Experiment Report - May 2024

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Rubber and Bamboo Kanthavara Experiment
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Experiment - Rubber plantation with Bamboo intercrop

Location

Kanthavara Forest Basecamp, Kanthavara, KA

Why this experiment?

Due to falling rubber prices and rising input costs our rubber plantation was becoming unviable. We received suggestion ranging from application of more chemicals to outright cutting down rubber and replacing with other crop. We studied all suggestions but we decided NOT to cut down the rubber trees but to find ways to reduce input costs. Using ZBNF (Zero Budget Natural Farming) and Permaculture techniques and intercropping with Bamboo we have eliminated almost all input costs, drastically improving profitability. The only cost now is the tapper.

Site conditions

  • Experiment Period Jan 2023 till date
  • Rubber - 4,500 trees, 15-20 years old, planted 9’ x 15’ apart, not sure of clone type as previous owner had not kept records, all procured from local Rubber board sources
  • Bamboo - planted 15ft apart in troughs, predominantly 3 varieties i.e. Dendrocalmus strictus, Bambusa bambos, Dendrocalmus stocksii, oldest bamboo is 2 years. Source Dapoli university (Stocksii), Forest Dept (Strictus), Bambusa bambos from seeds
  • Tapping - We follow Tap + 2 days rest. No tapping during monsoon. 
  • Chemicals - Nil. Ethephone or other enhancement chemicals were not used
  • Irrigation - 100% Rainfed (No drip, no sprinkler etc)
  • Fertiliser - Nil. Zero synthetic and organic fertiliser applied. Native species of plants growing (alongside the Bamboo) in the troughs has been encouraged to accumulate leaf and branch litter in the troughs, which has now turned into in-situ fertiliser.
  • Fungicides - Nil. Fungicide spraying was recommended in 2023 pre monsoon. However due to various reasons it was not carried out. Simultaneously a row of tall bamboo was planted to act as a bio barrier between the rubber zones to prevent fungus moving across easily
  • Annual rainfall - 3000mm and above, SW monsoon June-Oct
  • Soil - Laterite interspersed with black granite rocky outcrops

Profit and Loss estimate

Root competition

Pic: L-Rubber root, R-Bamboo root

 

The Rubber tree appears to have a well defined tap root that reaches 2-3m, 6-9ft (or more!) under the ground. Bamboo on the other hand has a radiating fibrous root that never goes more than 1-2ft under the ground. Due to this significant morphological difference between rubber and bamboo roots, they do not appear to be in competition. On the contrary thanks to the bamboo roots the soil in the troughs has been softened and allows more water to percolate into the soil substratum, as can be seen from the reducing run off from slopes. The run off is also observed to be clear unlike the reddish brown color prior to the bamboo.

 

We are more worried about competition for sunlight. Right now the rubber trees have the upper hand as their canopy is 30-40ft above the ground, while the bamboo is just 3-12ft above ground and completely in the shade. However we expect Bambusa bambos to penetrate the rubber canopy from below by its 5-6th year and access sunlight directly. We do not expect any significant reduction of sunlight available to Rubber trees on account of bamboo since we can always harvest the bamboo and thin the clump as desired

Conclusion

  • As seen from data latex production remains steady 41gm/tree/tap and above average 35gm/tree/tap
  • Profit from Rubber is enhanced by elimination of input costs
  • Run off after heavy rains has reduced dramatically
  • Run off is clear (not muddy)
  • Water levels in open well has increased
  • Ground temperature has reduced
  • Bamboo biomass in the troughs has jumped and serves as in-situ (free!) fertiliser
  • Insects numbers have increased, attracting birds and providing us with free Koli gobara (Guano, bird dropping)
  • Bamboo biomass is an additional bonus

Bamboo is an added bonus

Pic: Karnataka Forest Dept, Kadalakere nursery, Bamboo specialist Mr. Manjunath 9483103010 with our team

  • Bamboo planting material - 6 Rs/sapling
  • Irrigation - 100% Rainfed (No drip, no sprinkler etc)
  • Fertiliser - Nil
  • Pesticides, Fungicides etc - Nil
  • KAPY scheme - Receive 20,625 Rs/acre for planting Bamboo on your rubber estate
  • For technical support contact Bamboo Society of India Mr. Sridhar 9448105097 and Mr. Murthy 9449851750

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