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Eucalyptus Plantations: The Malaysian Experience - Sulaiman B. Salleh

Silviculture Officer, Forestry Department

Kuala Lumpur, Peninsular Malaysia.


Eucalyptus plantations in lowland tropical Malaysia have been disappointing. Planting of E. deglupta ceased in 1982 due to lower performance than other species. Problems with insect and fungal pathogens are noted. Early tree growth is rapid and as crowns are light, a thick under-story develops; eucalypts do not adversely affect soil conditions. Wildlife, except pigs, are less abundant in eucalypt plantations. Current rate of plantation development is insufficient to sustain wood resources; wider participation of private investors in forest management is clearly needed.

Key words: Eucalyptus, Malaysia, pathogens, wildlife, private investment.


The planting of Eucalyptus in Peninsular Malaysia commenced in 1893 with seed from Queensland (FAO, 1979). The first species planted was Eucalyptus robusta. Various species were planted as ornamentals by the British colonizers at hill stations during the early 1920’s (Freezaillah et al., 1966). The earliest recorded introduction of Eucalyptus by the Forestry Department was in 1927 (Freezaillah et al., 1966) when seed of Eucalyptus deglupta was obtained from New Guinea. Plantations of various Eucalyptus were established at the Forest Reserves in the Cameron Highlands in the period 1931-1941 for the proposed use of timber and fuelwood production. The total area planted was about 40 ha, of which about 10 ha are Eucalyptus robusta. Other species planted include E. saligna, E. grandis, E. bicostata, E. corymbosa, E. deglupta, E. globulus, E. maculata, E. melliodora, E. racemosa, E. sideroxylon, E. umbellata, E. citriodora, E. paniculata, E. pellita, E. resinifera and E. torelliana. Of all Eucalyptus species tried, only E. robusta, E. grandis and E. saligna showed promising result and the others were complete failures or inconclusive.

The Sabah Softwoods Sdn. Bhd. introduced Eucalyptus deglupta in Sabah together with other species in 1974 (Tan, 1987). This afforestation project covers an area of 61,000 ha of logged over forest in Tawau Residency of Sabah for pulpwood and timber production. However, the growth rate of Eucalyptus deglupta appeared to be generally much lower than the other species (Gmelina arborea, Paraserianthes falcataria and Acacia mangium) and further planting of this species was stopped in 1982. About 7,000 ha was planted with Eucalyptus deglupta.

In Sarawak, the Forestry Department tested Eucalyptus as plantation species in 1979 on about 0.4 ha (Kendawang, 1992). No further progress was made on Eucalyptus spp. there.


Common objectives of forest plantation development are to produce pulpwood and general utility sawlogs. As noted above, there were 40 ha of eucalypt plantation as trial plots in Peninsular Malaysia planted during 1931-41 mainly with Eucalyptus robusta. In Sabah, a total of 7,000 ha were planted with Eucalyptus deglupta by Sabah Softwood Sdn. Bhd. and another 620 ha planted with Eucalyptus grandis, E. urophylla, E. globulus and E. camaldulensis by Sabah Forest Industries Sdn. Bhd. in 1991 (Gimson & Zulkifli, 1992). Seed from Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia and Sri Lanka has been used for plantations in Malaysia. Seed from some of the older plantations has been collected for further small scale plantation programmes (Appanah & Weinland, 1993).

Most of the land used for plantation was logged-over forest, wasteland - consisting of mainly lalang grassland (Imperata cylindrica) and non-commercial secondary forests. These lands have been classified as ‘not suitable’ to ‘marginally suitable’ for agricultural use.


Many species of eucalypts had been established in trial plots in Malaysia with seed imported from Australia and Indonesia. Some trees produce fruit but no collection has been carried out except for E. deglupta (Yap & Wong, 1983); germination percentage was reported as high.

The plantation trials in Peninsular Malaysia were established on cleared montane oak forest at Cameron Highlands at elevations of 1,500 m; peat forms at this elevation. The soil is developed from granite with a characteristic shallow profile occurring usually at high elevations and on steep slopes. Soil pH is 4.7 and the mean annual rainfall is more than 2,500 mm. There is a relatively dry spell (June-August) with two rainfall peaks (March-May and September -December) annually. The highlands temperature ranges 12 to 23oC.

In Sabah, the plantation area is a humid tropical climate with a maximum temperature of 22-32oC and mean annual rainfall of 2,200 mm with relatively uniform distribution. The altitude varies from 120-500 m above sea level. Soils are acrisols and parent materials are commonly sandstone, mudstone and alluvium. The soil pH is acid (4.5) and available phosphate is very low. The original vegetation was lowland and hill dipterocarp forest. While planting can be carried out at almost any time of the year, it is usually done in two phases (April-June and October-December).

Early growth is very rapid and survival is high. Crowns are light and hence the species does not cast a very dense shade resulting in a fairly thick undergrowth (Freezaillah et al., 1966). It is noticed that the Eucalyptus species have not adversely effected the soil condition.

Growth of E. robusta in the highlands of Peninsular Malaysia is some 35 m3/ha/yr (FAO, 1979). Natural pruning is very effective and long straight poles are obtained at an early age. E. grandis grows well in these highlands; the average girth of a plot 12 years old was 111 cm and the height 35.4 m. E. deglupta does best in the lowlands from 150-450 m, but the form is poor with forking common. Barnard (1953) recorded growth data for E. deglupta at the FRIM site, Kepong, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Growth data of Eucalyptus deglupta at FRIM, Kepong


Height (m)

Girth (cm)


At Age (years)



At Age (years)


1. FRI grounds (250 ft. alt.)







2. Moist valley, interplanted selected dominant trees (250 ft. alt.)







3. Poor dry site, interplanted overgrown during the Japanese Occupation; selected dominant trees (250 ft. alt.)







Source: Barnard, 1953

Further trial plots were established and Chew (1980) has recorded the growth data from 3 different sites. On his experiments, ten species of eucalypts were planted at 3 lowland sites in 01974-75. Survival and annual height growth are recorded up to 4 years old. It was found that the best growth (height up to 13 m) was made by E. camaldulensis and E. deglupta; other promising species were E. brassiana, E. tereticornis and E. urophylla. Height increment declined markedly after 30 months age at all sites. Growth studies of E. deglupta are summarized in Figure 2. From these Figures, it can be said that the growth of this species is fairly reasonable in Malaysia.

Figure 2. Growth data of Eucalyptus deglupta at 3 sites


Age (months)

Mean Height (m)


1. Kemasul, Pahang




2. Bahau, N. Sembilan




3. Ulu Sedili, Johore




Source: Chew, 1980

The growth rates of E. deglupta in Sabah were less than those reported from other plantations of species in some other locations (Gromer et al., 1989). The rates have generally been much lower than Paraserianthes falcataria (Tan & Jones, 1982) and establishment of new plantations of the species for pulpwood production appears to be of doubtful profitability. Tan (1987) predicted that sawlogs of this species cannot be produced in commercial quantities from Sabah Softwood Sdn. Bhd. plantations. Output will be sold for pulp or fibre, for which a rotation of about 9 years is planned.

Young trees have been severely damaged by the cossid moth Zuezera coffeae (Menon, 1952) and heart rot has been recorded in E. deglupta trees, especially at FRIM plantation trials (Daljeet, 1982). Other pathogens, such as termites and stem borers, may pose problems in plantations (Appanah & Weinland, 1993). E. deglupta in Sabah suffers periodic damage from insect pest of wood borers identified as Endoclita hosei and Zuezera coffeae (Tan, 1987). Wounds on the wood - either by insects or by mechanical means - predispose wood to attack by decay fungi. The host tree is seldom killed but the combination of insect damage and heart rot incidence greatly reduces the potential of the species for sawlogs.

Duff et al. (1984) found that wildlife was generally less abundant in the plantations than in natural forests, apart from pig (Sus barbatus), deer, civets and the leopard cat (Felix bengalensis). However, wildlife was most abundant on the edge between a 6 year old Eucalyptus/Gmelina plantation and secondary forest. Bark damage to Gmelina/Paraserianthes spp., but not Eucalyptus spp., by rusa deer (Cervus unicolor) was significant only within 400 m of the plantation edge. Planting Eucalyptus spp. near the perimeter of the plantation might reduce bark damage to the overall plantation, as eucalypt becomes unpalatable to deer. Retaining patches of uncleared forest as refugia for wildlife has given great value, reducing damage to the plantation.


Results of the only study on economic aspects of eucalypt plantations in Malaysia, (Gromer et al., 1989) on the effect of phosphate fertilizer response by E. deglupta are shown in Figure 3. It was found that plantation establishment costs (in Sabah), estimated at M$1,426/ha, when accumulated at 4% and 10% real interest rates for eight years, amount to M$1,842 and M$3,056 respectively. By comparison, sales value at stump are at best M$2,404/ha. When annual maintenance costs are added to establishment and other costs, a plantation programme based on E. deglupta, with or without fertilizer application must be of doubtful profitability. Fertilizer application does not seem to provide a solution to relatively lower yields of E. deglupta.

Figure 3. Estimated yields, prices, costs and value at stump of Eucalyptus deglupta (Prices in Malaysian Ringgit)

Kapilit(nil P)

Tanjung Lipat (400 kg P/ha)

MAIV (m3/ha/yr)



Yield at harvest (m3/ha)



Density (kg/m)



Yield at harvest (t/ha; dry)



Mean Stem Volume (m3)



Chip sale price ($/t; dry)



Chip sale price ($/m3)



Chip sale price ($/t; wet)




Chipping ($/t; wet)



Harvesting ($/t; wet)



Transportation ($/t; wet)



Total ($/t; wet)



Value at stump ($/t; wet)



Value at stump ($/ha)



Source: Gromer et al., 1989

In terms of socio-economic aspects, Malaysia has a reforestation programme involving rural populations implementing community forestry or agroforestry projects. However, in the choice of indigenous tree species, local fruits trees and Acacia mangium are preferred. This programme helps to check the spread of shifting cultivation within the Permanent Forest Estate and assists in rural community development by planting more of selected tree species.


Malaysia has adopted the forest plantation approach as a strategy to overcome two basic wood supply problems that are predicted for the late nineteen nineties. These are: short falls in supply of logs from natural forests for domestic requirements, and the need to establish short rotation wood resource for wood chips to supply domestic chipboard, fibreboard, pulp and paper mills, and various other reconstituted wood product mills.

The Forest Plantation Project was launched in 1992 to avoid the possibility of a shortage of timber and timber products due to population growth and the basic wood supply problems mentioned. The aim is of growing and supplying general utility timber to meet the expected increase in the domestic market. The forest plantations are established to realise the following objectives:

The project plans to establish plantations on a 15 year rotation of fast growing hard-woods species as Acacia mangium, Gmelina arborea and Paraserianthes falcataria. The choice of these species was based on the following criteria:

Eucalyptus deglupta was one of the species before its planting was stopped in 1982 due to lower growth rate in Malaysian conditions compared to other species.


Malaysia’s experience in forest plantation development is confined to the activities carried out by the Government agencies in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and to certain extent in Sarawak; except in the case of one joint venture project in Sabah. The achievement of approximately 110,000 ha of established forest plantation is far short of targets set for Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah. At current rate of progress in plantation establishment, it is envisaged that 50% of the overall establishment target will be achieved by the end of the Sixth Malaysia Plan (1991-95) in Peninsular Malaysia (Mohamed, 1992). The current status of forest plantation development in Sabah is insufficient to sustain the supply of wood resources. With the fast depletion of the natural forest resources, plantation forestry will be the next best alternative to meet this shortfall in the future.

Wider participation of private investors in forest plantation development is clearly needed. With the Government policies on Malaysia Incorporated and privatization, private sectors are regarded as partners in national development. The Government is keen to share its knowledge and experience in forest plantation development with the private sector. It is suggested that private sector concerns capitalize on the incentive schemes presently provided by the Government to establish private forest plantations.

The Government takes a very serious view on this matter by providing assistance to the private sectors to solve problems pertaining to land tenure, capital investment, incentives with respect to taxation and R&D backup.


The performance of Eucalyptus spp. in Malaysia has been disappointing in general. Freezaillah et al. (1966) have pointed out that potential of the genus at higher elevations in Malaysia and called for more research not only in the growing aspects but also in the utilization side for a proper evaluation of the species, involving:

In Malaysia, forest plantations are still a relatively new venture not yet extensively undertaken by the Government or the private sector on a commercial basis. The growing important of man made forest is understandable as destruction of natural forests continues. In view of these aspects, the search for more promising species and provenances as an insurance against major pests and diseases outbreak will be given priority.


Appanah, S., Weinland, G. 1993. Planting Quality Timber Trees in Peninsular Malaysia. Malayan Forest Record No. 38. pp. 144.

Barnard, R.C. 1953. Experience with Exotic Tree Species in Malaya. The Malayan Forester Vol. 16 No. 1. pp. 29-40.

Chew, T.K. 1980. Growth of Eucalyptus species in Peninsular Malaysia. The Malaysian Forester Vol. 43 No. 1. pp. 8-15.

Cromer, R.N., K.C. Tan, Williams, E.R., Rawlins, W.H.M. 1989. Response of Eucalyptus deglupta to Phosphate Fertilizer. In Proceeding of Recent Development in Tree Plantation of Humid/Sub Humid Tropics of Asia. 5-9 June 1989. University of Agriculture Malaysia, Serdang, Malaysia. pp. 444-458.

Duff, A.B., Hall, R.A., Marsh, C.V. 1984. A Survey of Wildlife in and around a Commercial Tree Plantation in Sabah. The Malaysian Forester Vol. 47 (3-4). pp. 197-213.

Daljeet, S.K. 1982. Eucalyptus deglupta - A Review with emphasis on Wood Properties. FRI Reports No. 27. 20 pp.

FAO. 1979. Eucalyptus for Planting. FAO Forestry Series No. 11. pp.104.

Freezaillah, C.Y., Sandrasegaran, K., Singham, S.S. 1966. Permanent Sample Plot Information on Stocking, Growth and Yield of Eucalyptus robusta. FRI Research Pamphlet No. 48. 38 pp.

Gibson, S., Zulkifli, N. 1992. Current Status of Forest Plantation Development in Sabah. In Proceeding of the National Seminar on Economic of Forest Plantation. 24-26 February 1992, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. pp. 15-22.

Kendawang, K.K. 1992. Current Status of Forest Plantation Development in Sarawak. In Proceeding of the National Seminar on Economic of Forest Plantation. 24-26 February 1992, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. pp. 34.

Menon, K.D. 1952. Cossid Moth (Zuezera coffeae) attack on Young Plantation Trees in Malaya. The Malayan Forester Vol. 15. pp. 200.

Mohamed, H.I. 1992. Present Status of Forest Plantation Development in Peninsular Malaysia. In proceeding of the National Seminar on Economics of Forest Plantation. 24-26 February 1992, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. 14 pp.

Tan, K.C. 1987. Exotic Tree Species in Commercial Plantations in Sabah, Malaysia. The Malaysian Forester Vol. 50 No. 1. pp. 62-71.

Tan, K.C. & Jones N. 1982. Fast Growing Hardwood Plantations on Logged-over Forest Site in Sabah. The Malaysian Forester Vol. 45. pp. 558-575.

Yap, S.K., Wong S.M. 1983. Seed Biology of Acacia mangium, Albizia falcataria, Eucalyptus spp., Gmelina arborea, Maesopsis eminii, Pinus caribaea and Tectona grandis. The Malaysian Forester Vol. 46 No. 1. pp. 41-45.

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