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Responses of rubber leaf phenology to climatic variations in Southwest China


The phenology of rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis) could be influenced by meteorological factors and exhibits significant changes under different geoclimates. In the sub-optimal environment in Xishuangbanna, rubber trees undergo lengthy periods of defoliation and refoliation. The timing of refoliation from budburst to leaf aging could be affected by powdery mildew disease (Oidium heveae), which negatively impacts seed and latex production. Rubber trees are most susceptible to powdery mildew disease at the copper and leaf changing stages. Understanding and predicting leaf phenology of rubber trees are helpful to develop effective means of controlling the disease. This research investigated the effect of several meteorological factors on different leaf phenological stages in a sub-optimal environment for rubber cultivation in Jinghong, Yunnan in Southwest China. Partial least square regression was used to quantify the relationship between meteorological factors and recorded rubber phenologies from 2003 to 2011. Minimum temperature in December was found to be the critical factor for the leaf phenology development of rubber trees. Comparing the delayed effects of minimum temperature, the maximum temperature, diurnal temperature range, and sunshine hours were found to advancing leaf phenologies. A comparatively lower minimum temperature in December would facilitate the advancing of leaf phenologies of rubber trees. Higher levels of precipitation in February delayed the light green and the entire process of leaf aging. Delayed leaf phenology was found to be related to severe rubber powdery mildew disease. These results were used to build predictive models that could be applied to early warning systems of rubber powdery mildew disease.

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This work was additionally supported by a scholarship grant by Kunming Institute of Botany to Deli Zhai. The authors would like to thank Li Guoyao, Wang Quanbao, and Li Yuying in Jinghong Farm for providing rubber data for analysis.


This work was funded by the Frontier Key Science Project of Chinese Academy of Sciences (QYZDY-SSW-SMC014), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant 31300403), and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Grant 2013M540722).

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Correspondence to Jianchu Xu.

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Zhai, DL., Yu, H., Chen, SC. et al. Responses of rubber leaf phenology to climatic variations in Southwest China. Int J Biometeorol 63, 607–616 (2019).

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  • Climate change
  • Oidium heveae
  • Phenology
  • Powdery mildew
  • Xishuangbanna