About Pongamia

What Is Pongamia / Milletia Pinnata?

Pongamia Pinnata, which now has the common botanical name of “Millettia Pinnata”, is a leguminous tree, which is native to Northern Australia, India, and much of the tropical world.  Unlike Jathropha, Pongamia has no known Carcinogenic effects.  For more general information, this wikipedia article covers the basics.The Seeds: Pongamia seeds, pictured left, are the source of the oil, and for us the most important part of the plant.  The seed in shell contains between 30-40% oil.  This is quite variable, and is one of the selection factors we have employed in choosing elite plants.The Shell: The shell is a waste product, however when burnt, it has similar energy to brown coal, so it can be used in either a gasifier or simply thrown back on the soil for fertiliser.The Meal: The “meal” is what is left of the seed after the oil has been extracted using a conventional screw press and constitutes approximately 60% of the seed by weight.  This can be put through a steeping process to remove the remaining oil with its unpalatable alkaloids, and fed as a protein meal at up to 37% of the ration for cattle.  To avoid the need for steeping, solvent extraction of the oil will also produce a feed of the same quality.  However, for a small scale operation, solvent extraction would not be practical.If steeping or solvent extraction is not used, it is still safe to feed the crushed meal at a rate of up to 10%.

What Yields Should You Expect?

Products From Pongamia:
Seed in Shell

Seed in shell can be used whole as a boiler fuel (replacement for coal or other solid fuels).
Seed – approx 46% of seed in shell weight
Extracted from shell with a decordicator, and crushed using a screw press, either small scale (cold press) or large scale (solvent
The following products are produced:
Oil – approx 40% of seed weight
Can be used directly into a slow speed diesel engine; with a relatively inexpensive retrofit kit for any diesel engine; or crude
ready engines such as the new range of Deutz and Fendt farm tractors.
Can be further processed into: Biodiesel; second generation Green Diesel which can be tailored for use as jet fuel; or second
generation Sun Diesel by VW.
Meal – approx 60% of seed weight
Can be fed directly to supplement cattle feed at up to 10% of diet without processing.  Can be further processed by steeping to
remove the alkaloids (unpalatable component) to be used as a much more significant component of diet for livestock.
If solvent extraction is used, up to 37% of the diet has been used successfully.
Can also be converted into SunDiesel using their second generation biomass to liquid process; or as an organic fertilzer and soil
Meal can be further broken down into it’s components:
Starch – approx 50% of meal
Can be converted to 1st Generation Ethanol

Protein – approx 50% of meal
Can be used as concentrated livestock feed supplement after the ethanol process.

Shell – approx 54% of total seed in shell weight. Can be used directly as a solid fuel for boilers; converted to Sundiesel (biomass to liquid); or as an organic fertilizer.

Pongamia technical data

Family: Fabaceae

Sub Family: Faboideae

Genus and species: Pongamia pinnata

Common name(s): Pongam Tree, Indian Beech

Synonyms: Pongamia glabra, Millettia pinnata, Derris indica


Pongamia is a legume tree with sees containing oils and fatty acids suitable for biodiesel production.It is now currently being research by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Legume Researchas a feedstock for the biodiesel industry.



Pongamia is native to a number of countries including India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. It has also been naturalised in parts of eastern Africa, northern Australia and Florida.

Characteristics of Pongamia

Botanical Features

– Fast growing, medium sized evergreen tree

– Height: 7-10 m, Stem diameter: 50 – 80 cm

– Smooth grey-brown bark with vertical fissuring

– Leaves compound, pinnate and alternate

– Mature leaves glossy dark green above, pale below

– New leaves pinkish-red

– Flowers white, pink or lavender pea-like blossoms, which bloom late spring/early summer

– Seeds are 1.5 cm long, light brown, oval and contained in clusters of brown, eye-shaped pods

– Reproduces via seeds but can be cultivated from root suckers

– Typical Yields from 9 to 90 kg seed/tree

– Can produce up to 40% oil per seed

– Chromosome number: 22


1. Duke, A (1985) Handbook of Energy Crops, unpublished. Available at: www.hort.purdue.edu
2. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resource Program, Germplasm Resources Information Network – (GRIN)
[Online Database]. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Available at: www.ars-grin.gov
3. Agroforestree Database: World Agroforestry Centre, Pongamia pinnata. Available at: www.worldagroforestrycentre.org
4. Scott, PT., Pregelj, L., Chen, N., Hadler, JS., Djordjevic, MJ and Gresshoff, PM (2008) Pongamia pinnata: an untapped resource for the biofuels industry of the future. Bioenergy Research 1: 2-11.


© ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Legume Research