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ECHO Development Notes

ISSUE 60, MAY 1998

Edited By Martin L. Price

17391 Durrance Road, North Fort Myers, FL 33917-2239
Phone: (941) 543-3246, Fax: (941) 543-5317 USA
Web site:

New IPGRI Series Promotes Underutilized Crops.
The International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) has 
published a series of books titled "Promoting the conservation and 
use of underutilized and neglected crops." Each title covers a 
different crop species. The purpose is "to draw attention to species 
which have been neglected in a varying degree by researchers and/or 
underutilized economically." As ECHO is very interested in 
underexploited crops, we wrote to IPGRI and obtained copies of each 
title in the series.

IPGRI is a research center dedicated to identifying and collecting 
plant germplasm, conserving it, and disseminating it to researchers 
developing or promoting new crops. Each book focuses on taxonomy, 
origins of species, related species, and reproduction biology. 
Ecology, propagation methods, cultivation, and germplasm conservation 
are also covered. Because of the heavy focus on germplasm topics, the 
series will not be of interest to everyone in our network. Those 
trying to identify local minor crops and possibly useful wild 
relatives or who have worked to introduce a specific crop will find 
this series helpful.

For example, Nancy Harper in Belize wrote to ECHO regarding the 
physic nut, Jatropha curcas. The physic nut is a shrub widely found 
in the tropics. (It is used as a living fence and as a medicinal, 
grows in arid regions, and produces a nut which when pressed yields 
an oil that can be used in making soap and has been used as a diesel 
substitute in small engines with some success in trials. Young leaves 
of the plant may be cooked and eaten. All parts of the plant have 
been used medicinally.) Most Jatropha curcas plants produce toxic 
nuts. In Mexico and Central America there are types of physic nut 
that are safe to eat when roasted. Nancy wanted to know if these 
edible types were a different species of Jatropha and if they should 
therefore propagate them by cuttings or by seed.

Using the IPGRI book on Jatropha curcas, we learned that the edible 
type is probably the same species as the toxic type, and that because 
it is pollinated by insects, the edible and toxic types may be able 
to cross pollinate if grown in the same area. We encouraged her to 
talk with local farmers, as the book seemed to indicate that in her 
region the predominant Jatropha may be the non-toxic type, making 
propagation by seed safe.

The series book on black nightshades, Solanum nigrum and related 
species, is useful for identifying local Solanum species used as 
potherbs and "huckleberries," as ten species or sub-species are 
described in detail with diagrams, local names, and an identification 
key. Some botanical education would be helpful in using the key. (The 
genus Solanum includes tomato, pepper, potato and eggplant. It also 
contains many wild relatives, some of which have food potential and 
some are poisonous.)

These are the titles in print as of this time: Physic nut Jatropha 
curcas L., Yam bean Pachyrhizus DC., Coriander Coriandrum sativum L., 
Hulled wheats: Proceedings of the First International Workshop on 
Hulled Wheats Guizotia abyssinica (L.f.) Cass., Pili nut Canarium 
ovatum Engl., Safflower Carthamus tinctorius L., Chayote Sechium 
edule (Jacq.) SW., Bambara groundnut Vigna subterranea (L.) Verdc., 
Breadfruit Artocarpus altilis (Parkinson) Fosberg, Cat's whiskers 
Cleome gynandra L., Tef Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter, Sago Palm 
Metroxylon sagu Rottb., Oregano S., Black nightshades Solanum nigrum 
L. and related species, Carob tree Ceratonia siliqua L.

IPGRI advertises that their publications are free of charge to 
"institutions and libraries." We corresponded with their publications 
department for clarification. Paul Stapleton, Head of the Editorial 
and Publications Unit, replied "IPGRI publications are distributed 
free of charge, so we aim to place them in libraries and institutions 
so that their potential readership is maximized. We do not want them 
to be read by one person, then filed on a bookshelf and forgotten." 
However, "if the organization is going to use the information to 
benefit workers in the area, they can have as many copies of our 
material as needed. IPGRI is eager to disseminate its information 
where it can do the most good, and that is why we maintain our free 
distribution policy. Some workers can easily show that they have a 
need for a personal copy, such as laboratory researchers, university 
professors, extension agents, etc., and we gladly supply those."

If your organization is able to make use of one of the titles listed 
above or would like to know of IPGRI's many other titles related to 
germplasm conservation and breeding, write to: Paul Stapleton; Head 
Editorial and Publications Unit; Documentation, Information and 
Training Group; International Plant Genetic Resources Institute; Via 
delle Sette Chiese 142, 00145 Rome, Italy; phone 33-6-51892233, 
e-mail [EMAIL PROTECTED], fax 33-6-5750309; home page
IPGRI Publication : Physic nut Jatropha curcas L.

Physic nut
Jatropha curcas L.

Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 1.

This tropical crop is native to Mexico and Central America, but is 
cultivated in many other Latin American, Asian and African countries 
as a hedge. It has become of interest to various development agencies 
because it adapts well to semiarid marginal sites, its oil can be 
processed for use as a diesel fuel and it can be used for erosion 
control. This monograph has chapters covering the following aspects 
of J. curcas: names of the species and taxonomy; botanical 
description; origin and centre of diversity; properties (toxicology); 
uses (whole plant and food/fodder, medicine, plant protectant and 
molluscicide, technical uses, diesel fuel and other uses); genetic 
resources (existing genetic variation, conservation); breeding 
(objectives, method and selection based on provenance trials); 
production areas; ecology; agronomy (growth and development, 
propagation methods and pests and diseases); limitations of the crop; 
prospects; and research needs. There are appendices listing (I) 
research contacts, centres of crop research, breeding and plant 
genetic resources of physic nut and (II) publications of Proyecto 
Biomasa, DINOT/UNI, Nicaragua.

 CAB ABSTRACTS, CAB International

Authors: Joachim Heller
Year: 1996
Pages: 66
Format: 17x24 Softcover
ISBN: 92-9043-278-0
Price: US$ 8

PDF free file available - 767Kb

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