Tung trees making their way back to Jackson County

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Jackson County used to be full of a tree that produced tung oil.

But, some abnormally cold weather practically knocked the species out of the area.

Now a new variety of the tree has been produced. One that can withstand the colder weather.

“This area back in the twenties and thirties had tens of thousands of acres of tung trees,” said Greg Frost, Gulf Coast Tung Oil owner. “It was a very large industry all along the gulf coast pretty much from Mississippi to Gainesville.”

Frost along with the University of Florida, and the Florida Department of Agriculture hope to bring the crop back to the area.

With the damage to pines and other crops from hurricane Michael, experts say the timing couldn’t be better.

“Since the hurricane we’re looking for alternates,” said Pat Minogue, Associate Professor of Silviculture. “Crops that grow quickly, that are high value and tung is one of those.”

The tung tree is ready to be harvested in roughly four to five years, where as a pine tree could take up to 20.

“A lot of folks are trying to figure out, what do I do with my farm, how do I go from here, how do I optimize the income that I can have from my farm, and tung oil offers that,” said Frost.

The tree produces a nut. From that nut, seeds are pressed into what is known as tung oil.

“Tung oil has been used literally for thousands of years as a wood finish and that’s one of the primary uses still today,” Frost said.

Frost said the oil is also used in various manufacturing products, batteries and more. Which is why they feel the demand for the oil could increase.

“Overall we’re trying to support this as a new business opportunity for the cities in the county,” Minogue said.

Gulf Coast Tung Oil and the University of Florida hope to recruit growers in Jackson County because much of the soil in the area is perfect for the crop.

“A soil that has a sandy surface and a clay layer below that, that would have a good moisutre holding capacity and nutrient holding capacity,” Minogue said.

If you’re interested in getting on board with the tung oil industry, visit www.gulfcoasttungoil.com or call (850)524-2852.

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