Scientists have unravelled the genetic makeup of a eucalyptus tree which could open up new possibilities for renewable forestry and fuel.
The international project has mapped the genome for the Eucalyptus grandis, otherwise known as the flooded gum tree, or the rose gum in Queensland.
Research fellow Carsten Kulheim, from the Australian National University, was one of the 80 researchers who worked for five years to sequence and analyse the 640 million base pair genome.
Dr Kulheim says the eucalyptus is important because it is the most widely planted hardwood tree around the world.
By sequencing the eucalyptus genome, Dr Kulheim says it will allow scientists to understand a lot of the properties of the tree, such as its fast formation of stem and wood.
“For plantations, this information is great as a tool for the selection of trees that grow better, that have the properties that the foresters want.
“But also it shows us why eucalypts are so popular.
“For example, there’s a large number of genes for wood formation and this high number of genes puts it into that special position where the trees can grow quickly.”
Dr Kulheim’s research within the project looked at hydrocarbons which act as a chemical self-defence against pests and herbivores, as well as providing the familiar aromatic essential oils used in medicinal cough drops and in industrial processes.
“Having this eucalyptus genome allows us now to understand where these chemicals come from and why one tree is different to another.”