This fall, we were presented with the opportunity to collaborate with the LSU AgCenter on a unique project involving international students from the Czech Republic. Mendel University, located in Brno, Czech Republic, has recently developed a study abroad program with LSU. As part of their ongoing efforts to demonstrate the positive attributes derived when private companies work closely with universities, LSU partnered us with two forestry students from Mendel University to conduct a research project on our eucalyptus plantation over the course of one month.
Radek Klíč and Patrik Růžička arrived in Plaquemine on October 22nd and quickly began work on their study. The project included 3 main objectives using Eucalyptus benthamii: 1) develop a taper equation and volume calculator to better estimate standing merchantable volume, 2) propagate stem cuttings from the lower, middle, and upper portions of the crown in a greenhouse to determine which seedlings would survive at a higher rate, and 3) extract essential oils from the leaves and measure the quantity and quality to determine whether or not the oils could be a suitable secondary product in addition to fiber production.
The results of this study yielded several positive outcomes. They were successful in developing a quick and accurate method for estimating standing volume of Eucalyptus planted at both 600 and 1000 trees per acre. Unfortunately, of the 300 cuttings they propagated in the greenhouse, none survived longer than 4 weeks. However, this aspect of the study was still useful because we now have a better sense of the conditions necessary to be successful and how to better control for those conditions. In a surprising result, they were able to extract a significant amount of essential oil from the leaves using simple distillation techniques, meaning the possibility of a secondary oil market may exist. Radek and Patrik’s work will open the door for additional research that is not only relevant to our company, but to interested parties across the southeast, as Eucalyptus gains more traction as a viable crop along the gulf coast.
In addition to their hard work, Radek and Patrik experienced many of the unique aspects of life in south Louisiana. They rode in an airboat, fished for redfish and speckled trout in Venice, enjoyed fried frog legs and alligator, and spent some time in our majestic cypress-tupelo swamps. These two young men represented their university and country extremely well, and we are very proud of the work they accomplished during their brief visit. The whole staff contributed to making them feel welcome, and everyone greatly enjoyed having the opportunity to showcase our company and way of life. We look forward to seeing what opportunities may arise in the future from initiating this unique partnership.