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Research Advances Disease Diagnostic Technology for ‘Hevea brasiliensis’ Natural Rubber Trees

Jul, 10 2012


Bridgestone Group Works Toward realization of 100% sustainable materials.

Bridgestone Corporation today announced that through a NEDO research collaboration project(1) it has developed technologies to improve disease diagnosis for Hevea brasiliensis(2), commonly known as natural rubber trees.

Bridgestone has been focusing resources on the serious problem of white root disease(3), which is plaguing Hevea brasiliensis in Southeast Asia, where more than 90% of the trees are grown. Currently, white root disease is diagnosed through visual analysis, which leads to low detection accuracy and delayed discoveries or misdiagnosis. These shortcomings have permitted the disease to spread widely. Therefore, since 2010, the Bridgestone Group has been working with the Indonesian Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology and Bogor Agricultural University, Tokyo University of Agriculture, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and Kyushu University to jointly promote technologies for diagnosing and preventing the disease under the administration of a NEDO research collaboration project.

This research collaboration has led to the development of four new technologies for early disease detection, namely:
• Pathogen detection based on DNA analysis
• Diagnosis based on latex component analysis
• Diagnosis based on leaf-surface spectral and temperature-measurements
• Regional health diagnosis based on satellite-image analysis

These technologies rely on skills in many scientific fields, including plant pathology, molecular biology, biochemistry, analytical chemistry, and remote sensing. The technologies developed now enable early disease diagnosis using simple tools that do not rely on visual analysis and can quantify pathogen density in the soil.

Looking ahead, the Bridgestone Group will continue working with Indonesian and Japanese universities to advance and share these diagnostic technologies which help protect and strengthen the Hevea brasiliensis species which is essential to ensure a stable, sustainable supply of natural rubber in the future.

Demand for tires is expected to increase in tandem with growth in automobile ownership worldwide. The Bridgestone Group is committed to effectively using the earth’s resources as well as the advancement of ‘reducing’, ‘reusing’, and ‘recycling’ initiatives. In addition, the Group believes that in the future new resources for tires should derive from sustainable materials. Therefore, the Group aims to eventually develop tires from 100% sustainable materials(4) through research into biomaterials in several fields, including the research discussed here for enhancing natural rubber productivity.

(1) A project operated by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO, an independent administrative agency, it conducts joint research on technology for resolving issues with technological development in developing countries.
(2) Hevea brasiliensis is an evergreen tree native to Brazil that belongs to Euphorbiaceae, Hevea brasiliensis . Emulsion (latex) contains natural rubber, which is obtained by scratching the surface.
(3) White root rot disease (Rigidoporus microporus) is a filamentous bacterium disease that infects Hevea brasiliensis. It infects roots, killing trees through rotting, and is difficult to detect in its early stages. There are no radically effective remedies. Once onset, chemical treatments are applied after diseased sections are removed.
(4) Materials other than those such as fossil fuel that are expected to be depleted after prolonged use.