Production from Plantations in Indonesia

Early attempts to produce cajuput oil on Java and Sumatra, presumably using plants native to that part of the species range, failed because of poor oil quality (Penfold and Morrison 1950). It was not until 1926, when plantations were established at Ponorogo in East Java using seed from Buru Island, that the industry became established on Java (Darmono 1995). Subsequent plantings in East, Central and West Java used seed from Ponorogo. The present extent of M. cajuputi plantations on the island is estimated to be 9,000ha under the control of Perum Perhutani (Forestry Dept) (Ministry of Forestry 1995). Perum Perhutani runs the

12 distilleries on Java. There are 4 major and 8 minor factories producing about 280tonnes of cajuput oil per year from Government plantations.

Propagation, Planting and Husbandry

Propagation is usually by seed. There is an average of 2,700,000 viable seeds/kg. The seed often germinates readily but the tiny seedlings are easily damaged by overhead watering or rain, or may be killed if the sowing mix dries. Vietnam has adopted the 'bog' technique of watering to avoid these problems in propagating M. cajuputi. This involves standing the germination tray permanently in water so that moisture soaks up to the surface which is constantly moist but not flooded. Seed is sown evenly over the surface at the recommended density. An inflated plastic bag is fitted over the container to maintain a moist environment. Once the germinants are sturdy enough to withstand overhead watering (ca. 4 weeks), the container is removed from the water and handled normally. The risk of fungal disease is high, so good hygiene is essential. After germination the tiny seedlings can be slow to develop at first, presumably while the roots establish. Once underway, however, they grow quickly and their total nursery period is similar to other fast-growing species like eucalypts. Plantations have also been established with small stump plants, and M. cajuputi can be reproduced vegetatively from stem and branch cuttings (von Wulfing et al. 1943).

Plantations are established on usually degraded lands using unimproved seedlings at an initial stocking of 5,000 stems per ha. These trees are allowed to grow-on for four years and may be intercropped during the first two years with cassava, corn and peanuts. They are then cut off at 1.1m above ground level in the first harvest of essential oils. Thereafter the plants are visited annually when coppice shoots greater that 1cm in diameter are selectively harvested and leaves and twigs stripped into hessian bags for transport to the distillery. In central Java some harvesting for oil production takes place throughout the year. However, peak production is during the period of June to October which coincides with the best months for oil recovery from the leaves.

Yields and Distillation Methods

One hectare of plantation produces about 7.5 tonnes of cajuput leaves annually which in turn produces about 60-65kg of oil. The industry is a great employer of labour. In one operation alone in Central Java based on 3,200ha of plantation, 300 local people are engaged in harvesting leaves and a further 70 people are employed at the distillery (Ministry of Forestry 1995).

The cajuput distillation plant of the Gundih forest district, located at Krai in Central Java, is an example of one of the four major plants operated by Perum Perhutani (Forestry Dept). The distillery operates eight, 0.9tonne capacity pots fed by a steam boiler fuelled by the spent leaves of earlier distillations. A four-hour distillation time is standard. Output for 1993 was 78 tonnes of oil from nearly 9 million tonnes of leaves and twig or a recovery rate of 0.85% (Ministry of Forestry 1995). The composition of a representative sample of cajuput oil from the Krai distillery is given in Table 3.


Many of the plantations on Java are considered to be past their prime productivity, because of lack of vigour and consequently low oil yields (Ansorudin 1995). Several factors may be contributing to these low yields, including the genetic quality of the original planting stock, physiological age and the depletion of nutrients through the repeated harvesting of foliage. Perum Perhutani (Forestry Dept) is making plans to gradually replace the existing plantation resource, commencing about 1998. With the interest in establishing new plantations of M. cajuputi for oil production has come the interest in increasing the amount and value of oil produced per hectare through selecting, breeding and using genetically better trees. Presently, there are no programs in Indonesia to provide improved planting stock.

The joint Australian (CSIRO)/Indonesian (Agency for Forest Research) M. cajuputi seed collecting and oil screening expedition to the Maluku islands in December 1995, supported by COSTAI (Collaboration on Science and Technology Australia/Indonesia), has provided the genetic base for a comprehensive tree improvement program on M. cajuputi in Indonesia. Further funding is now being sought to implement a breeding strategy and plan to ensure that planting stock of improved oil yielding capacity is available for the replanting program.


Much of the data on the cajuput oil industry in Indonesia was collected by two of my colleagues, Brian Gunn and Maurice McDonald. They were involved in seed collecting activities in the Maluku Islands in 1995 in collaboration with counterparts from the Forest Tree Improvement Research and Development Institute, Yogyakarta. Anto Rimbawanto and his father, S.Darmono, assisted with details of development of the cajuput oil industry on Java. I wish to thank Alan Brown, Maurice McDonald, Joe Brophy and Geoff Davis for helpful comments on this manuscript.


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Plate 18 Melaleuca cajuputi subsp. cajuputi at Plate 19 Melaleuca cajuputt subsp. cajuput at Fogg Dam near Darwin, Northern Territory, Flying Fox Creek near Kapalga, Northern Australia (D.Jones) Territory, Australia (D.Lea)

Plate 20 Women harvesting leaves of Melaleuca cajuputi subsp. cajuputi on Ceram Island for the production of cajuput oil (B.Gunn)

Plate 21 Melaleuca quinquenervia, tree form, Plate 22 M. quinquenervia, niaouli, tree form,

SE Queensland, Australia (I.Holliday) New Caledonia (B.Trilles)

Plate 23 Melaleuca quinquenervia, shrub form, Coolum, SE Queensland, Australia (M.Fagg)

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