SAN DIEGO (Nov. 15, 2013) — Biomaterials company Yulex Corp. is collaborating with SGB Inc., an agricultural biotechnology company to establish a genomics and molecular breeding platform focused on accelerating the crop improvement of guayule, the desert shrub seen as a possible alternative source of rubber latex.
Yulex, partner seek to double guayule rubber yield
The companies said their goal is to improve the weed as a sustainable source of biorubber that can replace traditional tropical or petroleum-based rubber for medical, consumer and industrial markets, including tire manufacturing.
San Diego-based SGB will apply a non-genetically modified organism (GMO) technology platform that combines breeding and selection with genomic technologies, including high throughput genotyping, genome wide trait association studies, genomic selection and proprietary plant re-domestication methods to the improvement of guayule.
The company said it will identify genetic markers that represent increased rubber yield and use that to produce new cultivars that express that yield under commercial conditions.
SGB also will implement novel breeding strategies designed to accelerate the development of improved cultivars with higher rubber yield productivity, consistency and increased stress tolerance.
"SGB's proven molecular breeding and genomics platform technologies will be invaluable as we accelerate the development of next generation guayule crop lines," said Yulex President and CEO Jeffrey Martin. "Our partnership will enable us to dramatically improve yield, reduce input costs and introduce new traits that will drive the deployment of Guayule as a sustainable, industrial crop on global basis."
Guayule—pronounced "Y-U-LEE"—is an industrial crop that, according to Yulex, does not compete against food or fiber crops and requires low inputs. It is a renewable source of natural rubber that can replace petroleum-based synthetics and lessen reliance on imported tropical rubber.
"We are excited to leverage the lessons learned with Jatropha (a species of flowering plant with an oil content said to be about 38 percent) and apply our proprietary genome-based breeding tools toward crop improvement of an entirely new species," said Eric Mathur, vice president of technology for SGB.
"Deciphering the genetic relationships and ploidy levels residing within guayule germplasm enables advanced breeding strategies which will result in optimized regional productivity, thus expanding guayule's global footprint through the development of new varieties that produce high yields of latex and rubber under diverse environmental conditions."
SGB has developed a proprietary genomics and biotech platform to develop novel crops and discover traits for row crops. The company said it has been named one of the "Top 5 Renewable Jet Fuel Supply Chain Companies in the World" by the Carbon War Room (2011); one of the "Top 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy" for five consecutive years (2009-2013); the "2010 Feedstock Domestication Project of the Year" by Biofuels Digest; and one of the "Top 200 Going Green Private Companies in the World" by Always On (2011).
Founded in 1997, Phoenix-based Yulex has developed a portfolio of biomaterials based on latex from the guayule plant. The firm and the University of Arizona have collaborated on guayule since the company's founding, according to Yulex. Its first experimental crops were planted on the grounds of the campus, and the university contributed substantially to Yulex's agronomic successes, Yulex said.
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