Commercially grown for pulp, paper, medicines, and timber, “Rainbow Eucalyptus,” locally known as “bagras,” will be propagated on a production scale by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) after developing a micro-propagation protocol.
Considered a good variety for commercial production because of its fast growth rate, eucalyptus can be propagated quickly using tissue culture techniques, ERDB researchers said.
“With our protocol developed, a large number of disease free, true-to-type, and high-quality planting materials can be produced anytime of the year in a relatively small area in the laboratory,” ERDB Director Dr. Henry A. Adornado said.
The mass production of eucalyptus has been the subject of intensive study in the Philippines, because the tree has a number of uses, including in some medicinal treatments.
The bark and leaves of rainbow eucalyptus is known to have antiseptic, antimalarial, and antibacterial properties, while the wood is used for furniture, moldings, flooring, boat building, and veneers. Eucalyptus may also be potentially used in the future as a methanol source. It is also the preferred wood for charcoal in domestic, metallurgical, and chemical industries in countries such as Brazil. The wood produces pulp of different colors, most commonly brown, used for cardboard, and the oil is a common ingredient in medicines, toothpaste, perfumes, mosquito repellents, and other products.
National Greening Program
The eucalyptus propagation program of ERDB will contribute to the needs for planting materials of the National Greening Program (NGP). Eucalyptus species are among the preferred tree species due to their fast growth, flowering in as little as three to four years. The tree is also known for adaptability, ease of establishment, and ability to grow in poor soil.
The government previously reforested 25,000 hectares of marginal public land in Ilocos Norte with eucalyptus trees in 1984 under the “Philippine Forestry Development Project.”
ERDB noted that trial plantings of eucalyptus in Maringalo, Nueva Ecija under the Australian-Asean Non-Conventional Energy Development Program proved the promising performance of the species.
Disease-free planting materials
ERDB Project Leader Romana A. Mauricio said the bureau aims to produce clean, disease-free planting materials for eucalyptus with its various techniques.
Different types of disinfectants such as liquid soap, fungicide solution, hydrogen peroxide, and commercial bleach solutions are used to clean the explants from germs and other microorganisms.
ERDB maintains a garden at the back of its office building at the Forestry Campus, University of the Philippines- Los Baños for its collection of shoots that provide the tissue samples for the explants, which are placed in a culture medium after disinfection. Here they grow into plantlets that will eventually be planted outdoors.
“After four months in the nursery the plantlets are ready for outplanting,” explained Mauricio.