As the human population grows, the demand for wood and the hundreds of products made from it increases, making forest species (such as pine and eucalyptus) valuable commercial crops.
Eucalyptus was established in the U.S. in the late 1960s as a potential source of hardwood pulpwood in South Florida, and cultural practices for raising seedlings and establishing commercial plantations were developed. However, after severe freezes from 1983 to 1989, many research participants dropped out, but the University of Florida continued its research.
The severe freezes encouraged the development of fast-growing, freeze-resilient clones. Based on performance across a wide range of conditions, UF released five cultivars (‘G1’, ‘G2’, ‘G3’, ‘G4’, and ‘G5’) that grow well under many environmental circumstances. A fifth-generation Eucalyptus grandis seedling seed orchard has also been established.
Current eucalyptus plantations in Florida exceeded 18,000 acres, primarily made up of E. grandis. Most of these are harvested in eight years or less for mulchwood, which is sold throughout the eastern U.S. Eucalyptus plantation acreage and markets are likely to expand greatly as wood pellet plants, biomassfueled utilities, and other such energy projects develop.