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Jatropha curcas L. is a drought tolerant crop that is globally cultivated under semiarid conditions as a biodiesel feedstock. Despite its great potential, however, many projects failed to reach commercially viable seed and oil yields. The aim of the study was to provide globally applicable solutions for maximization of Jatropha oil production under semiarid conditions. Under extremely low irrigation (10% of potential evapotranspiration; ETp), fruit production was very low and a surprisingly significant portion of the fruits delayed their maturity up to six months postbloom. Increasing irrigation to midlevel (60% ETp) significantly elevated fruit production and speeded up the ripening rate, whereas further increasing irrigation to a higher level (90% ETp) decreased seed and oil yields, probably due to the increased investment in vegetative growth. Nevertheless, maximal seed and oil yields at 60% ETp remained far below targeted yields. Coupling irrigation at 60% ETp, with induction of vegetative arrest, by soil application of a commercial gibberellin synthesis inhibitor, brought forward the second bloom period by two months, reduced vegetative growth, promoted floral production and significantly enhanced reproductive capacity by more than doubling oil production. The results show that under semiarid conditions, commercially viable seed and oil yields of Jatropha can be achieved by carefully balancing vegetative growth with reproductive capacity through the combined application of optimal irrigation regimes and induced vegetative arrest.

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Global maximization of Jatropha oil production under semi‐arid conditions by balancing vegetative growth with reproductive capacity
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Global maximization of Jatropha oil production under semi‐arid conditions by balancing vegetative growth with reproductive capacity

Jatropha curcas L. is a drought tolerant crop that is globally cultivated under semiarid conditions as a biodiesel feedstock. Despite its great potential, however, many projects failed to reach commercially viable seed and oil yields. The aim of the study was to provide globally applicable solutions for maximization of Jatropha oil production under semiarid conditions. Under extremely low irrigation (10% of potential evapotranspiration; ETp), fruit production was very low and a surprisingly significant portion of the fruits delayed their maturity up to six months postbloom. Increasing irrigation to midlevel (60% ETp) significantly elevated fruit production and speeded up the ripening rate, whereas further increasing irrigation to a higher level (90% ETp) decreased seed and oil yields, probably due to the increased investment in vegetative growth. Nevertheless, maximal seed and oil yields at 60% ETp remained far below targeted yields. Coupling irrigation at 60% ETp, with induction of vegetative arrest, by soil application of a commercial gibberellin synthesis inhibitor, brought forward the second bloom period by two months, reduced vegetative growth, promoted floral production and significantly enhanced reproductive capacity by more than doubling oil production. The results show that under semiarid conditions, commercially viable seed and oil yields of Jatropha can be achieved by carefully balancing vegetative growth with reproductive capacity through the combined application of optimal irrigation regimes and induced vegetative arrest.

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