Natural rubber is currently technically unavoidable for some purposes, despite the competition from synthetic rubber. Most notably, it accounts for 75% of the rubber used in the tyre industry. However, although Hevea brasiliensis originated in the Amazon Basin, rubber growing has only really developed in Asia and Africa. In Latin America, “South American leaf disease”, caused by the fungus Microcyclus ulei, has until now totally prevented the development of rubber growing, or at least almost totally: rubber trees have become resistant to the fungus in some areas of Amazonia. However, to date, there have never been any varieties that combine parasite resistance and productivity. This could be disastrous for rubber growing worldwide were the fungus to be introduced accidentally into Asia or Africa.
Resistant and high-yielding rubber plants in quarantine at CIRAD
The threat is on the verge of being overcome. In late December 2005, plants of thirteen high-yielding rubber varieties resistant to Microcyclus were shipped to CIRAD from Michelin’s Itubera estate in Brazil. They are now in quarantine in a confinement zone, where they will remain for two years and undergo a range of tests to ensure that they do not carry any spores of the parasite.
Jérôme Sainte-Beuve | alfa
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