Eucalyptus, a fast growing short rotation tree is among one of the best commercial species for agro-forestry on farmlands. Eucalyptus trees are harvestable within 8 to 10 years of short rotation for production of timber. Alternately, eucalyptus plantations can be raised for poles and paper pulp at 4 -5 years’ rotation. Eucalyptus plantations must be raised, given the tree’s significant impact on wood availability, livelihood generation and carbon sequestration. The Indian pulp, paper and plywood industry has agroforestry roots and strong backward linkages with the farming community, from whom wood, which is a key raw material, is sourced. India is a wood fibre-deficient country. Inadequate raw material availability in the country is a major constraint for the domestic paper / timber industry which impacts its cost competitiveness.
The forestry programme initially started with the production & planting of Eucalyptus seedlings. The major research and development emphasis has been on genetic improvement of planting stock and improvement in “package of practices” used by growers to increase productivity & yield. Significant gains in productivity of eucalyptus have been achieved through vegetative propagation and cloning techniques and exploitation of existing useful variation. Clonal plants are vegetatively propagated plants from a single mother tree having most desirable genetic qualities. Trees raised from each superior clone will be uniform, true to type and fast growing. Productivity of clones is higher compared to normal seedlings of eucalyptus. Productivity of clones released for commercial plantations, ranges between 20 and 58 cubic meter per hectare per year under un-irrigated conditions compared to 6 to 10 cubic meters per hectare per year productivity of eucalyptus plantations raised from available seed sources. Several intra-specific and inter-specific hybrids of eucalyptus have been developed through controlled pollination. Development and deployment of locality-specific, high-yielding, fast-growing and disease resistant clones has been followed by rapid adoption and raising of large-scale commercial clonal eucalyptus plantations.
Over the last two decades, to meet the growing wood requirement, the pulp, paper and plywood industry joined hands with farmers, leading to the creation of a sustained wood resource base of more than 3 million hectares of plantations, under agro/farm forestry. About 70 per cent of these plantations are of eucalyptus. This could be made possible by massive investment of resources by the industry to bring in genetic improvement and development of highly productive and disease-resistant clones, which increased plantation productivity of agro forestry plantations making these extremely viable for farmers, in terms of competitive land use.
Eucalyptus Plantations: Facts
- Eucalyptus is an excellent industrial species, which provides timber for poles, pulp, plywood and fuel wood. It can be used to afforest fallow and low productive lands, especially in areas with no assured irrigation.
- Major advantage of the eucalyptus plant is the content of “Hemicellulose”. This content handles qualitative performance in pulp and paper manufacturing. They not only help in pulp manufacturing, but also in fibre bonding capacity, water retention strength etc. Hemicellulose management allows differentiating pulps, improving or worsening properties of paper sheets.
- Eucalyptus species are also producers of oil. The oil is mainly used in making soaps, massage oil, air fresheners and bug repellent. In addition, it can be used in therapeutic applications such as Ayurveda treatment, skin allergies, wound treatments, respiratory problems.
- Eucalyptus is also an inordinate producer of charcoal. Eucalypt wood is used for manufacturing charcoal to meet the demands in urban areas.
There are some myths associated with Eucalyptus plantations, which have been proven to be not true by research data and publications. The water use of a Eucalyptus plantation has been found to be 785 litres/kg of total biomass, which is one of the lowest if compared with tree species such as Acacia (1,323 litres/kg), Dalbergia (1,484 litres/kg) and agricultural crops such as paddy rice (2,000 litres/kg) and cotton (3,200 litres/kg). A report published by Vinayakrao Patil, an eminent forest scientist, titled “Local Communities and Eucalyptus—An Experience in India” (1995), mentions that (a) Eucalyptus does not compete for ground water and other nutrients with crops in its vicinity; (b) Eucalyptus does not need plenty of water and does not drain away subsoil water; (c) Eucalyptus does not cause degradation of land and does not hamper soil fertility.
|Depletes groundwater||Roots of 7-yr clones do not exceed 6-7 feet; hence, not responsible for dry wells|
|Nutrient status||Nutrients are recycled by the leaf litter and bark|
|Not beneficial to birds||Many birds nest in eucalyptus plantations|
Eucalyptus Plantations: A Boon
Every year, around 150,000 hectares of eucalyptus plantations are grown in India, which generate 70 million man-days of employment. As per the CSE report, a eucalyptus plantation yields more net income than almost 70 percent of agricultural crops and plays a major role in increasing future farm income. Eucalyptus clonal plantations, in agro forestry system have mitigated climate change provided an alternative income stream and has generated significant employment opportunities for the local community thereby checking the rural-urban distress migration.
The farm forestry sector annually extracts 150,000 tons of pulpwood to the industries. Farmers sell the wood to secondary industries (brick and tile manufacturing units), after reserving the quantity required for domestic usage. The timber industry also plays an important role in the market value of eucalyptus. Timber is used for manufacturing poles and different types of constructions for transmission lines.
It is, therefore, critical that eucalyptus plantations are raised, given its significant impact on wood availability, livelihood generation and carbon sequestration that addresses the challenges of global warming and climate change. It would be important to note that eucalyptus plantations under the agro / farm forestry programmes are not water guzzlers as is wrongly perceived by some.
Contribution of UKPL in the Value Chain of Eucalyptus Plantations
UKPL’s Agro Forestry Initiative is now a successful inclusive and sustainable model in many Indian villages. The Initiative introduced agro forestry as an additional revenue source for farmers, by
- Supplying excellent high yielding soil and climate specific clonal saplings
- Robust Extension services to farmers
- Training on plantation techniques
- Building market linkage for the wood with Wood Based Industries
UKPL enables local communities to move onto a path of self-sustainability, and paper & Plywood manufactures to source raw material from local catchment areas. After years of R&D and trials, Eucalyptus clones have been released for commercial plantations. UKPL clone production progress is backed by robust R&D working towards release of new and better clones to the farmers for maximum yield.
UKPL’s agro forestry program is currently operating in several districts in the states of Maharashtra, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana. So far more than 50,000 hectares of trees have been planted, benefiting more than 60,000 farmers.