RSB tests standards on jatropha cultivation

By Lisa Gibson
Posted March 23, 2010, at 10:02 a.m. CST

San Diego, Calif.-based SG Biofuels is teaming up with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels for a pilot project to test and enhance sustainability standards for jatropha cultivation. The duo will evaluate the practicality and usability of RSB sustainability standards applied to SG Biofuels' existing 1,400-acre plot in Guatemala, dubbed the community-farming initiative, according to the company.

SG Biofuels specializes in the development of jatropha as a low-cost, sustainable source of oil and has the largest library of jatropha genetic material in the world. Since the cultivation of jatropha as a biofuel feedstock is relatively new, the pilot project is designed to evaluate RSB's existing sustainability standards as they apply to the community-farming initiative, modifying and strengthening those standards as needed, according to Brian Brokowski, vice president of marketing and communications for SG Biofuels. "The goal is two-fold," he said. "RSB will have the opportunity to review how the standards function when applied to a jatropha community-farming model, and SG Biofuels will have a head start in understanding and practicing sustainable methods as we build additional projects moving forward."

Through the community-farming initiative, more than 380 farmers in 25 communities received free seedlings and monthly technology training from SG Biofuels. Plantations were started in 2009 without displacing food crops and on land considered marginal, with initial harvests expected by this summer. In addition, the company eliminated the harvest sale risk to the farmers by providing guaranteed purchase contracts of 100 percent of the production.

Version one of the RSB's international standards, which includes "RSB Principles & Criteria for Sustainable Biofuel Production" and an associated guidance document, detailed compliance indicators and a glossary of terms, was released in November. Those principles and criteria address issues such as legality, greenhouse gas emissions, conservation, water, air, land rights and more. This year, the RSB Standard will be pilot tested in numerous biofuel supply chains throughout the world to identify areas requiring further refinement, according to the RSB.