Farming mallee eucalypts for valuable natural products

Woodrow IE1, Fernando S2, Humphries J2 and Goodger JQD2

  1. School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, The University of Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia.
  2. School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia.

Mallee eucalypts have several properties that are advantageous for producing natural products on a large scale. These include the capacity to grow well on marginal land where agricultural cropping is unprofitable and an ability to be harvested mechanically in a short rotation coppice cycle. The leaves of some mallee species contain exceptionally high levels of natural products, which are stored in the extracellular lumina of embedded secretory cavities, commonly known as oil glands. These glands can comprise up to 15% of total leaf volume. Two examples of natural product production are explored in this presentation. In the first, the research underpinning the development of profitable blue mallee (Eucalyptus polybractea) plantations for pharmaceutical eucalyptus oil production is described. Specifically, the biochemical mechanism for oil synthesis and storage is outlined, and the development of exceptionally high yielding plantations through a clonal forestry approach is described. In the second example, the ability of mallee eucalypts to produce highly valuable flavonoids is discussed. Importantly, some of these compounds are already in the latter stages of testing for their ability to diminish the symptoms of several diseases of the central nervous system, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and ischemic stroke. The potential to establish a mallee based industry for natural flavonoid production is discussed.