The Eucalyptus Crop and its Benefits
In the past, agriculture was used exclusively to produce food, but now we are turning to crops as a source for energy use. Nowadays everyone is familiar with the argument s relating to the environment and how the energy we use directly affects are surroundings. People are conscious of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and one’s own carbon footprint. We turn towards sustainable, renewable, carbon neutral and bio energies in the hope that we can benefit the future of the environment.
Green energy crops are gradually gaining a foothold and even grain is being grown as a fuel for heat. Once a log is dry it becomes an excellent producer of fuel without the high energy costs or the requirement of further manufacturing prior to usage.
Fast-growing trees are preferred to supply with heating needs as they are able to provide mass amounts in a minimal amount of time. The Acacia species was often touted as the fuel crop of the future, however frosts severely disrupted crops and growth.
Another tree well known for its rapid growth rates and high resistance to pests and weather prove that the Eucalyptus is the tree of the future. When cut into logs or chipped, the Eucalyptus makes excellent fuel and can be harvested on an eight year rotation. Most varieties originating from the Eucalyptus coppice well and the speed of re-growth are astonishingly rapid.
It is able to deliver approximately 16tonnes of dry wood per hectare, and the process can be repeated three times more before the need to replant. Certain varieties can survive frosts of -16°C and with their rapid growth rates and the ability to coppice would appear ideal for growing for energy production.
Eucalyptus is planted and grown in almost the same manner as any forest tree with two metre spacing and weed control a necessity during the initial two years. It grows well on heavy soils, but the ideal land is good, free-draining land. Once harvested, the wood splits easily and is perfect for fuelling furnaces, open fires, stoves and log boilers. It is possible for the Eucalyptus species to produce double the yield of willow.
Three crops can be harvested before replanting, which takes place at year 24. This short rotation looks attractive, as do the high yields and volume of wood produced.