July 2012: Bridgestone Tyres – Leading Research in Natural Rubber Alternatives
Bridgestone and many other tyre manufacturers have on their agenda to explore alternatives to natural rubber. Bridgestone Tyres has established a milestone by decoding the principal genome sequence of the natural rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis.
Bridgestone has been working on maximizing the productivity of natural rubber tree. Immense research into molecular breeding, employing the genetic data, was under progress and great success has been achieved in the form of decoded core genome pattern for Hevea brasiliensis.
The tyre manufacturer collaborated with Japan’s Genome Informatics Laboratory and deciphered more than 90% of the tree’s gene-rich regions.
This huge project was aimed at facilitating enhanced breeding and diverse growing methods for Hevea brasiliensis. These breakthrough research findings will ensure developing a superior clone of the natural rubber plant, aimed at improving the quality and production.
The research outcome will accelerate research and development in a variety of related fields. Developing a clone with increased resistance and tolerance to diseases and stress respectively is just one of those.
It seems the development of a disease resistant clone will be extremely fruitful to the entire tyre manufacturing industry.
Apart from this, the Japanese tyre giant has worked in the field of early and easy disease diagnosis for varieties of Hevea brasiliensis.
New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, NEDO is a frontrunner into researching oil alternatives. Based in Kawasaki, this company heads the research into this field and the participating companies include Bridgestone, Indonesian Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, BAU (Bogor Agricultural University), TUA (Tokyo University of Agriculture), TUAT (Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology), and Kyushu University.
Bridgestone has been a part of this research drive since 2010 and has concentrated largely on a serious disease Rigidoporus microporus affecting Hevea brasiliensis trees in Southeast Asia.
Over 90% of world’s natural rubber trees grow in this region, hence the importance of this research.
This disease is also called White root disease which causes a fungal infection in the trees’ roots, rotting those to destroy the tree eventually.
Visual analysis determines the growth of a certain kind of fungus called Mycelia on the infected site.
The current shortcomings in tackling this disease effectively are delayed finding, misdiagnosis and low accuracy of detection. This has led to widespread growth of the disease.
Bridgestone said in a press conference that the mutual research effort in this direction has made possible the development of four innovative approaches to detecting the fatal disease early. The technologies are:
1. Pathogen Detection – Employs DNA analysis and assesses disease risk before planting.
2. Latex Component Analysis – Detects and quantifies the disease based on certain protein molecules in the trees latex.
3. Leaf Spectral and Temperature Based – Colour and temperature changes in the leaf surface are measured to determine the presence and spread of the disease.
4. Satellite Image Analysis – Enables disease findings in large plantation regions.