Another future for Tasmania's eucalyptus nitens?

Friday 1 Oct 2021

If you travel the back roads of Tasmania, you'll likely pass thousands upon thousands of eucalyptus nitens growing in neat rows. Many of these plantations were established to feed domestic pulp mills, but as those projects disappeared, so changed the fate of these skinny, grey gums.

Today, much of the around 210,000 hectares of nitens growing across Tasmania are routinely cut down, chipped up and shipped to Asia. And while there was a considerable international market for pulpwood, PhD researcher Michelle Balasso believed there might be an alternative.

"There's a lot of forest resources that are undervalued," she said. "Moving forward to a market where structural timber is most required, we need to investigate how we can get some of those products out of the sustainably grown plantations."

The fast-growing and frost-resistant nature of nitens made them an attractive option for plantations, however, the timber is riddled with knots and the strength can vary greatly from tree to tree. But pockets of construction-grade nitens are growing in Tasmania's plantations and through research with the ARC Centre of Forest Value, Ms Balasso set about finding them.

Her PhD involved shooting sound waves into the trees to test their quality and investigating what factors helped nitens grow into construction-grade material. The research attracted the attention of Tasmania's largest private plantation owner, Forico, which now employs Ms Balasso as a project officer.

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Photo: A eucalyptus nitens plantation being harvested by Forico near Surrey Hills, north of Burnie, ABC Rural: Lachlan Bennett

Source: ABC Rural

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