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The “sweat” of the Jatropha

The need to scientifically check the water consumption of pinhão-manso (Jatropha curcas), a plant that bears fruit with a high potential for the production of bio-diesel, led researchers at the Luiz de Queiroz Agricultural College (Esalq) at the University of São Paulo (USP) in Piracicaba, up-state São Paulo, to plan and build six lysometers, equipment that measures soil evaporation and plant transpiration, the so-called evapotranspiration. Under the supervision of Professor Marcos Folegatti, PhD student Danilton Flumignan built the lysometers with funding from FAPESP. Each device comprises a tank installed in the soil, set on a weighing system. Within each tank 25 tons of earth are placed and just one Jatropha plant. The variation in mass in the weighing system determines the transpiration. “We want to check the water consumption of this plant,” says Danilton. “To do so we’re going to study it with two types of irrigation; drip and central pivot, in addition to not irrigating. This monitoring is likely to take eight years,” he says.