Rubber farming is the process of cultivating a rubber plantation from the planting of the rubber trees to the nurturing of the trees, and finally harvesting the rubber latex.
HOW TO START RUBBER FARMING
- It starts with acquiring a land,
- clearing/preparing the land for planting.
- Purchasing of seedlings and fertilizer.
- Cultivating the seedlings and observing proper agricultural maintenance.
- Finally, harvesting your produce and smiling to the bank.
Higher equipment for mechanization. Clear the land by falling trees, shrubs and cut grasses. Dig a hole of 10m by 10m, mix manure and top soil together with water. Apply 10-12kg of the organic matter in the dug hole. Temperature is 20°C-30°C and the soil should be deep well-drained acidic soil with a P.H of 4.5-5.5. Sandy loam or clayey loam soil is good for rubber farming.
Propagation can be done through budding and seed planting. Budded plants reach tapping age very quickly. In this age of technology we are patiently waiting for Rubber Institutes to come up with hybrid seedlings that can mature within 3 years.
Rubber seeds viability are very short about 2 months (8 weeks) and the ripe between July September at such you have to plant them immediately. But I will advice that you buy the seedlings from Rubber Institutes or licensed Companies dealing on nursery and seedlings. A seedling cost between #200-#250.
In case you want to plant them by yourself then raise bed and plant the seeds in a single layer. Mulch it or you provide a partial shade for them in the nursery to stop the effect of direct sun on seedlings then water regularly. The seeds will germinate between 6-10 days.
Transplant the seedlings into the main field between June-July in a triangular or square position. The spacing for budded seedling is 4.9m×4.9m. A hectare will take between 200-250 seedlings.
In rubber farming it is very important for you to plant cover crop especially in the first three years. This will serve for mulching and organic matter and will help in:
- Maintaining soil temperature
- Conserve soil moisture
- Prevent erosion
Inter-cropping will help in reducing the amount of money used in maintaining the plantation. If well planned it will provide money that will be used in funding the rubber farm.
The cover crop can include; ginger, turmeric, legumes such as groundnut, beans, Centrosema pubescent. Other crops are; pineapple, banana, tubers and vegetables.
Manual weeding is encouraged because of the cover crop planted. You can pay labourers to do the weeding for you. In case you still want to use herbicides then you have to be extra careful with the cover crops. Put Ferno force 25kg in 450 litres of water and spray them in the plantation very early in the morning. Weeding can be done 2-3 times a year.
Apply manure in every developmental stage. 6-8 weeks after planting and 6-8 weeks after the first application before mulching. Use NPK 10:10:4 and 1.5 magnesium 2-3 months after planting the second time 8-9 months . During budding dress the bed with basal. Use NPK 12:6:6 during tapping.
Rubber trees can be affected by several pests and diseases. Common pests are; mealy bug (use insecticide call atara to attack them). Skil insects attack the back of leaves. Others are scale insects, powdery mildew etc. Use appropriate insecticide/pesticide to attack them.
Common diseases are; abnormal leaf fall; this is pre-mature shedding of leaves. It can result in the stoppage of production.
VARIETIES OF RUBBER
- Cera rubber (manihot gloziovii)
- India rubber (Ficus elastical)
- Panama rubber (Castiolla elastica)
- Guayul (Parthenuim argenatum)
- Hevea brasillensis this specie is best for commercial natural rubber farming.
- Para rubber
Rubber tree matures within 6-7 years but there are some you can start tapping from within 5 years. They shade leaves around December-January and immediately put up new leaves and starts flowering. At this point you have to give the trees rest because tapping the plant at this time will result in poor yield.
Tapping is done very early in the morning between 5am-6am. They flow faster at this time due to weather. The economic life of rubber is 35-40 years before diminishing return sets in. The latex you will be harvesting at this age will reduce and you will spend more in maintaining them than gaining. What you should do is to replace trees or treat them for furniture just like it is done in western countries. You can rehabilitate them to prevent the trees from declining in their yield.
Rubber yields about 375kg /ha in a year for planted seedlings and 900-1000kg for budded tree. A hectare can produce 50kg of latex every month.
Rubber is harvested every 3 days for 6 months at a stretch then you allow it to rest for 2-3 months before you resume tapping. Use a knife or sharp instruments to cut the tree. Some people cut many places because it takes days before you can get half litre of latex. The container used for tapping should be painted black to avoid loss of heat and water evaporating from the latex. Use surfactants (Ammonia) during tapping to prevent coagulation.
People are always ready to buy because there is profit. Also, rubber farmers are not many that’s why buyers outweighs supply.
A kilogram of latex is #150,000 while a kilogram of processed rubber now goes for #650,000.
CHALLENGES OF RUBBER FARMING
The major challenges faced in rubber farming is capital and technical know how. Negotiate with people who have done it before starting so that you can be properly guided. An experience, they say is the best teacher, you don’t have to get your hands burnt.
The government can assist farmers in long-term interest loan for farmers to plant economic trees such as rubber, cocoa, oil palm trees etc. Also, Government Private Partnership will go a long way to assist in rubber farming.
Rubber is very smelly especially when gathering the solidified bits from the small tapping containers. Most persons won’t want to associate with it. But remember this is where the money lays.