In Ceylon crown land is sold outright by auction, and is subject to a reserve price. Temple lands in the Kandyan country can be leased for a period of fifty years. A large proportion of the land suitable for rubber cultivation has now been disposed of in this way, or is already in private hands. In most other rubber-producing countries the land is held on lease from the government, and the latter often retains the right to resume possession if the lessee fails to open up the land at a certain rate, or otherwise to conform to certain regulations laid down.
The heavier the forest the greater will be the expense for clearing, but in the same proportion the growth of the rubber may be expected to be better. The trees on the land seldom pay for working, and much fine timber is thus wasted, only so much being saved as is required for buildings on the estate. Clearing is often carried out on contract. In some cases only the undergrowth is cleared and burnt, the larger trees being ringed and left to die. At the present day this practice is seldom adopted. Not only is it much better to fell and burn everything growing upon the land, but if possible all tree stumps should be extracted and no dead wood should be left to rot upon the ground. In some cases no doubt the cost of such operations is prohibitive, but the immunity from the attacks of white ants and root diseases, which can be obtained in no other way, is worth considerable extra expense. On level land, moreover, it may be possible, if stumps are extracted, materially to reduce the cost of weeding and cultivation by the use of agricultural machinery during the early stages of growth of the rubber. Probably the only real objection to the use of machinery in this connection where the conditions are suitable, lies in the conditions of labour management. A considerable labour force is necessary both for opening the estate and for harvesting the rubber. In the interval between these operations extending over at least four years the principal work available for the labour force is weeding. On large estates which are opened gradually, so that the first fields may be already in tapping before the whole of the original forest land is cleared, this objection does not apply. In such cases stumping and the use of agricultural machinery may be recommended wherever the lay of the land is suitable. When we consider the way in which even heavier timber is removed by far more expensive labour in newly opened districts of North America, the fact that simple stump hauling machinery has scarcely been introduced into the tropics is certainly remarkable. Its introduction may be expected to lead to considerable economy and immunity from disease.
In planting up a rubber estate, nursery plants not less than twelve months old are usually employed. Hence the establishment of nurseries is one of the first" operations to be undertaken. The best planting land also makes the best nursery, and a site should be chosen where the soil is as rich as possible, well drained and well sheltered from wind. The nursery should be close to the fields where the plants will ultimately be required, in order to reduce transport as much as possible. In countries subject to a prolonged dry season some artificial shade may be necessary, but the heavy shade of trees is to be avoided, chiefly on account of the damage which may be done by the drip from the leaves in wet weather. The soil should be well dug and laid out into beds of any convenient size. The most important point is the allowance of ample space for the growth of the plants. The seeds should be planted at a distance of not less than 6x6 inches, and if possible three or four times as many plants should be raised as will ultimately be required, in order that the best specimens may be selected for planting.
The impossibility of selection is the chief objection to the practice of planting seeds at stake, which is sometimes adopted but is hardly to be recommended on this account Another method widely employed in the Federated Malay States consists in planting the seeds in baskets, which are afterwards transferred to the field bodily with the seedlings. To this method the same objection will often apply owing to the insufficient number of plants raised. Seedlings raised in baskets can be planted out earlier than others, but the advantages of the method over that of stumping as generally practised in Ceylon do not appear to be conclusive, and it is decidedly more expensive.
In planting the nursery, the seeds should be carefully laid in the ground in a horizontal position and just covered over with soil. If the seeds are planted with the long axis vertical, germination is less satisfactory and some of the seedlings are likely to be contorted and twisted. The same area should not be used a second time for a nursery unless it has been thoroughly dug over with lime, in order to destroy any fungus and insect pests which may have accumulated, and afterwards allowed to lie fallow for some months. Thorough fencing of the nursery is necessary in order to prevent the depredations of larger animals.