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 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.
The table below provides the production rate of castor seed in china, during the years 2011-12 and 2012-13.
| Production (‘000 T)
||Area Harvested(‘000 Ha)
|| Yield (T/H)
It can be seen from the above table that the yields of castor seeds in China are almost on par of those in India (which is about 1 T/ha/year. An earlier post showed how the yield is far lower in Brazil.
China is the second largest producer of castor. It contributes about 7-10% of the world‘s castor seeds production. It uses about 60% of its castor oil for the production of Sebacic acid.
In 2011, China exported 0.13 million T of castor oil, which increased to 0.18 million T in 2012 and estimated to be 0.17 million T in 2013.
There are three major issues with respect to castor yield and productivity challenges. They are
- Castor cultivation of crop on marginal lands without inputs (fertilizers and irrigation) produces poor yields
- Lack of improved varieties and hybrids
- Lack of mechanization in cultivation & harvesting
- The ricin in castor crop is a barrier to its cultivation in many developed countries – especially US and parts of Europe
- GM castor with no ricin could be a solution
Apart from this, there are other challenges faced in castor industry. They are:
- Difficulty in further expansion of area in India primarily due to lack of seed marketing to non-traditional areas
- Grown under rain-fed condition without following improved package of practices
- Lack of suitable cultivars for intercropping system
- Lack of resistant/ tolerant varieties/hybrids for eating caterpillars and macrophomma disease
Increasing the yield of castor from 1 T/hectare per year (the average right now in India) to something much higher is a highly desirable outcome, but not very easy.
The best way to overcome yield challenge in castor industry is to concentrate more on research and development (R&D) area.
Many techniques are emerging in R&D sector to increase the yield of castor. These include
- Hybrids: Selection of Hybrids to increase yield, branching, non-shattering and high oil content. e.g.- HC1, HC2,…8 also, advanced hybrids like TSP 10R VP1 lata, etc.
- Cross Pollination: Under natural conditions, cross pollination in castor can exceed 80%, but the actual level of cross pollination is dependent on both genotype and environmental conditions. Germplasm storage under cryogenic conditions keeps up the viability of seeds even after 30 days
- Other techniques like enriching the soil with zinc content
A wholly-owned subsidiary of US-based BioPower Operations, has agreed to develop a castor plantation and milling operation in Paraguay. Under the terms of the agreement Ambrosia, a development company, will provide the land, pay costs for the testing and give BioPower a monthly project management fee and reimbursement of expenses during the test period for subcontractors on the ground in Paraguay.
BioPower will provide project management testing services through the testing phase for up to 12 months until the successful certification of the yield from growing castor is proven, subject to material and adverse events.
Once the project is approved then, under the Castor Master Farm Management Services agreement, $10 million will be invested from Ambrosia towards the building, development and operations of the castor plantation and mill. BioPower will either earn 6% of the net income for 10 years or have an option to become a 20% owner of the project.