BRENDON CANT brendon at iinet.net.au
Thu Apr 3 03:44:34 CEST 2008

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While world supplies of natural sandalwood may be dwindling, women can still
buy perfumes, such as Obsession by Calvin Klein and Opium by Yves St
Laurent, which contain the essential oil, thanks to researchers such as
Chris Jones, a PhD candidate in the School of Plant Biology at The
University of Western Australia (UWA).


Once widespread throughout southern WA, but almost wiped out in the
grainbelt due to clearing for farmland, sandalwood, Santalum spicatum and it
’s northern relative, S. album, are making a comeback as plantation trees.


“In WA’s Kununurra area close to 2000 hectares of Santalum album  have been
planted and more than  4000 hectares of S. spicatum have been planted in the
wheatbelt area of southern WA,” Mr Jones said.


Continual harvesting has depleted world supply and WA, with a growing
plantation industry, holds 50 per cent of the world-traded market in this


For his thesis, Mr Jones used a three part approach to understand the
underlying causes of oil yield variation in the plantation sandalwood, S.
album: genetic studies; extractable oil yield and composition, and isolation
of oil biosynthesis genes.


Genetic diversity of S. album and two other tropical species from the WA
Forest Products Commission arboretum at Kununurra were compared.  Santalum
spicatum, a distant relative from the semi-arid areas of southern and
western Australia, was used for comparison. Based on DNA banding patterns,
the collection was categorised into 19 broad genetic groups.


“Essential oil yields from these genetically similar trees varied greatly
both within and between groups, suggesting a significant environmental
influence,” Mr Jones said.


Ancestral lineages were compared, with results suggesting low genetic
diversity within the Australian

S. album collection was attributed to incomplete seed sourcing and highly
restricted gene flow during evolution of the species.


“Based on this study and others, S. album may have come from an overseas
dispersal out of northern Australia or Papua New Guinea three to five
million years ago,” Mr Jones said.


“Total extractable oil content varied enormously between trees, but
individual chemical profiles were almost identical, suggesting limited
genetic diversity in this region of the genome.”


In the future high oil yields may be selected for, along with shortened
harvest times, which were traditionally 40 to 60 years after planting: “We
may be able to shorten rotations to 10 or 15 years in high yielding


Mr Jones explained that sandalwood had a role in revegetating marginal lands
in WA, creating biodiversity in the grainbelt and potential use for carbon


“It’s not just about using sandalwood for perfume, incense and woodwork.
There are other uses for this versatile tree.”


UWA, in collaboration with the WA Forest Products Commission, was awarded an
Australian Research Council linkage grant, enabling Mr Jones to continue his


As the 2005 recipient of the Mike Carroll UWA Travelling Fellowship, he
spent six months in the laboratory of Professor Jorg Bohlmann, an expert in
the field of plant biotechnology at the University of British Colombia,
Vancouver, Canada.

HYPERLINK "http://www.fnas.uwa.edu.au/"www.ioa.uwa.edu.au

Authorised by ‘Institute of Agriculture – UWA’ and issued on its behalf by

Brendon Cant & Associates, Tel 08 9384 1122


Professor Kadambot Siddique, Tel 08 6488 7012, Mobile 0411 155 396
Chris Jones, Tel 08 6488 1992



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