Bark necrosis (BN), described and first studied in Côte d'Ivoire in the 1980s (2), affects most modern rubber plantations (i.e., grafted trees with high-yielding clones, intensive exploitation due to tapping frequency, and use of Ethrel as a yield stimulant) worldwide with a wide range of severity across sites. While previous (3) and recent (4) etiological analyses remain inconclusive, environmental factors were shown associated with BN. Numerous epidemiological surveys conducted in various African and Asian plantations on recently tapped blocks (less than 10-year-old trees) revealed the nonrandom location of the earliest single diseased trees. These risky areas are mainly characterized by the proximity of a swamp, plantation road, windrow, old bulldozer track, residual forest stump, or slope break. In BN emergence areas, while no significant correlation was found with chemical soil parameters, physical soil analyses (e.g., penetrometer) revealed higher soil compaction often associated with poorer rhizogenesis in BN trees (comparative root counts made in pits close to healthy or BN trees). Furthermore, initial BN symptoms were preferentially observed near the grafted bud at the rootstock/scion junction (RS/S). Numerous comparative ecophysiological measurements of leaf water potential, stem water potential, and predawn base potential using a plant moisture stress (PMS) pressure chamber indicated water stress in BN trees. These results and preliminary dye transfer studies at the RS/S junction suggested a nonoptimal vascular relation between the root system and the trunk of BN trees. In conclusion, compaction-associated reduced water availability of the soil and poor root capacity to meet the water demand during drier dry seasons combined with disturbed sap flows and recurrent local water drainage (latex flows) are now suspected to jointly act as the main exogenous causal stresses that induce the BN process at the RS/S bud zone before spreading upward to the tapping cut. This multidisciplinary approach gives a new comprehensive scenario for the emergence of this multifactorial physiological disease, now suspected to involve cyanide release (1) into the inner phloem of the rubber tree.
References: (1) H. Chrestin. Plant Dis. 88:1047, 2004. (2) D. Nandris et al. Eur. J. For. Pathol. 21:325, 1991. (3) D. Nandris et al. Eur. J. For Pathol. 21:340, 1991. (4) F. Pellegrin et al. Plant Dis. 88:1046, 2004.