Growing Eucalyptus in Manitoba
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Marg Koshelanyk
Posted on: February 07, 2005

Sure am glad to have an expert around. Thank you for all your work in the field of herbs. My husband and I formally grew certified organic medicinal herbs in Saskatchewan and because of several things including the drought we failed. We now have moved to southern Manitoba with a flowing well, and more than enough moisture. We would like to get back into the business of growing herbs, and have this bee in my bonnet about growing eucalyptus as a natural pest control. Here it is an annual, but in our trials can reach 3 to 4 feet in a growing season. I love growing it, it does well, but since the oil comes from much more mature trees, I am thinking that if dried, and crushed up, it would work. Has there been any experiments done in this field that you know of?

Where do we start? Have been experimenting with the stems around fruit trees etc, to repel mice and deer. Would appreciate your opinion on my idea.

I’m very sorry to hear of your failure. Much of that is not your fault, but rather the whim of the gods. When a well-known proponent of natural medicine misrepresented herbs and CBS’s 60 Minutes exposed him on TV, herbs and spices took a terrible nose-dive in the marketplace. See my article, "What Happened to the Herbal Markets?", for more on the decline of the herb industry since the late 1990s: http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=MagazineRack/Articles/WhatHappened.html

I have friends who had been herb farming successfully for more than 14 years prior, and they won’t return to farming. To compound this terrible crash, more than 60,000 new farmers will be needed next year just to meet growing demands for these crops. Hence, prices soar and the fall, making this a niche market for grower/manufacturers = value added (see http://www.nwbotanicals.org/oak/altagri/nitche.htm).

My first experience of eucalyptus was in 1984, when the rice fields in northern California expanded ten times. There were 100-acre slips everywhere of eucalyptus slash. It grew like a noxious weed where these fields now exist, often growing to 100 feet or more. But that habitat is like Australian outback, with little rain (dry, arid) and hot most of the summer.

We went in to glean the trees for sale as a dried leaf, or as an oil extraction (steam distillation). Even with the very large stands available, mechanical leaf strippers and all, it was not profitable. Spain and Portugal have been doing this aspect for centuries. The oils begin to dissipate almost immediately. And, composting begins within 2 hours.

I have done some extensive research on growing and preserving eucalyptus for the floral trade. It is a top seller from the West Coast, and usually is trucked back for East Coast markets. Growing it there, even as an annual, might be a VERY smart investment. Floral trade is up, never to show the weakness of the herb trade.

Both cycle with a diversity of crops, of course, so you should expect "slopes and trails" with various seasonal changes and market demands. If you can grow eucalyptus, you can grow a number of other similar products (preserved), each with their own seasons.

As for studies on whether eucalyptus foliage dried and crushed would work as a natural pest control, I am not aware of any.

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