Tamil Nadu varsity to help Australia extract drumstick oil


Coimbatore : The ubiquitous ‘murungai’, the popular vegetable known as drumstick, will now be used for biofuel extraction on an industrial scale.

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The Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) here has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Western Australian Agriculture Authority (WAAA) to develop high-yield varieties of murungai, known as Moringa oleifera in the plant world, for biofuel production.

TNAU produces two series of murungai seeds, which it distributes to farmers for commercial farming.

A team of TNAU scientists will identify a murungai genotype that will be frost and high-salinity resistant and have higher oil content.

WAAA biofuel projects manager Henery Brockman said murungai would be cultivated over a million hectares of saline land in Australia with TNAU assistance.

Australia is already the largest cultivator of sandalwood, an Indian shrub which has become rare over the years in south India.

TNAU vice-chancellor C. Ramasamy said the university would also set up a facility that would produce up to 1,000 liters of biodiesel in three years.

A nutritious vegetable and popular for its succulent marrow and seed, murungai is a must in sambar, the tasty lentil dish that goes with south Indian dishes idli and dosai.

The slender murungai tree has drooping branches and grows to approximately 10 metres in height. Every part of it is used as food, with its seeds yielding oil that can be used for cooking, making cosmetics, and lubrication.

India is the largest producer of drumstick with an annual production of 1.1 to 1.3 million tonnes grown over 38,000 hectares. Andhra Pradesh leads with 15,665 hectares under murungai cultivation, compared to 7,408 hectares in Tamil Nadu.