- Estate Life
Trees are tapped for latex which is a milky fluid which is used in formation of natural latex and non-vulcanised rubber such as latex gloves, rubber tyres, memory foam mattresses etc. Rubber tapping is the process by which the latex is collected from a rubber tree. An incision is made in the tree’s bark, which cuts through the latex vessels, from which the product then flows. Watch the video. https://vimeo.com/164742481
Latex functions to protect the plant from herbivores. latex contains toxins which protect the plant. The clotting property of latex is functional in this defence since it limits wastage and its stickiness traps insects and their mouthparts. When we tap the tree after a few hours the latex production stops. Many precautions are taken to protect the trees. We only tap half of tree, don’t start until the tree is big and strong enough (at least 18 inches in circumference), don’t tap every day to give the tree time to recover and never tap when there has been rain overnight because the trees are susceptible to fungus damage.
Each day a rubber tapper must remove a thin layer of bark along the spiral which allows the latex to run down to a collecting cup. They work in the early morning before the day’s temperature rises. The tapper then returns around lunch time to collect the latex and empties the bucket into our tank prior to being transported to the local factory. The estate used to produce its own rubber by putting the latex in acid baths, putting it through the rubber presses and finally curing the rubber in the smoke house. When the rubber price recovers and our production is increased, we may resume doing this in house. In the mean time the smoke house and rubber presses can be seen during an estate walk.