Sustainability of rubber tree

IN THE country, rubber has become a vital agricultural commodity, which can be used for healthcare, construction, and manufacturing products, among many others.

There are, however, problems confronting the country’s rubber industry, like the lack of quality planting materials, poor tapping practices, and low annual productivity.

But the growing interest for rubber and rubber-based products can lead to unsustainable practices, such as “over tapping” or overharvesting of latex.

In order to ensure the sustainability of rubber tree, the local rubber farmers and technicians should be trained regarding the proper production, harvest, processing, and marketing rubber latex.

To address the concern, the Forestry and Environment Research Division (FERD) of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) recently conducted a training-workshop titled, “Rubber Production and Latex Harvesting for Improved Philippine Rubber.”

A total of 21 participants coming from various agencies and rubber farm owners of the different regions in the country attended the training-workshop.

Dr. Maria Cielito Siladan of the DOST- Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI) served as the overall facilitator of the training-workshop, while Professor Angelito Aballe, a TESDA accredited expert from Zamboanga Sibugay, served as the lead trainer.

The five-day training was designed to enhance the skills of the participants through classroom lecture/discussion, hands-on demonstration and practice, and skills assessment to simulate an actual assessment for Rubber Production NC II accreditation.

Various topics ranging from establishment of rubber seedlings nursery to proper latex harvesting techniques were discussed to provide the participants with knowledge and skills in rubber production.

A participant and rubber farm owner from Oriental Mindoro says the training-workshop was very helpful to them because they obtained new knowledge on how to perform budding operation.

Participants from the academe also appreciated the training course, especially on proper tapping techniques on rubber trees.

Falling under the DOST-PCAARRD’s capability building and research and development (R&D) governance banner program, the training-workshop was conducted to equip participants with knowledge on the essentials of rubber production and latex harvesting.

As a backgrounder, the natural rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) is a native of South America and introduced to Southeast Asia during the 19th century.

Rubber trees can grow to a height of 18 to 39 meters and can grow best in warm and moist climate ranging from 70-95 Fahrenheit or 21-35 Centigrade with an annual rainfall of 80-120 inches (2,000-3,000 mm).

Young rubber plants are raised in nurseries for about 6 to 8 months and budded with bud scion from identified source before transplanting in using population of 400 to 555 trees per hectare.

In about five to seven years, the trees will have stems of 18-20 inches (45-50cm) circumference and are ready for tapping or harvesting.

It was learned that tapping can continue up to 40 years or beyond – depending on the techniques of management.

Besides generating employment opportunities in the rural areas, rubber trees can enhance environmental rehabilitation, being a good plant species in sequestration of carbon dioxide. ([email protected]/PN)

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