India hopes to increase its rubber production through joint cultivation of tea and rubber, while being eco-friendly.
The joint cultivation will take place in West Bengal. But if the experiment is successful, the inter-cropping will be expanded into other parts of the country, says K.G. Mohanan, who is the additional production commissioner.
“If we get a positive result from the Nagrakata joint cultivation of rubber and tea at Nagrakata village in Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal, the rubber board is planning to assist inter-cropping of rubber in tea gardens of northeast India,” says Mohanan, an expert in natural rubber cultivation.
“Natural rubber and tea will grow side by side and that will help the gardens retain their economic viability,” he says. He dismissed the idea that it would be environmentally harmful for rubber to be grown alongside other crops, reports the NY Daily News.
In its natural form, rubber is a sap. Farmers drain it from a rubber tree, much like other farmers make syrup from the sap of maple trees. Mohanan argues that this method is very sustainable. One tree can supply rubber sap for 40 years without harming the tree’s growth, reports World Tea News.
“If natural rubber cultivation is harmful to the environment, why have China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia and many other countries been expanding rubber cultivation in their countries?,” he asks.
India currently ranks fourth in the world in rubber production, making 862,400 tons of rubber annually. If the cultivation goes according to plan, the country could produce 1,583,000 tons of rubber annually by 2024-25, Indian experts predict.
The experiment in India comes at a time when many companies and researchers are trying to find more environmentally friendly alternatives sources of rubber. PanAridus, for example, is building farms to grow guayule, an alternative source of rubber. Bridgestone also is experimenting with dandelions as a source of rubber. And Goodyear is determining whether soybean-based compounds could be used to extend the life of rubber tires.
Source: “Rubber grown with tea? It’s being tried in West Bengal,” NY Daily News, 9/19/12
Source: “India Experiments Growing Rubber Trees in Tea Gardens,” World Tea News, 9/25/12
Image by Fishdecoy.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.