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Jatropha curcas

Genetics of the Jatropha curcas plant

Jatropha curcas flowers: a mixed reproduction system

EDUARDO BRESSANJatropha curcas flowers: a mixed reproduction systemEDUARDO BRESSAN

Despite its great promise as a raw material for biodiesel production because of its high potential seed oil yield, the cultivation of Jatropha curcas (also known as Barbados Nut or Physic Nut) in Brazil, India and China, the largest producers, was not as successful as expected. In addition to the lack of agronomic information, at issue is the plant’s low genetic diversity, which makes seed selection and better productivity difficult. This characteristic has been studied by researchers at the Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture (Cena), of the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar).  “By using genetic markers, we showed that Jatropha curcas has a mixed reproduction system, combining self-pollination and asexual apomixis without pollen exchange, resulting in seeds identical to those of the mother, and the crossing of related individuals, factors that may explain the plant’s low genetic diversity,” says postdoctoral researcher Eduardo Bressan, of Cena, who obtained his doctorate under the guidance of Professor Antônio Figueira with a grant from FAPESP. “With the mixed reproduction system and correlated mating, the collection of open-pollinated seeds to improve the species needs to be conducted with a large number of plants, to ensure a sample that represents the genes to be transferred and recombined to form future generations,” says Bressan. The study, which confirmed the Jatropha curcas’ type of reproductive system and generated knowledge for crop genetic improvement programs, was published in the August 2013 issue of the journal Tree Genetics & Genomes.