Look here for a major announcement from CSIRO (Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization), the Australian research organization about an international effort to sequence the eucalyptus genome. Eucalyptus is prized for its high quality fiber for paper production, fast growth, strong wood, and medicinal properties. There are over 400 species of eucalyptus in Australia!
The species I worked with in Africa, E. camuldulensis, had a large number of varieties and hybrids. The French researchers I met in Burkina Faso had a map showing hundreds of distinct races of river redgum, as camaldulensis is also know. With a species this variable, knowledge of the genome will make it possible to breed for very many characteristics. The announcement says the genome will be made publicly available.
E.camaldulensis was chosen by aid organizations and scientists to plant in west africa countries as a fast growing fuelwood species in the arid Sahel. Ironically, when the plantations grew, many villagers didn’t want to use the wood as fuel or charcoal. Instead they prized the long, straight poles for construction, both for roofs for huts and as supports for molds for concrete structures. They also valued the leaves for medicinal use; homemade Vicks Vaporub. If you think about it, there choice made sense. It is a waste to burn high quality timber.
Anyway, this is an amazing project, well worth watching.