Much of the recent work in the UK has been conducted by the Forestry Commission, with funding from DECC in England and the Scottish Government. As well as the trials themselves, this funding has allowed the environmental impacts of SRF to be studied. This work is ongoing; details are available on the Forestry Commission website.
The Forestry Commission in England is also undertaking some planting of eucalypts on a trial commercial basis. The original driver for this was the need to find alternatives to Corsican Pine now that this species is no longer planted because of red band needle blight. This remains an important reason for the interest. But based on the evidence being generated, there is also now a recognition that provided the establishment conditions are good, eucalyptus species can grow very well on forestry sites. This offers prospects good yields on much shorter rotations than is possible with pine, with attractive markets for the wood as fuel.
Two examples of work by the Forestry Commission are particularly interesting, and show what can be achieved:
A plot of Eucalyptus glaucescens (with E. nitens in the foreground) in part of an SRF trial conducted by Forest Research near Totnes, Devon, planted in 2010 and photographed in April 2011 (left) and September 2011 (right). The excellent growth over the summer is attributable to very effective weed control using directed sprays of glyphosate herbicide, with the plants themselves protected with voleguard collars. The E. nitens was damaged by the cold winter, and smaller plants were evidently more vulnerable to damage – a typical response. In this particular case variable quality of the E. nitens as nursery stock is probably the cause of the variable growth of this species in 2010.
An impressive planting of Eucalyptus glaucescens made in 2010 by the Forestry Commission in Thetford Forest, photographed in January 2011 (left) and October 2011 (right). The establishment is extremely uniform; this is attributable to lack of significant weed competition. The plants survived the prolonged severe winter weather at the end of 2010 with no significant damage. They also survived the drought conditions between mid-March and early June 2011, though their growth between January and June was negligible. They have also been untouched by the local deer (red, roe and muntjac).