Trip Report

Jatropha Research, Field Visit to Mozambique 13th to 30th April 2008


From 13th to 30th April Flemming Nielsen visited Mozambique as part of the Jatropha research program under FACT Foundation. Three locations were visited:

The survey of pests in Jatropha that was undertaken at the end of 2007 has been written up in a MSc thesis. It has been defended and received good marks. A few corrections will be done soon and the final report is expected to be ready early May. Preparations for turning the thesis into a pamphlet for extension staff have been made. There is no experience with managing the major pests that were identified and the initial pamphlet will therefore be only about identification of the pest. When the results of next seasons trials with pest control are available an expanded version of the pamphlet will be produced covering both identification of pests and their management. It is estimated that there is enough funds available within the FACT project for at least the first pamphlet. However, both Danida and MINAG have tentatively indicated that they may be able to support it financially if we don't have enough money within the budget.

The flee beetle that is the major pest on Jatropha in Mozambique has been identified as Aphthona dilutipes. It is the first time is has been described in Mozambique. Little is known about it so a study of its biology would be of great value. I am exploring the possibilities of such a study with Dr.Luisa Santos from Eduardo Mondlane University.

Overall the research component on pest is on track and is producing more comprehensive data than anticipated.

The on-farm research is behind schedule. It is partly due to delays in the development part of the project but also because research has received low priority due to many more pressing problems. Most problems have now been solved and research will therefore receive more focus. Agreements have been reached with the project staff about concrete steps that will be taken over the coming months in order to accelerate the on-farm research activities. I will travel to Mozambique in November to help establish a number of trials during the rainy season.

Overall the on-farm research is behind schedule but corrective actions have been agreed. It is expected that anticipated results will be delivered in time.

The on-station trial at Sussundenga has been established with three varieties in December 2007 and the first measurements have been taken. The area is 0.43 ha and thus less than the originally planned 2 ha. However, since observations from this trial and from earlier plantings nearby indicate that the location is not good for Jatropha it is not worth expanding the area. Severe attack by the yellow flea beetle is a main course of stunted growth. This makes it a good site for the proposed studies of the flea beetle biology. Logistically it is also a convenient location for such a study.

Cabo Delgado

Jatropha plots were visited at Metambo (S 12°30'21.3", E 40°04'28.8"), Koko-Magomia (S 12°21'54.0", E 40°09'51.3"),Ngeue (S 12°51'50.2", E 39°56'57.0"), Sitate (S 12°29'56.7", E 39°50'28.4"), and Primero de Maio (S 12°28'46.2", E 39°53'00.7").

The progress over the last four months is very impressive. After a difficult start it appears that most problems have been solved and an efficient organisation has be set up. Farmers appears to be happy and welinformed and they are rapidly expanding their jatropha hedges.

In November 2007 200 kg Jatropha seeds were pressed in Chimoio. The plan was that a third of the press cake should be used as a pesticide in Cabo Delgado. However, it appears that it was never transported to Cabo Delgado and the current project managers were not aware of it. The poison in the press cake is broken down by now so it is no longer useful for experiments.

The research protocol that was developed last year has not been applied. Since then the project has shifted its focus from plot with jatropha to hedges. The protocol was specifically for plots with jatropha and is therefore no longer sufficient. However, it can be applied to some of the plots that have already been established. It was agreed with the project staff that it will be applied soon in two plots at Ngeue (S 12°51'50.2", E 39°56'57.0").

At one of the demonstraton plots at Ngeue one row has been planted with cuttings of 20 cm lenght and two rows with cuttings of 45 cm lenght using a 2x2 m spacing. It was agreed that Flemming Nielsen will make a protocol for measurements of these rows.

The shift from jatropha plots to hedges poses some problems for research. The plots that are surrounded by jatropha hedges are generally used for mixed intercropping with varying planting distance. Also the jatropha plants are planted at varying spacing. With all these confounding factors it is unlikely that we can get data on yield or growth that we can attribute to specific factors. It was therefore agreed that we will establish trials on some of the demonstration plots where we can control planting distance and other factors. The aim is to get data on jatropha varieties but it may be overlaid with a trial on propagation methods. There are currently 34 demonstration plots and trials will likely be established in five of them.

Trials with natural pesticides to combat the flee beetle Aphthona dilutipes can be undertaken on farmers hedges because we will do measurements of pest pressure before and after treatment in the same hedges. These trials will take place during the next rainy season when the pest pressure is at its peak. Flemming Nielsen is responsible for developing a protocol together with Luisa Santos.

In general the pest problems appears limited in Cabo Delgado. The flee beetle causes damaged to a few percent of the leaf area which is unlikely to affect yields. However, the effect of the flee beetle larvae living in the roots of jatropha is unknown.

The project is also shifting from potted seedlings towards direct seeding in the field and propagation from cuttings. Both methods save significant labour and are therefore attractive to farmers. Cuttings have the advantage of producing seeds faster than any other propagation method but because they lack a tap-root they may be disadvantageous in the long term. A worry about direct seeding is that they sometimes result in very low survival rate. At Ngeue seed sown directly in January had germinated well but the plants only reached a height of 10 cm. They are now shedding leaves but appears to be alive. It will be interesting to see if they make it till next rainy season. The poor growth is likely due to low soil fertility as striga (Striga asiatica) was growing in the field.

The project monitoring system is not currently made so that it is possible to estimate survival rate from different propagation methods. Since this is important information is has been agreed that the monitoring system will be amended to capture it or alternatively that a few surveys will be undertaken. Survival rate after 12 months is sufficient.

Actions to be Taken

Action Responsible Deadline
1 Obtain seeds for on-farm trials Flemming Nielsen Aug. 2008
2 Make protocol for testing of natural pesticides to combat the flee beetle Aphthona dilutipes. Flemming Nielsen in collaboration with Luisa Santos Nov. 2008
3 Make protocol for on-farm trials with Jatropha hedges under semi-controlled conditions at demonstration plots Flemming Nielsen Nov. 2008
4 Make protocol for measurements at the demonstration plot at Ngeue where rows of cuttings of different lenght have been planted Flemming Nielsen May 2008
5 Apply the research protocol from (4) at Ngeue Maposa Henderson and Bachir Afonso June 2008
6 Apply the research protocol for Jatropha plots (monthly measurements) in two plots at Ngeue Maposa Henderson and Bachir Afonso June 2008
7 Get information on survival rate using potted seedlings, direct seeding and cuttings after one year. Maposa Henderson and Bachir Afonso Mar. 2009


In Maputo brief meetings were held with the director of IIAM, Dr. Calisto Bias, the IIAM national director of research Dr. Sancho Cumbi, and the head of IIAM information dissemination Dra. Marta Celeste Francisco.

Dr. Tereza Alves (forestry, IIAM) co-supervised the thesis about pest in Jatropha and has shown a keen interest in Jatropha research since its start in Mozambique. She was involved in developing the suitability map for Jatropha that was created about three years ago. We discussed possibility of expanding the research activities beyond the current project. She suggested that we include research on soil fertility and Jatropha because it impacts on production, sustainability and environmental impact of Jatropha. Tereza suggested two IIAM researchers with expertise in soil fertility namely Dra. Candida and Dr. Ricardo Maria. Both participated in a second meeting with Tereza. IIAM has a strong interest in MSc and PHd programs. I will find out how we can include that in a bigger program or if we can tap into existing programs at Wageningen (check with Ken Giller)

At Eduardo Mondlane University I met with Dra. Luisa Alcantra Santos. She supervised the thesis on pests in Jatropha and has been instrumental in getting the research on pests moving. Luisa is taking the lead in turning the information from the thesis into a pamphlet before the beginning of the next rainy season. Since the major pest indentified is almost unknown to science we are not in a position to give firm advice on pest control and the pamphlet will therefore initially be only on identification. This will help raise awareness and facilitate communication and exchange of experience on pest control. For instance most farmers visited were not aware that the flea beetle was responsible for much of the damage to their Jatropha plants and were therefore not observing how it was affected by different management factors.

It was agreed that Luisa will provide input to the design of on-farm trials for the coming rainy seaon for testing control methods for flea beetles.

Little is known about the flea beetle that attack Jatropha. Not only o the beetles eat the leaves and in some cases the stems but their larvae penetrate the roots of the plants. A better understanding of the biology of the flea beetle can be important in developing control methods.

Selection of People Met