the success of an agricultural by
W. Killmann and L.T. Hong
is Director of the ForestProducts Division, FAO Forestry Department.
Hong Lay Thong
is Director of theTechno-Economics Division,Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM),Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The inexpensive wood from plantation rubber trees, felled when they no longer yield adequate latex, is finding a market in high-value end products traditionally associated with more valuable hardwoods such asteak.
The wood from rubber tree stems (
Muell. Arg.) has become the raw material for a widevariety of end products of varying quality, substituting timber from the natural forests.Rubberwood becomes available from agricultural plantations when replanting is carried out after 25 to 30years because of declining latex yield.Although rubberwood (sometimes called hevea wood) is a relatively inexpensive and mass-produced timber,it is now being used and marketed in many applications in which higher-value, less available hardwoodssuch as teak (
) have traditionally been used. These include furniture, flooring, wood panelsand indoor building components. It is not durable enough, however, for use in some situations requiring thedurability of teak, such as boat building, bulwarks, construction and transmission line poles.The availability of rubberwood in large quantities is partly a result of the trees' undemanding siterequirements, but mainly of the fact that rubberwood is only a by-product of a crop grown for latexproduction. An additional, vital factor for the availability of rubberwood is, at least in Malaysia, stronggovernmental support and incentives to ensure the continuing supply of latex through replanting of rubberplantations.Most of the technical problems in processing and utilization of rubberwood have been overcome by theSoutheast Asian countries over the past 20 years and the timber has been successfully marketedinternationally. Rubberwood has thus become a Southeast Asian success story. It is even more importantthan teak as a plantation timber in Southeast Asia.This article presents general information on rubberwood, its properties, processing, markets and products.