The Dongmen Eucalypt Project: ‘Green Miracle’ for Foresters

Reflections on first China plantings over 40 years ago

Tue 11 Apr 23


Queensland forester Dick Pegg was awarded an Outstanding Contribution Award by the Chinese Society of Forestry in 2012 for his work on the successful Dongmen eucalypt forest project in southern China.

The award, presented at the National Eucalyptus Forum at Guangxi, recognised outstanding achievements in the field of eucalypt research, contributions to the China-Australia Technical Cooperation Eucalypt Afforestation Project at Dongmen forest farm and the assistance given in the eucalypt development of Guangxi province.

The event was attended by eight former Queensland government foresters, including six who worked on the Dongmen project from 1982 to 1989.

The Dongmen forest farm has been operating for more than 50 years and has been a centre of eucalypt tree improvement in China for more than 35 years.

A large percentage of the eucalypt clones currently being used operationally in China were developed at Dongmen. Much of the eucalypt genetic material established at the farm since the 1980s has been retained so Dongmen now has the most comprehensive eucalypt genetic material in China.

In a special report for Wood Central, Brisbane-based Dick Pegg has reflected on the project:

Speaking of eucalyptus trees in Guangxi, you can’t help but give a thumbs up for the project.

In less than 20 years, the eucalyptus planting area has expanded more than 10 times, from 130,000 hectares to more than 2 million hectares, which means that every 15 people in Guangxi there is 1 hectares of eucalyptus plantation.

The timber output is more than 30 million cubic metres, accounting for “half of the country’s timber output”, and it has become the largest timber production province worthy of the title.

Many people say that policy determines the development of eucalyptus in Guangxi, but this is not the case. The role of policy is of course important, under normal circumstances; the biggest role of policy is guidance.

In April 2002, Guangxi issued the ‘opinions on accelerating the development of fast-growing and high-yield forests in Guangxi, which planned to create 660,000 hectares of fast-growing and high-yield forests in five years through afforesting of barren hills and wasteland, regeneration of cultivated land, transformation of low-yield forests and conversion of farmland to forests.

April 2008… Dick Pegg and Chen Donglin examine a 19-year-old old E urophylla and E grandis hybrid at Dongmen forestry farm. All hybrids were bred at Dongmen from controlled pollination, planting of hybrid family trials, selection of superior individuals, cloning of selects and testing in clone trials.
April 2008… Dick Pegg and Chen Donglin examine a 19-year-old old E urophylla and E grandis hybrid at Dongmen forestry farm. All hybrids were bred at Dongmen from controlled pollination, planting of hybrid family trials, selection of superior individuals, cloning of selects and testing in clone trials.

Guangxi has “eight mountains, one water and one farmland”, and there are many mountainous areas. At that time, there were still some barren hills that had not yet been greened. Obviously, Guangxi, based on its own land resource advantages and taking advantage of good rain and heat conditions, vigorously encouraged the development of fast-growing and high-yield forests.

When you look closely at the contents of that year’s opinion, you will see that it is not just eucalypt trees that are encouraged to develop, but include acacia, pine and bamboo among them.

There are 335,000 hectares of short-rotation industrial raw materials such as fast-growing eucalyptus and fast-growing acacia, 130,000 hectares of fine pine, 1 million hectares of precious fast-growing broad-leaved timber such as red chopper, southwestern Betula, bean wood, teak and alder, and 100,000 hectares of bamboo and tufted bamboo.

Since then, Guangxi has introduced preferential incentives such as free seedling, halving the collection of forestry fund, priority arrangement of cutting targets, afforestation subsidy, afforestation loan discount, etc.

The development of fast-growing and high-yield forest including eucalyptus has not only been encouraged by policy level, but also given real preferential treatment…

Science and technology are the primary productive forces.
Guangxi attaches great importance to forestry science and technology, and began to introduce eucalyptus in 1978, and carried out artificial hybridiaation breeding of eucalyptus, but because of the lack of a systematic approach, results were poor.

In the 1980s, Guangxi and Australia, through the Dongmen forestry cooperation, carried out experimental studies of eucalyptus from eight countries such as Australia, Indonesia and Brazil involving 174 different eucalyptus species and provenances.

They established a demonstration forest of 1400 hectares involving tests with 38 species and 83 of the 1294 provenances and a combination of locally made control pollinated interspecific and intraspecific hybrids.

Sixty experiments covering a range of subjects were established and fruitful results were obtained on the introduction, improvement and cultivation techniques for eucalyptus.

Under the active promotion of the Dongmen Project, the eucalyptus arboretum of 135 species (provenances) and more than 600 excellent clone gene banks have been established in Guangxi; 148 excellent eucalyptus clones have been selected and bred, the world’s first eucalyptus triploid has been cultivated, and the tissue culture asexual reproduction and cultivation series technology of eucalyptus have been pioneered in China.

We have mastered the technique of tissue culture and the technique of rapid growth and high yield, which has laid a solid foundation for the development of eucalyptus in Guangxi.

With the development of wood pulp and paper technology and the rapid increase in the demand for artificial wood board, international forestry giants such as Sinar Mas Group APP, Sino-Forest and Stora Enso have settled in Guangxi.

In order to ensure the supply of raw materials, they have adopted the mode of a company + afforestation base for large-scale afforestation. On the other hand has been greatly expanded eucalyptus wood purposes, exported from a single wood extension to the pulp and paper, plywood, high density board and floor-base material,

Huge market demand stimulates the enthusiasm of eucalyptus planting, state-owned forest farms, professional afforestation companies, private business owners, individual industrial and commercial households, as well as a considerable number of farmers in the mountains and in the countryside who have set off a rare history of booming eucalyptus planting across Guangxi.

A reliance on eucalyptus eliminated all the barren mountains suitable for forestry, giving farmers considerable economic returns.

As we can see, the strength of the Guangxi eucalypts has created a ‘green miracle’, a profitable industry in Guangxi with a forestry output worth billions of dollars a year and one of the few complete industrial chain of industries creating millions of jobs.


  • Jim Bowden

    Jim Bowden, senior editor and co-publisher of Wood Central. Jim brings 50-plus years’ experience in agriculture and timber journalism. Since he founded Australian Timberman in 1977, he has been devoted to the forest industry – with a passion.

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