January 31, 2012

New Higher Yielding Rubber Tree Varieties Released in Brazil

Researchers in Brazil have released several new varieties of rubber trees that start producing latex in five years after planting instead of the normal 7 years. The new varieties not only reduce the time for the first harvest by 30%, they also go on to yield significantly more Vlatex than currently planted varieties. The possibility of early latex production helps growers to recuperate their investment in a shorter period of time reducing financing costs and improving profits.

These new varieties are the result of research conducted at the Agronomic Institute of Campinas in So Paulo (IAC). The institute is one of the oldest of its kind in Brazil and it recently celebrated 125 years of conducting agricultural research in Brazil.

The most widely planted varieties of rubber tree in Sao Paulo is RRM 600, which was imported from Asia and has an average annual latex production of 1,250 kg/ha. The most productive new variety being released, IAC 500, averages 1,731 kilograms of latex per hectare or 38% more.

The state of Sao Paulo already has the highest yielding rubber tree plantations in the world averaging 1,200 kg/ha of latex. In Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia they average 1,100, 1,000, and 900 kg/ha of latex respectively. The new variety IAC 500 yields 52% more than the average yield in Malaysia.

A rubber tree plantation is economically viable for 35 to 40 years after which it is better to cut down the old trees for lumber and then plant new higher yielding varieties.

Sao Paulo is the largest rubber producing state in Brazil producing 70,000 tons of dry rubber per year. There are approximately 3,000 rubber producers in the state of Sao Paulo and they cultivate 90,000 hectares of rubber trees. More than 15,000 jobs in the state are related to rubber production and processing and there are more than 50,000 products that contain rubber produced in the state. Over 90% of the rubber production in the state is in the Planalto region where there are less diseases affecting the trees. The gross revenues in the state average approximately R$ 7,000 per hectare.

Rubber tree research is a very long term project and it goes through three phases: evaluation, controlled breeding, and selection. The entire process can take up to 30 years to complete so the releasing of new varieties is not a common occurrence.