In Indonesia and Vietnam, new plantation management systems are helping the forestry industry transition from acacia to eucalyptus.

The challenge

Improving sustainability in the plantation sector

Indonesian companies and Vietnamese growers (most of them smallholders) have established more than three million hectares of acacia plantations over the past 20 years, attracted by the high productivity of commercial wood grown on short rotations. Plantation forestry is economically and environmentally important to these countries. In Indonesia, it contributes 260,000 direct jobs, 1.1 million indirect jobs and US$3.8 billion in export earnings. Vietnam's total harvest of commercial acacia wood in 2014 was estimated at 23 million m3, with returns to small growers from timber sales exceeding US$500 million.

Picture looking up from the base of a eucalyptus forest to the top of the trees with the sunlight beaming in.

These important industries have recently faced threats from disease-stem wilt and root rot diseases have led to the loss of over 600,000 ha of Acacia mangium plantations in Indonesia alone.

Eucalypt plantations, which are replacing acacias, tend to have lower growth rates in the humid lowland tropics and the best way to manage them in these environments is not well understood. Site degradation—the result of inappropriate management in growing and harvesting on short rotations—poses another threat to productivity.

Greater sustainability in the plantation sector is important for ensuring that existing mills have enough plantation-sourced material to meet their processing needs, thus reducing the pressure on natural forests.

Our response

Transitioning from acacia to eucalyptus

In a series of Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) supported projects in Indonesia and Vietnam, CSIRO and in-country research partners have developed new management systems to help the forestry industry transition from acacia to eucalyptus, focusing on:

  • understanding the factors influencing productivity, including nutrition, genetics and plantation management
  • promoting sustainable site management
  • exploring alternative production models, such as agroforestry, that engage and improve profitability for smallholders
  • enhancing adoption of research into on-ground changed management practices
  • building capacity in country to support ongoing research needs.

CSIRO scientists have recently undertaken highly-cited strategic reviews recommending changes in direction of research and management, and presented their findings in keynote addresses at regional conferences. We continue to advise and mentor research agencies in Vietnam on breeding and plantation management strategies to a) improve genetic tolerance to major known diseases and b) reduce disease impacts on plantations.

The results

Everyday impacts

In Indonesia, industrial growers have modified their nutrient management regimes and soil mapping of their 200,000 ha estate to adopt the outcomes of CSIRO-led studies.

The genetic base of acacia planting material in Vietnam has been greatly widened and novel breeding methods for tropical acacias have been developed .

In-country research capacity building has been effectively facilitated by this and other projects, resulting in a range of new research projects being initiated and led by in-country research providers. A similar project in India demonstrated a net benefit of at least $25 million/year and 120,000 new jobs resulting from the adoption of CSIRO/ACIAR research. Read the study Advanced breeding and deployment methods for tropical acacias .

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