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Silvio Moure Cícero Julio Marcos-Filho USP/ESALQ/Brazil

Importance of the Crop

(2) Rubber tree is an important crop native to the Amazon region (7oN a 15oS) comprising areas from Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador and Surinam (formerly Dutch Guyana). Currently, it is cultivated in many regions, e.g. from 24oN in China to 25oS in Sao Paulo state, Brazil. The crop’s primary product is high quality latex with a high rubber content widely used in the tire and other essential products industries.

Thailand (35%), Indonesia (23%), Malaysia (12%), India (9%), and China (7%) are the world’s largest natural rubber producers. The main world importers are China (18% of total), United States (13%) and Japan (10%).

(3) Brazil is currently the ninth world producer with an estimate of 115,000 hectares in 2003 (1.5% of world total). Despite several challenges, the rubber tree crop is economically important in Brazil which still imports 60% of the total country consumption.

One of the primary advantages of this crop is its perennial plant growth habit that allows continuing economic exploitation for many year. In addition, this species exhibits excellent performance as a component of production systems in combination with annual and perennial species such as maize, field bean, rice, coffee, cocoa, pineapple, oil palm and others. (4) The “partner” crop such as coffee can use these cultural practice benefits for longer periods because the rubber crop possesses a longer life cycle.

(5) Rubber tree is a perennial dicot in the Euphorbiaceae family and the genus Hevea that includes 11 species. But, Hevea brasiliensis, a native from Brazil, possesses the highest yield potential and genetic variability.

The most important approach to improving productivity was due to research programs from Asian countries that emphasized improvements in rubber tree propagation. The development of grafting techniques led to efficient plant selection procedures for more productive clones used in seedling formation compared to previous direct sowing techniques.

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