NewGen eucalyptus plantation is farmer and planet-friendly, reveals new book

The eucalyptus plantations in India with the modern clonal technology have been shown to have no adverse impact on either the environment or on the water table, according to a book published by Outreach, a NGO based in Bengaluru. The book titled Farmer and Planet Friendly - NewGen Eucalyptus, was launched recently by Jigmet Takpa, joint-secretary, ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC) at a CII conference on pulp and paper, supported by Indian Paper Manufacturers Association (IPMA), in New Delhi.

15 Jul 2019 | By Rahul Kumar

The book, ‘Farmer and Planet Friendly - NewGen Eucalyptus’ by Outreach was launched by Jigmet Takpa, joint-secretary, ministry of environment, forests and climate change recently

This is one of the most comprehensive researches done on the species in the country.

Eucalyptus has often been criticised for its ecological impacts and allegations have been made without any scientific basis and have not taken into consideration years of extensive research and development that has been carried out on this tree species. It is extremely important to understand and assess the attributes of Eucalyptus before conclusions are drawn.

Until early 1990s, eucalyptus was being grown based on the primitive seed/seedling methods. With seedlings, eucalyptus roots have a tendency to go several meters deep inside the soil. However, rigorous and extensive research in root trainer and clonal technology have enabled improvements in nursery, silvi-cultural and agro-forestry practices which has resulted in the emergence of NewGen eucalyptus that addresses earlier challenges associated with eucalyptus cultivation. Root trainer technology limits the growth of Eucalyptus root to two to three-metres. Modified package of practices has made eucalyptus cultivation adaptable to both farmers and the ecology.

This book by Outreach has documented extensively not only the ecological aspects but also the economics of mass propagation and plantation of NewGen eucalyptus, which are highly productive, disease-resistant and site-specific. These eucalyptus clones have demonstrated superior performance in farm forestry and agro forestry systems that help farmers to grow conventional agricultural crops in conjunction with highly productive tree systems. This is achieved by tapping surface water (nutrients) and photosynthates in a multi-canopied and multi-product paradigm, enhancing overall bio-productivity, while partially drought-proofing it against vagaries of climate change.

The classical ecologists have questioned growing of eucalyptus with agriculture crops by accusing it to be depleting ground water. However, thematic studies highlight that on the contrary, NewGen eucalyptus is more efficient in water usage for producing a kg of woody biomass (more crop per drop). The figures benchmarked for water consumption for biomass production (litre/kg biomass) for clonal eucalyptus (with comparatively shallow root system that is confined within two to three-metres) are revealing (eucalyptus 785; sishum 1483; siris 967, et al). Agriculture crops (cotton 3,200; sunflower 2,400; rice 2,000} are even more demanding.

Eucalyptus has also been criticised for all elopathic toxicity — chemical inhibition of one specie by another due to germination and growth inhibitors. It has been demonstrated by NewGen eucalyptus plantations that this can be suitably addressed with informed agronomic practices.

Farmers across the country have widely adopted NewGen eucalyptus-centric, agro-silvi-cultural systems and have witnessed significant increase in incomes and prosperity. Considerable volume of experiential and validated data has been gathered over two decades, to counter doubts raised in empirical outpouring of unsubstantiated claims and half-truths, about disastrous consequences of mass propagation and plantation of eucalyptus.

This book covers the recent advancements, debates and discussions, and new horizons such as hybrid development, climate change, forest certification, etc. It is an effort to weigh social, ecological and economic implications of planting NewGen Eucalyptus. It is an effort to combine the available knowledge and congregate it at one place to serve as a ready reference to all the stakeholders.

In addition, with experience of two decades in continuing plantations of NewGen eucalyptus, it is time that we dispel the negative propaganda against eucalyptus, generally based on empirical perceptions, general hearsay and occasional half-truths which are not based on evidence and facts.

It is important that it is critiqued against credible and validated information. This book is also an effort to generate awareness among farmers about how such plantations can have a transformational impact on their well-being thereby ensuring a rational decision even in times of uncertainty.