RUBBER TREE (Hevea braziliensis) Rubber is the only popular latex crop which produces white sticky liquid used in plastic industries.
Rubber products can be found in every home around the world. Rubber products like motor tires, rubber cups at homes, and rubber materials can also serve as insulators in electrical wiring not just plastics.
Rubber belongs to the plant family Euphorbiaceae.
Land preparation for the cultivation of Rubber
Before a Rubber tree is planted, the land is cleared, stumping is done and the land may be levelled or it can also be done by ploughing and harrowing. Rubber tree planting does not require ridging unless where nursery system is used.
The rubber tree, also known as Hevea brasiliensis, is a tropical tree species native to the Amazon rainforest in South America. It is primarily cultivated for the latex it produces, which is the primary source of natural rubber.
Here are some key points about rubber trees:
Appearance: Rubber trees are medium-sized evergreen trees that can reach heights of 20 to 30 meters (65 to 100 feet) in their natural habitat. They have a straight trunk and dense foliage with large, glossy, oval-shaped leaves.
Latex Production: The milky latex sap found in the rubber tree contains a high concentration of rubber particles.
This latex is obtained by making incisions in the tree\’s bark, allowing the sap to flow out and be collected in cups or containers. The latex is then processed to extract the rubber for commercial use.
Rubber Production: The latex collected from rubber trees undergoes a series of processes to convert it into usable rubber. These processes include coagulation, rolling, drying, and smoking.
The resulting material is then formed into various products such as sheets, blocks, or liquid latex, which can be used for manufacturing rubber-based products.
Commercial Importance: Rubber is a vital commodity used in numerous industries, including automotive, tire manufacturing, footwear, industrial products, and medical devices.
The rubber tree is the primary source of natural rubber globally, and countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India are major producers.
Cultivation: Rubber trees require a hot, humid climate to thrive. They are typically grown in plantations, where the trees are spaced out to allow for efficient tapping of latex.
The trees can be propagated through seeds or through a process called budding, where a bud is grafted onto a rootstock. It takes about 6 to 7 years for a rubber tree to mature and become productive.
Environmental Impact: Rubber tree plantations have both positive and negative environmental impacts. On the positive side, rubber trees can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate climate change.
However, large-scale deforestation for rubber plantations can result in habitat loss and biodiversity depletion.
Varieties/Cultivars of Rubber tree
PB86, Dough garden, BD5, Harbel 1, PB5/5 1.
Climatic and Soil Requirements for Rubber CultivationRubber tree requires a temperature of 24°C to 29°C, rainfall of 180cm – 300cm per annum, bright sunshine and a deep loamy soil which is rich in humus and slightly acidic.
Rubber trees strive better In rainforest zones of the world. When tapping rubber in other to extract its latex, it should not be done under rainy conditions.
Method of propagation of Rubber tree
When planting a Rubber tree, seeds and budded seedlings (vegetative propagation) should be used.
Let me be frank here, the best method to plant or propagate a Rubber tree is by using Rubber seeds.
The methods of rubber budding, and rubber cutting is not always successful
Planting dates for Rubber tree
Pre-nursery: August – October: Nursery: nine months later when propagating Rubber trees.
Budding: February – April.
Cultural Practices for rubber planting
(1) Weeding: weeding of Rubber farms should be done regularly.
(ii) Mulching of Rubber crop: This should also be done, especially at the early stage of transplanting.
(iii) Pruning of rubber plant: This ensures better aeration and good cultural operations within the farm.
(iv) Planting of cover crops: This prevents erosion, evaporation and adds nutrients to the soil. Yeah the planting of the cover helps to prevent erosion in a rubber plantation
The maturity period for rubber tapping
It takes three to six years after planting the rubber tree to start tapping it.
Harvesting of Rubber Tree: The process of harvesting rubber i.e. collection of the latex is called tapping. A diagonal cut is made 60cm above the ground on the bark of the rubber tree with a tapping knife.
The rubber latex is collected with a cup below. Tapping of rubber is done early in the morning between seven to a.m. and every two to three days or can be done four times a week.
The rubber latex from all the cups is collected together from all the rubber trees in the evening.
Tools and materials required for tapping rubber
They are tapping knives, spouts, collecting cups, cup hangers, collecting buckets, churns, collecting tanks, and anti-coagulants, e.g., sodium Sulphate or ammonia.
Processing of Rubber latex
The Rubber tree latex is collected in a processing tank. A little water is added to dilute it. Formic or acetic acid is added to affect the coagulation of the latex.
Then the coagulated latex is cut into pieces; washed and put into a rolling machine to get thin rubber sheets. The rubber sheets are then washed and treated with paranitrophenol solution to prevent mould.
Growth. The rubber sheets are dried in a smokehouse for further drying so the ribbed smoke sheet (R.S.S) rubber is produced. Talcum powder is applied t prevent the rubber sheets from sticking together and for proper storage.
The rubber sheets produced are. either purchased and sent to the port for export, or to the factories (e.g. tyre, plastic industries) where further processing into foams, shoes, pillows, buckets, mattresses, spoons, carpets, cups, plates, etc. are carried out.
Pests of Rubber and control method
- Mealy bugs: these insects are vectors of diseases.
Control: spray with insecticides
Diseases of rubber and control method
(1) tapping panel disease:
(2) It is caused by a fungus. It attacks the tapping panel, especially during humid weather conditions.
Control: Disinfect the tapping knife
- White and red rot diseases:
They are caused by fungi. Affected trees produce yellow leaves which rapidly drop and the whole plant may die.
Control: (i) weed regularly (ii) diseased trees should be felled and destroyed (iii) Spray the trees with copper fungicides