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Jatropha curcas L. (jatropha), originated from Mexico and Central America, belongs to the euphorbia. They say that Portuguese brought it to Africa in the Age of Discovery from which jatropha spread out to tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Keeping animals away, the plants have been used as hedges since the old days. In addition, jatropha reserves oil in its seed from which people have squeezed oil for lamp use.

In the beginning of the 20th century, people started to really consider jatropha as a biofuel crop. It is said that Japanese troops attempted the use of it as alternative fuel for fossil oil. For its semi drought resistance, high oil content, and high quality of oil suitable for biodiesel fuel, jatropha revived as a fuel crop to be raised and researched in this century. Still, its history is not so long and its state is not well domesticated that we need to apply further breeding technology to the jatropha for commercial production of biofuel.

Not only jatropha but every biofuel crop faces a particular challenge that they should be environmentally little burden and not compete with food production. To that end, it is desirable that they can thrive even under the environment of poor vegetation and food production. Although jatropha is a drought resistant plant, the productivity in semi drought areas is unsatisfactory. We need to develop varieties which are resistant to environmental stress enough to secure sufficient production without irrigation.

One of the methods to develop new varieties is selective breeding with which plants with beneficial traits are selected out of existing jatropha varieties. Obtaining genome information and development of DNA marker are essential factors for effective breeding. Our laboratory has succeeded in decoding genome sequence of jatropha in collaboration with Kazusa DNA Res. Inst. and so on. Our strong emphasis is now placed on the development of efficient DNA markers.

Another is creation of transgenic jatropha with a useful trait by introducing a gene directly into the jatropha genome. This method allows us to significantly shorten the time required for breeding. Our laboratory has already established the transformation procedure of jatropha which had been difficult and created varieties of transgenic jatropha plants.

We also start the research on another drought-resistant oil crop, jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) that is suitable for production in the desert. It produces wax ester in its seeds, which is precious and useful for industrial uses, such as materials of cosmetics and lubricants. We aim to develop markers and proliferation methods to select and proliferate jojoba plants with high productivity.