working on identification of elite clones from different parts of the country, nursery raising and development of agro technology.CSMCRI has played a pioneering role in promoting the concept of Jatropha cultivation on wasteland and presently has more than 50 hectares of such cultivation with different accessions in two agro-climatic zones (Orissa and Gujarat).
Jatropha being wild in nature, improvement in seed production is one of the most important criteria for the economic viability of its cultivation. On the basis of performance, elite accessions of Jatropha curcas have been identified for higher yield and raising future plantations. The selected germplasm has been clonally multiplied both through cuttings and micropropagation. Protocol for micropropagation of Jatropha has been developed and the saplings thus raised were planted in the field to assess the performance under adverse conditions. Experiments are being continued to perfect the protocol using different genotypes and different age plants and to generate the plants in cost effective mannerMolecular marker studies were also taken up in various germplasm raised and maintained in CSMCRI experimental fields to know the genetic relatedness and diversity among the accessions for breeding work, QTL mapping and generation of mapping population for Jatropha crop improvement. In-depth studies have been carried out to identify the best agronomy practices by conducting field trials on spacing and fertilizer requirement. Trials on de-oiled cake of Jatropha are being conducted to use it as organic fertilizer.
The institute in collaboration with Daimler Chrysler & DEG, Germany and University of Hohenheim conducted field trials on cultivation of Jatropha on wasteland and utilization of oil and deoiled cake. Recently US Department of Energy and General Motors have collaborated with CSMCRI to explore the highest possible productivity of Jatropha on marginal land by utilizing the best germplasm and agronomy practices developed by the institute.
Zero effluent process has been developed by CSMCRI where the spent catalyst is converted into a useful fertilizer. The process is also protected by US patent (No. US 2006/0080891 A1, dt. 20/04/2006) and CSMCRI has the requisite experience in supplying such type of plants in past. Biodiesel produced by CSMCRI from Jatropha was of EN14214 standard curcas oil and tested it in both mobile (Mercedes Benz as well as other vehicles) and stationary engines without modification. Following successful lowering of the pour point of the biodiesel, in collaboration with Lubrizol India, test runs of the C class Mercedes cars and a Viano van were initiated by DaimlerChrysler India in Leh in August 2005 to ascertain performance at high altitude in rarefied atmosphere. CSMCRI has licensed the know how to Rajasthan State Mines & Minerals and a demonstration plant is now operational near Udaipur. CSMCRI has also installed a 1 TPD fully integrated biodiesel plant for DRDO. RSMML have reported excellent performance of the biodiesel in a Tavera van and also in running of mining equipment. CSMCRI too has been plying its Toyota Qualis on neat biodiesel since August 2006 and over 125,000 km run has been completed with mileage comparable to that with fossil diesel. Looking at the merits of bio-diesel prepared by CSMCRI, European Govt. has conferred upon us the environmental leadership award for the year 2005. The project on Jatropha cultivation was undertaken in collaboration with Daimler Chrysler and DEG, Germany, NIMITLI (CSIR, New Delhi), and Industries Commissionarate, Gandhinagar (Govt. of Gujarat, India).
Salicornia cultivation which is a new attempt in India was grown on saline soils with seawater application. For utilization of costal saline soils, agrotechnology of Salicornia brachiata was perfected and in the process, germplasm was also improved for higher yield with recurrent selection. While looking for a solution to minimize the cultivation cost, it was found that densification of the species in its natural habitat where, the species naturally grows may minimize the cultivation inputs, since natural inundation of seawater can take care of irrigation. Taking advantage of monsoon seeds were broadcasted and naturally densified along the sea coast at various locations in Gujarat and the biomass per unit area could be increased.
To make Salicornia cultivation economically viable, besides oil and vegetable tips, a process to produce vegetable salt from the waste biomass after removing the seeds for oil, was developed. The vegetable salt contains several important nutrients besides sodium chloride not normally found in sea salt. Due to presence of low sodium it is considered to be beneficial for heart patients. The technology of vegetable salt preparation was transferred to a local entrepreneur for commercial production.
Salvadora seed oil contains high amount of Myristic and Lauric acids. Oil is used as substitute to coconut oil for soap and detergent industries. Performance of the species on saline and alkali soils was assessed and the species was successfully cultivated on both types of soil. Agro technology has been developed for cultivation of Salvadora persica on highly saline soils with saline water irrigation. Plantations were developed by CSMCRI on farmers' fields at Bhachau, Kutch (300 acres). M/s Godrej Soap Industry,Ghatkopar, Mumbai (5 ha), RCF company, Mumbai (1 ha) and Vishakhapatnam steel plant, Andhra Pradesh (25 ha).