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The castor oil plant, Ricinus communis, is a plant species of the Euphorbiaceae and the sole member of the genus Ricinus and of the subtribe Ricininae. Its seed is the castor bean which, despite its name, is not a true bean.Castor seed is the source of castor oil, which has a wide variety of uses. The seeds contain between 40% and 60% oil that is rich in triglycerides, mainly ricinolein.

Distribution and Habitat
It is indigenous to many parts of India and Africa; now it has spread out over all tropical and sub-tropical countries. Castor an oil yielding crop is grown especially in semi arid and arid regions. India, China, Brazil, USSR, Argentina, Thailand, Philippines are the main countries known for castor production. In India the plants is found throughout the hotter parts of the country, cultivated in the fields and gardens, also frequently found wild near habitation, roadside and on wastelands.
Botanical Description
The castor plant may grow 6 to 15 feet (2-5 meters) in one season with full sunlight, heat and adequate moisture. Its palmately lobed and large leaves may grow up to 20 inches (50 cm) across and resemble a tropical aralia. There are various cultivated varieties with different foliage colorations like black-purplish, dark red-metallic, bronze-green, maroon, bright green with white veins, and just plain green.
Flowers occur most of the year in dense terminal clusters, with female flowers just above the male flowers. There are no petals and each female flower consists of a little spiny ovary (which develops into the fruit or seed capsule), and a bright red structure with feathers. Each male flower consists of a cluster of many stamens which literally smoke as they shed pollen in a gust of wind.
The castor bean seed looks like an engorged dog tick in size and shape, which is composed of three sections or carpels which split apart at maturity. Each section (carpel) contains a single seed, and as the carpel dries and splits open, the seed is often ejected with considerable force.

Castor bean fruit (ricinus communis) is the spiny, globose seed capsule (left) that dries and splits into 3 sections called carpels. Each carpel (right) splits open and forcibly ejects a large seed. Like the faces and fingerprints of people, the beautiful designs on castor seeds exhibit infinite genetic variation.
Ecological Requirements

Castor is essentially a warm season crop, cultivated in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions. Its cultivation is largely confined to countries lying between 400N and 400S latitudes, but in Russia, a few varieties are grown even up to 520 North latitude In India it is being cultivated up to an attitude of 2500m, but in regions where frosts are common during the crop season; its cultivation is restricted up to 500 m. A frost free growing period of 140-190 days depending on variety is highly essential for obtaining satisfactory yields. It grows in tropical and subtropical regions as a perennial plant and in temperate climate as an annual plant. A moderate temperature of 20-26C is highly favorable during crop period for obtaining higher yields. A low temperature (less than 15C) in the seed bed prolongs the emergence of seedlings, and makes the seed more liable to attack by fungal diseases and insects. Castor, being a deep rooted crop, is fairly resistant to drought. A well distributed rainfall of 500-600 mm, during growing period will yield reasonably good yields. Castor can with stand long dry spells as well as heavy rains but is highly susceptible to water logged conditions.

Castor crop can be grown on a wide range of soils, provided they are fairly deep and well drained. Heavy clays, with poor drainage, and marhsy soils are unsuitable. The highly suitable soils for castor are deep, moderately fertile, with slightly acidic conditions (pH 5.0 to 6.5), well drained, sandy loams. Excessively fertile soils are not desirable, as they favor excessive vegetative growth at the expense of seed yield. Castor does well in the soil which is not fit for valuable commercial and food crops. Though castor can tolerate a pH of 8.0 but at this pH, the soil structure and soil physical properties will become the important limiting factors for castor cultivation.
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