Leading chemical companies have empowered 1,019 Indian farmers in their journey to create a framework for sustainable castor bean production.
Arkema, a global leader in specialty chemicals and advanced materials; BASF, the world’s leading chemical company; Jayant Agro-Organics Ltd., a pioneer in castor oil based chemicals in India, and Solidaridad, an international civil society organization, came together for Project Pragati (Hindi word for progress).
With this first-of-its-kind initiative globally, the companies are developing a sustainable castor framework titled SuCCESS (Sustainable Castor Caring for Environmental & Social Standards).
An experiment in Gujarat on castorseed has yielded double the output over conventional farming, without significant change in farm practices or additional expense.
It has been conducted over 160 hectares in six districts, using the GCH-7 variety of higher yielding seed, developed by Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University (SDAU), Palanpur. The output per hectare it has reported, from most areas, is an average of four tonnes. Conventional means have not given more than two tonnes per ha.
Castor (Ricinus communis, L.) occupies an important place in the country’s vegetable oil economy. During recent years, castor has emerged as a commercial crop with immense export potential earning valuable foreign exchange. It ideally suits dryland farming in kharif and with limited irrigations in post-monsoon both in traditional and non-traditional areas.
Castor is produced under two contrasting environments in the country viz., irrigated intensive cultivation with high productivity in Gujarat and Rajasthan; and rainfed culture coupled with poor management with very low productivity in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, etc.
Castor (Ricinus communis L.) is cultivated around the world because of the commercial importance of its oil. India is said to be the world’s largest producer of castor seed and meets most of the global demand for castor oil.
Nigeria imports over N30 billion worth of castor oil every year despite having arable and fertile land, and climatic conditions suitable for its farming. It is crystal clear that only very few Nigerians are taking advantage of the present opportunities in the different agriculture value chains.
Numerous opportunities abound in castor farming, as a potential farmer or investor can make up to N50 million on 10 hectares of land over a period of seven years due to its more than 1000 uses and over 80 health benefits.
Following the launch of its research project on opportunities for the Castor bean; and consultations with castor growers and processors last year, The Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) is executing a long-term strategy for the development of the castor industry for exports and investments.
The Agency will be hosting capacity building initiatives, business matchmaking opportunities, and has planned trade missions to assist local castor oil producers to enter international markets later this year.
A Jamaican castor oil producer has stated that the industry needs assistance from the Government if it is to capture its fair share of the fast-growing and lucrative trade that is expected to grow to over US$2 billion in another seven years.
According to the producer, who has been in castor production for the past two years, some form of mechanisation is necessary to help castor oil producers increase production.
Scientists from University of Hyderabad, India have found that castor bean plants could help in remediation of areas where soil has been highly polluted with heavy metals due to industrial pollution.
Castor plants growing in these areas absorb toxic heavy metals from soil. Hence, castor bean plants can be grown in such polluted lands and over a period of time the levels of heavy metals can be reduced in the soil.
Research reports stated that when the castor bean plants growing in industrial areas were tested, roots of the plants were seen to contain lead in as high as 19.53 milligrams per gram of the root. Even leaves and stem of the plant were found to be containing lead but in smaller quantities.
New cultivation technique boosts castor crop yield in Gujarat.
Gujarat based castor farmer has used organic fertilizers for castor crop cultivation and has reaped nearly six to eight tons of crop compared to four tons by others, with minimal amount being spent. He hopes that organic cultivation will help him reap atleast 20 quintals of castor seeds by the end of the season.
Initially the farmer had experimented this technique with a variety of paddy and had success. Later he tried the technique with castor crop and cultivated Palem Hybrid Castor EI-111 variety after consultation with the scientists in that region and now he has succeeded.
Agriculture department officials have predicted good price for the organically cultivated castor oil in the market. Government has allotted funds exclusively for vermicompost units to enable farmers cut costs and earn profits. These have enabled more farmers to shift to natural farming.
Castor cultivation which had lost interest among farmers since 2012 is now attracting farmers with new farming methods and cropping patterns. Castor cultivation was at its peak during 2010-11 due to high castor seed prices at around Rs. 6200 per quintal. The crop had become the most preferred for the kharif sowing.
But during 2012, as the prices started falling, the castor cultivation decreased and since then it has been decreasing, with prices of castor seed falling to Rs. 3325 – Rs. 3400 per quintal.
To increase castor yield and attract farmers, SEA started a Castor Yield Increase Programme where around 60 farmers and scientists of Dantiwada Agricultural University joined. The main objective was to reduce the use of water, pesticides, fertilizers and cut costs while raising the yield by changing the cropping pattern.
The new cropping pattern has attracted farmers as the castor seed yields have doubled. The Dantiwada Agriculture University has provided GCH 7, a new hybrid variety of castor seeds, free of cost to farmers.
SEA has also planned the pilot project to five districts of Gujarat and Rajasthan by including more farmers.
Castor seed yield has doubled from 2000 kg to 4000kg/hectare in two villages of Gujarat under SEA’s castor seed development program.
Buoyed by the success, SEA will be extending this program to Rajasthan. While the first program saw sowing over 300 hectares, under the extended program SEA aims at castor sowing on over 1,500 hectares of land.