Chapter 11Rubber, Palm Oil, and Biofuels

If you're using first-class land for biofuels, then you're competing with the growing of food. And so you're actually spiking food prices by moving energy production into agriculture.’

Bill Gates

11.1 Rubber

Hevea brasiliensis, better known as rubber tree, is the primary source of natural rubber. As indicated by the name, it is native to Brazil (parts of the Amazon Basin and Matto Grosso), but most of the world's rubber today comes from Asia.

Although rubber is still tapped from wild trees in the Amazon Basin, production in South American plantations is once and a while hampered by a fungal disease.

Hevea brasiliensis is the only species planted commercially and is the primary source of natural rubber. The milky latex, produced by a specialized secretory system in the phloem, is the raw material for natural rubber and can be sustainably tapped without harming the tree.

Rubber is water resistant, does not conduct electricity, is durable, and, most importantly, is highly elastic. Natural rubber is used today in play balls, latex gloves, and many other industrial applications. It is more suitable than synthetic rubber for the tires of aircraft and space shuttles.

  • Rubber is one of the most important products to come out of the rain forest. Like maize, rubber owes its existence to South America where it was used to make play balls, shoes, and waterproof clothes. It was brought back to Europe when the American continent was discovered.

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