Bio Energy Karnataka > Introduction > What is bio-fuel ?

What is bio-fuel ?

Bioenergy is the fuel produced by a biological source, that is, sources like plant produce or animal produce. Bioenergy can be produced from various oil seeds, animal fat, sugarcane, corn, maize etc. that contain sugar and in future, Bioenergy can be manufactured from algae easily grown in the backwaters of the sea, and on waste and polluted water, and can be used in vehicles and in other places.


Bio Diesel is produced from plant produced oil or animal fat. Bio diesel is a mono-alkyl ester produced from long chain fatty acid. Bio diesel is manufactured by mixing oil or fat with Methanol or Ethanol and a basic catalyst, NaOH/KOH through a chemical process called Trans-esterification.

This can be used directly or by mixing with diesel in different proportions.
Example: B5 is 5% biodiesel mixed with 95% petro-diesel, B10 is 10% biodiesel mixed with 90% petro-diesel, B20 is 20% biodiesel mixed with 80% petro-diesel, B100 is use of 100% biodiesel.

Bio ethanol is produced from sugars like sugarcane, sweetcorn, maize, etc. Ethanol can also be produced from composite sugar called cellulose present in agro-wastes like sugarcane peel, grass, etc. Also, technology to manufacture ethanol from useless fruits has also been developed. First, composites are converted into simple sugars. Then this is allowed to ferment using microbes. The ethanol obtained this way is distilled to get bioethanol. Bioethanol is generally used as E100 that is 100% ethanol, E85 that is 85% ethanol mixed with 15% gasoline. 10% ethanol mixed with 90% gasoline is in use in various places as Gasohol.


Bioenergy plants and their cultivation

Many plants that the rural folk have been growing since many years are sources of Bioenergy. It is possible to produce biodiesel by extracting oil from several seeds containing oil. Bioenergy can also be manufactured from edible oils like sunflower, groundnut, etc. However, since these are used as food, it will pose a danger to food security. Therefore, the environment will be healthy if non-edible oils like pongamia, neem, simarouba, hippe, jatropa, surahonne and other plants are grown in land unsuitable for agriculture, hedges in fields, in a way that they do not compete with food crops and at very low cost as mixed crops. Also, we can obtain an excellent Bioenergy resource.

The trees listed below can generally be cultivated in all regions of Karnataka state. Also, since farmers have been growing pongamia, neem and hippe trees on the hedges of their fields and along fences, they are closely acquainted with those trees.

Oil production from Bioenergy plant seeds

Plants Pongamia Neem Hippe Simarouba Jatropa Nagasampige Surahonne
Flowering March-May March-May March-April December-February May-August January-April October-April
Fruit Harvest January-May June-August June-August February-April August-October August-October April-June
Uses Bioenergy, soap manufacture,
in tanning,
oil cake as manure,
green leaves manure
Bioenergy, medicines,
oil cake as manure
Bioenergy, soap manufacture,
medicines, oil cake
as manure, farming
Bioenergy, medicines,
cooking oil, insecticides,
oil cake as manure
Oil cake as
manure, Bioenergy,
Bioenergy, medicines,
oil cake, varnish,
paint, insecticides
Start of Yield 5 years 5 years 10 years 5-6 years 3 years 7-8 years
Seed production (in kg) 15-40 25-Oct Oct-40 25-Oct 2-Jan 10-Aug 10
Oil content (percentage) 27-35% 28-25% 30-35% 40-50% 35-40% 60% 60%
Price (per kg of seeds) Rs. 15-Oct 8-Mar 10-Jun 12-Aug 6-Mar 10-Aug

In view of continuous  income, it is suitable to cultivate different Bioenergy trees as mixed crop. While some trees start giving income from 3 years onwards, other trees start to bear fruit after 7-10 years and give continuous income for hundreds of years.

Fuel crops as interim crops:

It is possible for farmers to grow a few non-edible short-term crops additionally in their arable fields after cultivation of one crop, that is after the Kharif harvest. Among such oil crops, hemp, castor, etc. are major crops. Also, when pongamia is cultivated on hedges of fields and along fences, two or three castor or hemp plants can be grown between every two plants. Farmers can earn additional income from this. In NorthernKarnataka, areas which receive scanty rainfall, after harvest of groundnut (peanut), chillies and tobacco or as mid-crops, plants such as hemp and castor can be cultivated as interim crops.

Bioenergy Plants




Common name : Honge

Botanical name : Pongamia pinnata

Family : Fabaceae

Local names : Kannada-Honge; Assamese-Karachal; Bengali, Hindi, Gujarati-Karanja; Tamil-Pongam; Telugu-Kanaga

Pongamia trees can be grown in many regions of our country. This tree can also be grown along river banks, alongside canals, on the roadside. Pongamia trees can also be grown at the edge of fences, on hedges of fields and in wasteland / barren land and scanty rainfall areas.

Pongamia is a medium sized tree. This tree grows very well in places with good sunlight. It has the capacity to grow in shade also. This tree grows in areas with rainfall of 500-2500 cm and temperature of 10-40 degree Celsius. It has a nature of sprouting again once it is cut. Generally, Pongamia grows in all types of climate and all types of soil. But, Pongamia tree grows well where there is fertile soil and high humidity.

Pongamia is a very useful tree. The seeds of this tree have been important since ages. Oil extracted from the seeds was used to light lamps in houses. Now research has shown that pump set, generator, tractor, power tiller, buses, railway engines can be run on Pongamia oil. Pongamia oil is used in tanning, soap manufacture and its oil cake is used as excellent organic manure.

This tree flowers from March to May, the fruit can be harvested from the next January to May. There will be 460-530 seeds in one kg. If Pongamia seeds are stored properly, they have a 60-85 percent germination capacity. Immediate and higher germination can be expected if newer seeds are sown.

Pongamia plants can be easily cultivated from seeds, saplings can also be cultivated from twigs of the stem. Saplings grown for a period of 8-12 months must be used for planting. A 45 x 45 x 45 cm pit must be dug and filled with a mixture of natural fertilizers and red soil and minimum 60 cm tall plants must be planted. For the trunk of the tree to grow straight, the horizontal branches must be removed often. In our State, this tree grows to a height of approximately 8-9 m at 7-10th year. It is necessary to cut 20-15 percent branches to get a good yield.


Normally grown Pongamia trees require 7 years to bear fruit, hence by grafting Pongamia trees they bear fruit faster. For grafting, first, superior root plants must be used. Then, graft twigs from superior species of mother Pongamia tree must be chosen and following suitable grafting method, excellently grafted Pongamia plants can be obtained. Plants grafted in this manner not only bear fruits earlier, they also give high yield.

Benefits of the Scheme:

  • Direct financial benefit to farmers by sale of oil seeds.
  • Additional income for farmers through use of cottage-size oil production unit – oil of selling quality and oil cake for use in fields. Increase in soil fertility through use of oil cakes.
  • Building a stable environment by increasing forest area.
  • Significant role in soil and water conservation.
  • Decrease in air pollution and temperature.
  • Savings in petroleum fuel consumption and significant saving of foreign exchange incurred due to import.




Common Name : Indian Butter tree

Botanical Name : Madhuca indica

Family : Sapotaceae

Local Names : Kannada-Hippe; Bengali, Hindi, Gujarati-Mahua; Tamil-Iluppei; Telugu-Ippa

Hippe is a good tree to grow for Bioenergy. This is grown as groves in areas with scanty rainfall. They can be found to be grown in a row on the roadside. This tree grows in areas with rainfall of 500-2500 cm and with temperature of 10-40 degree Celsius. This tree grows in all types of soil.

Oil is extracted from the seeds of this tree. Hippe seeds have an oil content of 30-35 percent. Its oil cake can be used as manure for crops. The flower, fruit, oil and bark of this tree are used in a variety of medicines. Farming equipment can be made from its wood. Hippe grows into a big tree. Leaves fall from February-April. New leaves and flowers appear in April-May months. Generally, the fruits can be harvested and prepared for oil extraction in the months of June-August. Since the oil content in the seeds is high, the germination capacity decreases if kept for too long.

Saplings can be grown by sowing the seeds. Saplings grow well if planted in polythene bags or in basins. They germinate in around 15-20 days. When the saplings grow to a height of 50-60 m they become suitable for planting in the ground. That is, saplings can be planted in the main fields in 9-10 months. Hippe trees can be grown at a distance of 8 x 8 m as plantation groves or as a row of trees. These plants have to be nurtured for 3-5 years. A few trees can be grown along the boundary of the fields, a couple of trees can be grown in front of or behind the house.

Generally, Hippe starts to yield in ten years. Starting from the 10th year, up to the 25th year, 30-40 kg seeds are obtained.


8 to 10 years are required for normally cultivatedHippe plants to bear fruit, so they begin to give yield faster if Hippe plants are grafted. For grafting, first, plants with superior root must be used. Then, selecting graft twigs from superior species Hippe tree and following a suitable grafting method, superiorly grafted Hippe plants can be obtained. Plants grafted this way not only give produce faster, they also give higher yield.

Benefits of the scheme:

  • Direct financial benefit for farmers from sale of oil seeds.
  • Additional income for farmers through use of cottage-size oil production unit – oil of selling quality and oil cake for use in fields. Increase in soil fertility through use of oil cake.
  • Building a stable environment by increasing forest area.
  • Significant role in soil and water conservation.
  • Decrease in air pollution and temperature.
  • Savings in petroleum fuel consumption and significant saving of foreign exchange incurred due to import.




Common Name : Neem tree

Botanical Name : Azadirachta indica

Family : Meliaceae

Local Names : Kannada-Bevu; Bengali, Hindi-Neem; Tamil-Vembu; Telugu-Vepa

Neem is the most valuable tree among those grown in arid regions. Every part of a neem tree has several uses. The tree trunk is used to build houses, make furniture, the seeds and leaves are used as medicine and a decoction of the leaves and seeds can be used as an insecticide. Along with these, the oil obtained from the seeds of this tree can be used as Bioenergy.

This is a medium sized big tree, and also the dark grey bark has slanting cuts from top to bottom. Leaves are pinnate and the base of the stalk will be swollen. Flowers will be small and white like an ear of corn. The branches and leaves will have a shine.

This tree grows in regions with 450-1200 cm rainfall and temperature of 10-45 degree Celsius. Though this tree is evergreen, it will shed its leaves in dry climate. This tree grows well in places with good sunlight. Neem does not grow well in marsh areas. Neem can be found in all the regions of the country. This tree grows to normal medium height of up to 15-20 m. 25 m tall trees are rarely seen. Generally, flowering starts from March to May from the 5th year itself. Fruits start appearing in June and end in August. Fruits may be harvested in July-August. One kg will contain 2500-3000 seeds.

Within 15 days of collecting neem seeds from the tree, if they are put into a basin or polythene bags, most seeds will germinate and become saplings. The peel and juice of the fruit must be separated from the seeds before putting them in the basin. These seeds will not require any seed treatment. They will start to germinate and grow within one to two weeks. Neem saplings grow to a height of 15-20 cm in 3-4 months. If these plants are planted in a grove after one year, it will be convenient for the growth of the plants. When planting the plants in the grove, a 30 x 30 x 30 cm pit must be dug and filled with natural fertilizers and red soil and the plant will grow well. It will be good to cultivate the saplings at an interval of 5 x 5 m. 160 neem trees can be grown per acre.

Generally, neem starts bearing fruit from the 5th year. A well-grown tree gives 15 kg seeds in 10-12 years. The oil produce of neem seeds will be 28 to 35%. The price of Neem seeds in the market is 3-5 Rupees per kg.


Normally grown neem plants require 4-5 years to bear fruit, therefore, neem trees yield faster because of grafting. For grafting, first, plants with superior root must be grown. Then, selecting graft twigs from superior species of neem tree and following a suitable grafting method, superiorly grafted Neem plants can be obtained. Plants grafted this way not only yield faster, they also give high yields.

Benefits of the scheme:

  • Direct financial benefit for farmers from sale of oil seeds.
  • Additional income for farmers through use of cottage-size oil production unit – oil of selling quality and oil cake for use in fields. Increase in soil fertility through use of oil cake.
  • Building a stable environment by increasing forest area.
  • Significant role in soil and water conservation.
  • Decrease in air pollution and temperature.
  • Savings in petroleum fuel consumption and significant savings offoreign exchange incurred due to import.




Common Name : Purging nut or Physic nut

Botanical Name : Jatropacurcas

Family : Euphorbiaceae

Local Names : Kannada-Turaka haralu, Kaadu audala; Bengali-Bhagbherenda; Hindi-Jamal ghota; Telugu-Adavi amudam

This has basically come from Mexico. It grows by itself in the fences on coffee plantations, hills, in the cracks in stones, around garbage. Though no one pays any attention to it, recently it has gained a lot of importance due to Bioenergy. Jatropa has a delicate stem and grows to a height of 4-6 m bearing fruit approximately until its 45th year. It grows in all kinds of climate. Jatropa grows well in arid climate. Animals do not graze on any part of this tree. Jatropa has the capacity to grow wherever planted.

According to TERI report, it states that there is no information about growing this in greater quantity scientifically in groves older than 10 years or about superior species, or about the quantity of oil from seeds grown in different regions. Therefore, it would be appropriate for people who wish to grow it, to obtain superior saplings from the right place. It will be good for farmers if they plant Jatropa in barren land, on hedges in fields, beside fences and hedges and on either side of the road.

It will be good to check the quality of the seeds while cultivating Jatropa. The color of the seed should be black, and the casing must be crackless and tender. One seed is approximately 2 cm long and 1 cm thick, and if a thousand seeds weigh 450-550 g, such seeds are good to grow saplings. These plants must be planted in places marked for groves after digging a 30 x 30 cm pit and after putting in a mixture of natural fertilizers and red soil, plants with a height of 2 feet must be planted. This plant is dependent on rain. Therefore it will grow well if planted in the ground at the start of the monsoon. Generally, if this is cultivated as a single crop, it can be cultivated at an interval of 3 x 3 m. In the 2nd/3rd year, it is good if the plant is grown as a shrub by cutting the lower branches.

Plants grown from the stem start bearing fruit from the 2nd year. Plants grown from seeds start bearing fruit from the 3rd year. Yield of the Jatropa plant is dependent on the climate and various farming methods. Generally, it is possible to obtain steady produce from the 6th year onwards. Jatropa bears fruit for about 40-45 years.

To get more branches, it has to be cut in a 3 year intervals at heights of 105 cm, 3.0 and 4.5 feet.

If the casing of the Jatropa seed is removed and put in an oil mill and oil is extracted, 30-35 percent oil is obtained. This oil is subjected to trans-esterification and Diesel and Glycerin is produced. Oil cake obtained after extracting oil from the seed is good organic manure for the crops.




Common name: Simarouba

Biological name: Simarouba Glauca

Family: Simaroubaceae

Simarouba tree is originally from El Salvador and was introduced to our country in 1960. Initially, it was planned to be grown for usage as cooking oil. But, it hasn’t yet adapted to the taste of our people. There is about 40 – 50 percent of oil content in Simarouba seed.

This tree grows to about 7 – 15 meters. It grows in areas receiving 300-3000 cm of rainfall and at a temperature of 10-40 degree Celsius. Simarouba can also be grown in lands with low fertility or in dry lands. It flowers from December to February. Starting from February, the fruits can be harvested until March-April. Soon after harvesting, the seeds can be separated from the fruits, dried under shade and then oil can be extracted.

If the seeds are sowed during May-June, the saplings can be planted in the main land during next June. The Simarouba saplings should be planted 5x 5 m. apart by digging 45 x 45 x 45 cm pits. The plants begin to bear fruits from the 4th year onwards. About 5-10 Kgs of seeds can be obtained from one plant from the 7th year onwards. Grafted saplings are very suitable for planting, these start to flower and bear fruits from the 3rd year onwards.

Generally, there are three types of Simarouba trees, a female, a male and the third is a bisexual plant.




Common name: Surahonne

Biological name: Calophyllum Inophyllum

Family: Clusiaceae or Guttiferae

Local names: Kannada – Surahonne, English – Laurel Wood

It is an evergreen tree that grows in areas receiving high rainfall and its wood is very hard. It can grow well in the western ghat districts of our country and about 11 Kg of oil can be extracted from seeds obtained from one tree. If this is grown in forest areas, around 4,680 Kg oil can be obtained from 1 hectare.

This is a multi-purpose tree and the oil extracted from this tree can be used to manufacture bio diesel.

The logs of this tree can be used to construct boats and can also be used as a building material. The oil obtained from this tree has a dark green color and has medicinal values. It is used for hair care and especially for skin care, as it has the power to reproduce cells.

Short-term Bioenergy crops

Pundi: Pundi (Hemp ) is a short – term crop that can fetch additional revenue for the farmers. It can be easily grown in the NorthernKarnataka parts. The leaves of this tree are also used as foodstuff. It grows very fast and has lot of leaves and yields about 25 tons of dry material per hectare. This is an environment friendly crop that requires less amount of insecticides and pesticides. Its seeds contain about 30 – 35 percent of oil.

This is a multi-purpose medicinal plant. It is used as ananti-sciatica drug and for relieving Eczema. Bio diesel is produced from the oil obtained from this tree and is identified by the name Hempoline. The oilcakes can be used to produce biogas and can be used as organic manure. The fibre in the stalks of hemp can be separated and used in the manufacture of jute bags, ropes, clothes and toy devices. The stalks are also used as fuel for firewood as well as in paper manufacturing industries. Therefore, farmers can grow hemp as an intermediate crop with other food crops like groundnut (peanut), chillies, tobacco and other crops. As this grows very fast using the slight moisture in the earth, it can also be grown after the monsoon harvest.




Common name: Haralu

Biological name: Ricinus Communis

Family: Euphorbiaceae

Local names: Kannada – Haralu, Hittila Audala, Telugu – Amuda, English – Castor.

This is an ancient crop and the seeds of this crop were found in the Egyptian domes before 4000 B. C. India is the highest producer of castor seeds in the world and fulfils a bulk of the world’s demand. India produces about 60 percent of the world’s total production. It is less dependent on rainfall and is grown easily in temperate regions.

This crop can also be grown in regions with low temperatures, that is, it grows well in areas having 7 to 28 degree Celsius. It is a short – term crop and can be harvested 95-180 days after planting. Around 2,200-3,200 medium sized seeds are available in a kilo. 15 Kgs of seeds can be sown in 1 hectare, that is about 30,000 saplings can be planted in 1 hectare (when saplings are planted 25 cms apart and the rows are 1m. apart). The seeds should be sown at a depth of 3.7-7.5 cms. The yield from this will be about 560 Kgs. This seed has an oil content of about 35 – 55 percent and about 200-2,750 Kg oil can be obtained per hectare. It can grow well in Indian climate and high yields can be obtained, if grown in the eastern districts of NorthernKarnataka, which receive low rainfall. It can be grown as a mixed crop with millet, groundnut (peanut), cotton, chillies, horse gram and tobacco crops.

Castor is a multipurpose medicinal plant. The oil from this plant can be used for the following purposes.

  • Bioenergy – As castor oil easily dissolves in alcohol, bio diesel can be easily manufactured at low cost.
  • Agriculture – As organic manure.
  • Food – In packaging of food materials and flavorings.
  • Cloth production chemical – to prepare dyes, in the final preparation of cloth.
  • Paper – In papers manufactured to prevent ruining by water and in ply-papers.
  • Plastic, glass and rubber – In the manufacture of plastic films, polyals, artificial resins, bullet
  • In the manufacture of resistant-glass and fibre optics, scent and beauty enhancers – lipstick, shampoo, polishes, hair care and manufacture of perfumes.
  • Electronics and telecommunication – Manufacturing of polyurethane and insulation materials.
  • Pharmaceuticals – Prevention of dandruff, manufacture of laxatives and purgatives.
  • Manufacture of dyes, ink – Inks, varnishes, lexars and anti-glues, also used as a special color of nuclear reactors.
  • In lubricants – Lubricating grease, racing car lubricants, in rockets with very low temperature, jet and airplane lubricants and as hydraulic fluid.

Oil content in various oil seeds

Kannada name Scientific name Oil content Percentage
Cashew  Anacardium occidentale 40-60
Neem Azadirachta indica 35-42
Kenjige Reku Baccaurea courtallensis 20-35
Kempu Kanchuvala Bauhinia variegate 20-30
Maradi Pappu Buchanania axillaris 20-35
Duck vine Bridelia stipularis 20-35
Hommuttuga Butea superba 20-30
Masivala Chloroxylon swietenia 30-40
Gandhagarige Chukrasia tabularis 20-28
Mullu muttuga Erythrina suberosa 20-25
Kumbala mara Glochidion zeylancium 25-35
Hole geru Holigarna arnottiana 25-35
Dodda holegeru Holigarna grami 25-35
Kadu haralu Jatropha curcas 30-35
Hippe Madhuca indica 25-35
Hippe Madhuca longifolia 25-35
Hole hippe Madhuca neriifolia 20-30
Ranjala, bakula Mimusops elengi 25-30
Kolu gida Pterygota alata 30-40
Pali mara Palaquium ellipticum 25-30
Honge mara Pongamia pinnata 20-35
Haralu Ricinus communis 45-50
Benduga Scleropyrum pentandrum 40-45
Ashoka mara Saraca Asoca 50-60
Gudde geru,  kadu geru Semecarpus anacardium 30-35
Amatekayi Spondias pinnata 25-30
Kudure Gotu, huli taradu Streculia guttata 30-45
Kempu dale Streculia urens 30-40
Bili dale Streculia villosa 25-30
Kampale Xantolis tomentosa 20-35
Tudagenasu, Galavara Actinodaphne hookeri 32-48
Suragi Ochrocarpus longifolius 30
Surahonne Calophyllum inophyllum 50-70
Murugala Garcinia indica ~25
Sampige Michelia champaca 45
Tare Terminalia bellirica 31
Bilva Aegle mormelos 49

Advantages of Bioenergy

  • The Bioenergy programme provides several employment opportunities and farmers, farm workers can obtain high financial profits from seed collection and selling.
  • Several researches have shown that Bioenergy releases less carbon oxides to the environment than petroleum fuel.
  • Petroleum fuel releases high amounts of carbon oxides to the environment but Bioenergy plants re-use some parts of the carbon di-oxide in the environment.
  • Bio-fuel is environment friendly and can be renewed.
  • There is no need of engine modification.
  • The amount of sulphur is very less in Bioenergy.
  • Safe handling, collection and transport.
  • Reduction in the release of hydro-carbon, unburnt carbon particles.
  • By growing Bioenergy trees, soil erosion can be prevented and moisture can be retained as well as the greenery can be maintained.