Natural rubber is a material widely used in industry. In particular, it plays an elementary role in the production of tires. But like other natural resources, global production capacity depends heavily on environmental factors. After the experiences made during the COVID epidemic, certain scenarios have to be considered, eg the risk of a worldwide spreading disease.Threat to production capacity from Pseudocercospora ulei (South American leaf blight of rubber- or SALB) Today’s production of natural rubber is concentrated in 99% Africa and Asia, in tropical and subtropical regions. The fungus P. ulei occurs in all original rainforest habitats of species of Hevea (rubber trees). This genus is restricted to the Amazon basin for now – extending northwards to the Guiana Shield, including the Upper Orinoco, and southwards to Mato Grosso – where the fungus coevolved with its hosts. Apart from the record in Haiti, there has been no spread outside South, North and Central America and strict quarantine practices are aimed to exclude it from Asia and Africa.The occurence of SALB in these region can cause enourmous damage to the industry, P. ulei has prevented the large-scale commercial cultivation of rubber in South, North and Central America.Alternatives are only available to a limited extent Even though patented alternatives have been available since 1909, natural rubber is still used on a large scale due to its better dimensional stability and cost efficiency compared to synthetic rubber, and production volumes are increasing every year. In particular, natural rubber cannot be dispensed with in the production of truck and aircraft tires (around 70% of total demand).Although great efforts are being made to prevent its spread, this would hit the tire and consequently the transport industry particularly hard, especially because it can take up to 7 years to re-natural rubber trees.
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