Role of Rubber-based Intercropping in Ensuring Sustainable Natural Rubber Production of Smallholders


  • Zar Ni Zaw 1Faculty of Natural Resources, Prince of Songkla University, Songkhla, 90110


Hevea brasiliensis, Rubber-based intercropping, Smallholder, Sustainable natural rubber


Hevea brasiliensis has been traditionally grown as a monocrop in tropical equatorial climate regions to supply the global demand for natural rubber. The tremendous expansion of monocrop rubber plantations in mainland Southeast Asian countries in the 2000s has resulted in significant adverse environmental impacts, such as deforestation, soil erosion, local climate change, greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions, and loss of natural resources. With the large involvement of smallholders, social-economic issues associated with the weakening of rubber prices, consequently low income, narrowing of income sources, raising the cost of production, and the shortage of workers have been generated as significant concerns to the sustainability of the natural rubber industry. As the nature of conventional rubber planting systems, large inter-row spaces between rubber trees are technically viable for rubber-based intercropping and agroforestry systems, contributing to ecological and economic sustainability. In general, intercrops in rubber farms could be categorized into three groups: initial intercrops, permanent intercrops, and cover crops. Intercrops improve the growth and height of the young rubber plants and result in higher tappability per hectare of rubber, ensuring that a higher yield could be harvested. Rubber intercropping significantly enhances soil moisture, root density and distribution, and soil microbial activities. High carbon content in the soil, rich mulch litters, and lower soil erosion in rubber intercropping reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rubber-based intercropping benefits the farmers mainly with respect to their incomes and resilience. Despite this, they have faced some constraints in adopting rubber-based intercropping systems and achieving the sustainability benefits of the systems. Thus, interventions with promoting intercropping schemes in supporting initial investments, transferring technologies, providing high-yield cultivars and other inputs, and creating potential markets for intercrops are suggested. Promoting the development of smallholders’ rubber production through adopting rubber-based intercropping ensures agroecosystem, economic, and social improvements in the smallholder sector and could revitalize the sustainability of the natural rubber industry.


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How to Cite

Zaw, Z. N. (2023). Role of Rubber-based Intercropping in Ensuring Sustainable Natural Rubber Production of Smallholders. Songklanakarin Journal of Plant Science, 10(2), 61–71. Retrieved from



Special issue 1: Sustainable rubber plantation management