Origin and Distribution in the world. Abundance and availability of energy resources largely determine the economic well being of a country.
Egypt produces jet biofuel from jatropha
Research team produces aviation fuel from jatropha plants grown in desert with sewage water
Aim is to cut aviation emissions, but high cost remains a challenge for use by the end of 2017
Semi-industrial experiments kicked off to develop a production method that may cut the cost
Researchers at Egypt’s National Research Centre have produced a biofuel suitable for aeroplanes after successful semi-industrial experiments conducted last December.
The centre was officially commissioned by the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation to find a local biofuel to power aircrafts. This was to support the implementation of the International Air Transport Association plan, aiming to halve carbon dioxide emissions caused by aviation companies by 2050. Commercial aviation contributes about 2 per cent of global carbon emissions annually.
Gizine El Diwani, professor at the centre’s chemical engineering and semi-industrial experiments department, says it all started with the production of a biofuel for cars. The researchers made biodiesel from the seeds of the jatropha tree — the seeds’ oil content is between 20-25 per cent. The oil can be easily extracted using organic solvents such as hexane, according to El Diwani.
“Globally, the lowest price of biofuel is 90 per cent higher than that of the average fuel; this is due to the high cost of the materials needed for the manufacture of biofuel.”
Khaled Fouad, Zagazig University in Egypt
Because the properties of jatropha oil differ from those of traditional engine oil — in terms of viscosity, density and degree of combustion — it has to go through a number of fairly simple chemical processes to be adapted for use in running engines.
At this stage, the fuel is suitable for car engines. To be suitable for jet engines, it should be able to resist freezing until at least minus 45 degrees Celsius. The research team sought to resolve this at a later stage in the fuel’s development.
How to grow fresh food in all kinds of recipients that can hold soil
by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University, Belgium)
Grow your vegetables and herbs at home in pots, buckets, bottles, cups, barrels, bags, sacks, whatever can hold soil. See some of my photos below:
Imagine every family in the drylands, every school, every hospital, every maternity would have a container garden like the one below: wouldn’t you believe that we can alleviate malnutrition and hunger ? Wouldn’t we have a serious chance to ameliorate the standards of living of all the people living in desertified areas.
Problems ? What problems ?
Teach the people how to set up a small kitchen garden with some containers and do not forget:
They do not have containers ? Offer them the necessary quantity at the lowest cost, or even for free, because that would be sustainable development in the purest sense.
Let them make their own potting soil by mixing local soil with manure.
Offer them some good quality seeds and teach them how to collect seeds afterwards.
Before rejecting this idea, have a last look at the photo of my experimental garden below and consider the potentialities of this method.
Shall we go for the rehabilitation of 2 billion hectares of degraded land in Africa (and how much on the other continents ?), or shall we go for a feasible support of the poorest and hungry people on Earth?
Poverty alleviation: Greening the desert for people’s wellbeing
As noted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, promoting ecological progress is of vital importance to the people’s wellbeing and China’s future; and it remains a daunting task to improve the ecosystem through afforestation. Nearly 30 years ago, the Kubuqi Desert in Inner Mongolia, the seventh largest desert in China, was a barren land with no water, electricity, or future. To alleviate poverty through desertification control, Elion Resources Group (ELION) has successfully afforested an area of over 6,000 square kilometers by means of technological innovation, leading to a 95 percent decrease in sand-dust weather and an increase by six times in precipitation in Kubuqi.
During the process of ecosystem restoration, ELION has blazed a trail in the industrial development simultaneously driven by desertification control and poverty alleviation, while building up a new mechanism that integrates the government policy support, corporate commercial investment and market-oriented participation by farmers and herdsmen.
At this time of the year when forage has to be prepared in pastoral areas, Chen Ningbu no longer needs to worry about the forage for his over 300 sheep this winter, since he has enjoyed a bumper harvest of crops he planted in the sand.
The village where Chen Ningbu lived is located in the Kubuqi Desert and it used to be afflicted by sandstorms throughout the year. Large tracts of grassland and farmland were swallowed then. In the 1990s, average annual income for each person in this area was less than 400 yuan, and the local pillar business, Hangjinqi Saltworks, was also having a hard time, suffering from an annual loss of five million yuan for years.
When the saltworks was on the verge of bankruptcy, ELION stepped in and took over its operation. To save the business, urgent actions against desertification were needed. It was then decided that for each ton of salt sold, 5 yuan should be used in afforestation efforts. However, the survival rate of trees in the arid desert was even under 10 percent.
To solve the problem, ELION used grids made from twigs of bulrushes and the Salix mongolica to protect the trees against strong winds and the sand, effectively increasing the survival rate to 60 percent, but the cost for each acre of trees soared to up to 6,000 yuan.
Huge plantations of spineless prickly pear for production of biogas.
HOW DO WE REACT IF A FOOD AND FODDER PLANT IS CALLED AN INVASIVE SPECIES ?
THE INVASIVE PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS (OPUNTIA FICUS-INDICA), NATURAL FOOD WITH MEDICINAL PROPERTIES ?
By Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University, Belgium)
Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill., the Indian fig opuntia or barbary fig is generally known as “the prickly pear cactus”.
It is an evergreen, cold-tolerant, dense, massive, tangled, trunk-forming (to 15 ft, 5 m), segmented cactus of arid and semi-arid regions, possibly native to Mexico, but a domesticated crop species on all the continents.
It grows with flat, disklike, edible paddles, generally armed with sharp, hard spines and small, hairlike, easily detached (washed off) prickles (glochids).
On all continents there is also a variety (var. inermis) without the hard spines and thus more easy to handle.
The plant is commercially grown as a fruit crop for its large, sweet fruits (the tunas, beles, ficudinnia) and for its young green paddles (cladodes), called nopales. Mexican natives have used this food for thousands of years.
FOOD and CULINARY USES
Young paddles (nopales) are sliced into strips and eaten with eggs or chili peppers (huevos and tacos). These are very successful dishes in the Mexican cuisine.
All over the world, fruits are eaten either raw (after washing or burning off the glochids) or as jam and jelly.
The fresh fruit pulp contains vitamin C and betalain pigments with antioxidant properties. Consumption of prickly pear fruit decreases oxidative damage and improves the antioxidant status in healthy humans.
Extracts are used in pharmaceutical and operational food industries.
In some countries, people use it to make non-alcoholic punches (aguas frescas), or alcoholic wines and liqueurs.
Prickly pears have been carried on ships to prevent scurvy. The fruits are a dietary supplement to decrease oxidative stress or to increase low blood lipid levels. Fruits without seeds are used as a laxative.
Opuntia contains many alkaloids. Stems are antispasmodic, diuretic and emollient.
The flowers are astringent, used to reduce bleeding and to treat gastro-intestinal tract problems, especially diarrhea, and an enlarged prostate gland.
An extract of the prickly pear plant has a moderate effect on reducing hangover symptoms, apparently by inhibiting the production of inflammatory mediators.
A sessile, parasitic, scale insect (Dactylopius coccus) lives on Opuntias and produces carminic acid. Extraction of this acid from the insect’s body and eggs leads to the production of the cochineal red dye for food colouring and cosmetics, a very valuable export product.
HEDGEROWS (CACTUS CURTAINS)
Opuntia ficus-indica forms dense, tangled, bushlike structures, used as barrier hedges (hedgerows).
BINDING MATERIAL IN ADOBE
It is used as a binding and waterproof ingredient in adobe, a natural building material made from sand, clay, water, and fibrous or organic material (sticks, straw, and/or manure), shaped into bricks. Cactus juice from paddles and stems is commonly used as an additive to “earthen plaster”. IS THIS CACTUS A REAL PEST ?
The prickly pear cactus covered with spines is generally considered as a noxious weed, an invasive pest species, because its uncontrolled growth causes ecological damage.
However, the question remains if this is also the case for its spineless variety (var. inermis).
Considering that “nopales” (young Opuntia pads) are commonly eaten as a vegetable in Mexico, Brazil and other S. American countries and that in this part of the world thousands of hectares are cultivated as “nopales plantations”, it becomes difficult to keep this spineless variety classified as a noxious invasive species. In these countries, a real cactus industry has developed that seemingly does not harm the local ecology at all.
As this cactus grows remarkably with a minimum of water, one could wonder if the introduction of the spineless variety, with all its positive characteristics and advantages listed above (food, fodder, medicinal uses, adobe, hedgerows, …), still has to be considered as a factor causing ecological damage in desertlike environments.
Here is an interesting challenge : would it be preferable to keep the mostly barren, non-cultivated soil uncovered and submitted to erosion or would one rather opt for using this spineless cactus variety to :
Cover large parts of the barren soil with living, edible plants (see nopales);
The project “Family gardens in the Saharawis refugees camps of Tindouf, S.W. Algeria” has been very successful (2005-2007). Today, the refugees continue the construction of new gardens with the help of NGOs and individual sponsors. A series of videos will show that it is rather easy to offer to all the families in the camps the possibility to produce fresh food. (To be continued)
A 1.6-hectare sandy plot in Ulan Buh Desert in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, north China, has been transformed into fertile land. [Photo/www.cqnews.net]
Chinese scientists convert sand into soil with new method
Xinhua, September 5, 2016
Chinese scientists announced they have converted sand into fertile soil using a new method they developed, which they hope to use to fight desertification.
A team of researchers from Chongqing Jiaotong University has developed a paste made of plant cellulose that, when added to sand, helps it retain water, nutrients and air.
A 1.6-hectare sandy plot in Ulan Buh Desert in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, north China, has been transformed into fertile land, yielding rice, corn, tomatoes, watermelon and sunflowers, after being treated by the new method.
A forthcoming issue of the English-language journal “Engineering,” published by the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), will publish the research by the Chongqing scientists Yi Zhijian and co-author Zhao Chaohua.
The new method will hopefully help turn desert areas into an ideal habitat for plants, said Yi.
The plants in the sandy test plot needed about the same amount of water as those grown in regular soil, but required less fertilizer and bore higher yields, according to estimates by experts.