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 Tripura, New Land of Indian Latex?

September 26, 2007 - AGARTALA: Natural rubber is stretching far and wide in India. After dominating the Kerala landscape, now it is spreading roots in Tripura.

According to Rubber Board officials, Tripura is well poised to emerge as the next natural rubber capital of India after Kerala.

Anticipating this, the Rubber Board has of late stepped up its activities in a big way in Tripura, which is well suited for rubber cultivation. The Rubber Board has identified 1 lakh hectares as potential area under rubber in the state, of which roughly 31 per cent has already come under cultivation.

It is increasingly being felt that only by increasing rubber production in Tripura and Assam, can the country’s growing natural rubber demand be met without resorting to imports.

A major project with Central Government funding in Tripura is a Rs 7-crore Rubber Park at Bodjungnagar industrial estate.

According to Rubber Board officials, even though severe winter can inhibit the growth of some rubber clones, some areas in Tripura were highly suitable for rubber. The board has a large pilot farm at Taranagar area of Tripura.

The Regional Research Station (RRS) of the Rubber Board was set up in 1979 with the mandate to develop high yielding rubber clones, suitable to the state’s agro-climatic conditions, through classical blending and selection, mother tree selection and clone evaluation.

One of the key responsibilities of the RRS was to determine the ability of natural rubber to restore the degraded eco-systems, especially the ‘jhummed’ lands in Tripura.

It was also mandated to develop location-specific farming technology for producing quality planting materials, crop husbandry including soil and nutrient management practices, disease protection protocols, rubber-based integrated sustainable farming, harvesting techniques and primary processing of latex into marketable forms of rubber.

Wherever applicable, findings from the RRII headquarters in Kottayam have been suitably modified to suit Tripura’s conditions, and the best clones into the two following categories. Category 1: RRIM 600 and Category 11: PB 235; RRII 208; RRII 203; RRII 105; and GT 1.

Most areas in Tripura are planted with RRIM 600 variety, which outperforms RRII's flagship clone (RRII 105), said to be the highest yielder in the traditional region.

Performance of the latest clones (RRII 414 and 430) in Tripura is being evaluated. According to him, the latex yields do drop in summer, but are generally excellent during early winter (December-February).