Agarwood – also known as Gaharu, Aloeswood and Eaglewood – is a resinous, fragrant and highly valuable heartwood produced by the Aquilaria tree, the Aquilaria tree is a large evergreen native to South East Asia.
Agarwood has been used for thousands of years in the Middle East and Asia both at home and in religious ceremonies. When pure Agarwood resin is put through the distillation process, what is extracted is called “Oud Oil”.
This highly coveted oil is also known as “Liquid Gold” and is in great demand by the fragrance industry as it is extensively used in some of the most expensive perfumes such as those by Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, Versace &Yves St Laurent just to name a few.
Today Agarwood is recognized as the most precious wood in the world with an extremely high value and can bring over USD 7,500 per kilo for its woodchips and over USD 30,000 per kilo for top quality Oud Oil. The International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences states that Agarwood, also known as the “Wood of the Gods,” and it is mentioned as early as the third century AD in ancient China.
Agarwood is a highly prized product, which is used in fragrances, incense, medicines, aromatherapy and cultural religious ceremonies. The precious, highly valued, fragrant agarwood has a history dating back thousands of years and is used in cancer research, in traditional Chinese medicine, in the treatment of respiratory disorders, and given as gifts and used in ceremonial practices (both religious and secular) all over the world. It is also carved into sculptures, beads and boxes.
The fragrance of Agarwood comes from a process where fungi infect the trees, producing an oleoresin which saturates the wood. It is through this oleoresin saturated wood where Oud develops its aroma. The fragrance is complex, deep and woody, and is highly prized as an incense in Japan and as an oil in the Middle East. Because of its rarity, Agarwood is not well known in the West, but should be experienced by every connoisseur of essential oils, and anyone serious about aromatherapy and natural perfumery.
Oud oil is the resin extracted from and infected agarwood tree. It is very viscous and dark brown oil, is non-sticky, and can be applied directly to the skin (in minute amounts) or thinned in a carrier oil.
There are many grades of Agarwood, and the highest quality wood is extremely expensive. In fact, the first-grade wood is one of the most expensive natural products in the world, with prices of up to $30,000 per pound for wood chips, and the essential oil from wild agarwood trees is one of the most expensive oils in the world.
The Worldwide market for fragrances continues to grow at an accelerating pace, with more than a 1,000 luxury fragrances launched each year alone. The global fragrance market is expected to be worth USD 36 billion in 2020 as fragrance brands strive to find new and innovative ways to compete for a greater market share.
The current global market for agarwood is estimated to be in the range of US$6 – 8 billion and is growing rapidly.
About Agarwood Gaharu
- Internationally traded commodity for more than 2,000 years
- Agarwood – also known as Gaharu, Aloeswood and Eaglewood
- One of the species referenced in the Old Testament and in the Holy Quran
- Prime products are Oud Oil, Agarwood chips and powder
- Used in religious ceremonies by Muslim, Buddhism, Christian, Jewish & Hindu faiths The most expensive wood in the world
- Global demand, with primary markets in the Middle East, Asia and India
- Highly valued within the fragrance and personal care luxury goods markets
- Prices have increased at an annual rate of 12%+ between 1970 and 2008
- Prices have increased from 2009 to 2016 at an annual rate of 16%+
- Increased trade has given rise to concern that demand will outstrip supply ‘ Valued for its array of qualities from fragrances to medicinal qualities
- International trade is regulated and the species is protected by CITES
- Can only be purchased through sustainably managed and certified plantations
Aquilaria Tree Land Preparation
Avoid heavy clay soil, sandy, loamy soil with PH between 4.5 to 7.0 is best, also avoid low lying land as water will stagnate and collect, killing the trees. To reduce the mortality rate, seedlings are ready to transplanting into ground when achieving 60~90cm height. Older seedlings might not be good due to root coiling in the confined polybag if polybag is not big enough.
- Planting hole preparation 40cm x 40cm x40cm. Leave for 2 – 3 weeks, with rain and sunshine repeatedly, the soil is oxygenated, very helpful for root growth.
- Add 150~175ml CIRP. If the soil is hard, add 10-15% coco peat to loosen the soil mixture. Coco peat can absorb large volumes of water. Generally, Coco peat can absorb water about half of its volume and 5 to 6 times its weight. Coco peat has great oxygenation properties. Other source of phosphorus can be obtained from TSP and DAP, but to be used with caution due to its causticity, having solution pH 1~3 and 7.5~8 respectively. Over dosage may damage the seedling. Advantage of TSP and DAP are both highly soluble and thus dissolves quickly in soil to release plant-available phosphate.
- Add 15% cow dung as organic fertilizer, and 20 grams of Funadan to minimize insect attack.
- Mixing the mixture to small particle possible.
- Refill the planting hole to appropriate level. Cover the seedling not more than 2” above planting surface. Deep planting will rot the stem in long run.
- Remove polybag and place seedling into the planting hole.
- Cover the seedling and chamfer the circumference to improve water catchment.
- Chamfer the circumference of planting hole to improve water catchment.
- Fertilize After 1 month, should use cow shit about 1 kg/ tree scatter around and away from base about 10 cm. Then cover by soil to protect cow manure loosen. After 3 months, give cow manure again depends on trunk condition and grow area condition.
- Done. 99% survival rate.
In plantation forestry, it is essential to carefully assess the ecological conditions at the planting and to assess whether a potential species will survive and grow. Aquilaria spp. is not demanding regarding soil and climatic conditions, occurring naturally in all ecological zones and on a variety of soils (avoid clay soil). Don’t buy older sapling over 120cm and above.
Aquilaria Climate and Soil Requirements
Agarwood trees like it reasonably hot, up to human body temperature, but need the relief of natural shade, like palm trees. Agar plant prefers high humid, sub-tropical climate with rainfall 1800-3500 mm per annum. It grows from sea level up to 500-m altitudes. It prefers well-drained deep sandy loam-to-loam rich in organic matter but can profitably be grown in marginal soils and also in shallow soils over rocky beds with cracks and crevices. It grows well in hill slopes and forest environment. The traditional agar growing areas show that it prefers acidic soil reaction. The mycorrhiza and other beneficial fungi which seems to be responsible for oil formation in the agar tree being soil borne requires acid soil for their population build up.
Agar is propagated by seeds, which are available in the month of June – July. The germination of practices should be adopted. After planting young seedlings in poly bags, they are arranged in bed supported by bamboo poles around. At monthly interval the shifting of bags should be done to prevent the penetration of roots into the soil. Shifting of seedlings should be followed by light watering to avoid wilting due to disturbances in the root system. Root trainer may be used successfully.
Drip Irrigation Systems
Drip irrigation is a form of irrigation for the Aquilaria tree that saves water and makes use of manure/fertilizer efficiently by allowing water to draw slowly to the roots of plants / trees, either onto the soil surface or directly onto the root area of plant. The drip irrigation works through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters. It is done through narrow tubes that deliver water directly to the base of the tree.
Manuring and Fertilizer
It is not necessary to apply inorganic fertilizers at the time of planting. Fertilizers should be applied after complete establishment and only from second year of planting. Well-decomposed cow dung may be applied in pit and well mixed with soil prior to planting. Undecomposed FYM or fresh cow dung should not be applied, in any case. The rhizosphere of Agar tree (0 – 45 cm) exhibits a higher rate of microbial population when organic manures are used.
Weed management consists in removing the weeds that compete with the plants for resources and favor the development of parasites. Controlling weeds is particularly important in the first few months after plantation when the plants are small and there’s little shade. In commercial plantations where plants are grown on bare soil, sowing a ground cover can reduce the use of herbicides. Weeds compete with productive crops or pasture, ultimately converting productive land into unusable scrub. Weeds can be poisonous, distasteful, produce burrs, thorns or otherwise interfere with the use and management of desirable plants by contaminating harvests.
Intercropping of Agarwood trees with other crops or herbs is done to main soil fertility and reduce soil runoff. Furthermore, the crop becomes a secondary income stream. Some examples of Agarwood intercropped are Banana trees, palm trees, teak wood sweet potato, lemongrass and various other herbs. Never intercrop with any spices such as chilies as it will destroy the aroma of the Oud Oil
Agar oil is processed from the select chips and powders through distillation with the use of both traditional and modern techniques. Though a particular breed of agarwood is selected on the basis of its colour, fragrance and harvest time, fungal infection can be expected only in about 10% of the trees. However, artificial fungal inoculation facility is now available, making all the trees yield Oud Oil. In commercial agarwood cultivation, it has now become possible to yield agarwood even from 5-6-year-old (sometimes even younger) trees by drilling artificial holes in their trunks and infecting them with fungi collected from old agarwood trees. Since it has been established now that this is a profitable operation, many organizations have been doing this by acquiring international patents.
The Process of Fungal Inoculation
About 1-10 cm deep holes are drilled up to the xylem of agarwood trees in specified spots and their trunks are injured. Holes are dug in such a manner that there is enough space for air circulation. Though the size of the holes is immaterial, care should be taken to see that the injury spreads and the holes don’t get covered. Pipes made out of Plastic or Natural material can be inserted into these holes to ensure that they remain open. On an average, about 40 – 90 holes are drilled on one tree trunk, at a distance of 5 cm from one another. Once the spread of injury is ascertained, fungi should be released into the tree trunk, forcing the tree to start resin production. Either the fungi collected from old agarwood trees are collected and released into experimental plants or processed difco yeast, sodium bisulfite, ferric chloride, etc., are introduced in place of natural fungi.
Depending on their breed, agarwood can be obtained from 3 – 80-year-old-trees by the process of fungal inoculation. Trees start yielding agarwood 18 – 21 months after the infection has begun. However, many other factors only play a major role in determining the yield of the plant.
Factors such as the age of the tree or the size of the tree trunk cannot decide the harvest time of commercially grown agarwood. Agarwood trees can be harvested only when the production of the aromatic trunk is complete and the tree starts drying up. Generally, when agarwood is grown as a commercial crop, harvesting has to be done at a specified time for certain trees, making it a constant operation.
On an average, if the commercially grown agarwood trees catch fungal infection when they are 5-6 years old, then there are ready for harvest around their 10th years. Going by this timeframe, returns from agarwood trees can be expected 8-10 years after they are planted.
In rainforest areas, many varieties of fungi and bacteria float about. When agarwood trees are damaged either naturally or artificially, fungus enters the tree. As the fungal infection progresses, the tree produces a dark aromatic resin in response to the attack, which results in a very dense, dark, resin embedded heartwood. Here, fungi only spread primary infection and does not multiply or attack the entire tree. Let’s see how agar develops.
When the agarwood tree is about seven years old, the trunk of the tree is attacked by fungi through naturally formed holes. The fungi that enter the tree trunk thus are of different varieties – Ascomycetes, Deuteromycetes, Aspergillus, Botryodiplodia, Diplodia – and they sometimes move in a zig zag fashion. As these fungi go about injuring the inside of the tree trunk, the tree offers resistance to it and brings the development of fungi to a standstill. Because of these chemical reactions inside the tree trunk, a white, milky substance called oleoresin is produced. Finally, a large quantity of dark brown agarwood is produced on the tree trunk.
About 3-6 years are needed for the production of resin wood from the tree that undergoes primary infection. This production is dependent on a number of factors including the quantity of oleoresin produced, its density, primary fungal infection area, etc.
Once the production of aromatic trunk or agarwood is complete, the tree slowly starts drying up, signaling its readiness to be harvested. In conclusion, it can be said that resin wood or agarwood is the result of the working of oleoresin and tiny living organisms. The resinous or infected part of the tree will be heavier than the other parts of the tree.
The use of innovative technologies has improved the manufacturing of value-added agarwood products at Plantations International. The company follows the multilevel processing system which comprises a primary processing unit, extraction factories and state-of-art facilities. The quality of the essence depends on the quality of wood, the agro-climatic conditions where trees are grown, and the extraction techniques adopted. Plantations International accords utmost importance to proper pre- and post-harvesting techniques. Its farm tech division works closely with farmers to help them understand the quality requirements so that the customers are assured of only quality products.
To find out more about how Plantations International can assist you with the development and management of your own Agarwood Gaharu plantation and to receive a free initial consultation, please call us today on +852 5808 3775 or Click Here to contact your nearest Plantations International representative.