SRI signs dandelion latex R&D pact
KOBE, Japan (Aug. 14, 2015) — Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. (SRI) is teaming up with a U.S. biotechnology company to accelerate the development of the Russian dandelion as an alternative source of natural rubber.
Sumitomo and St. Louis-based Kultevat Inc. signed a research and development agreement recently covering terms of their joint work on developing Taraxicum kok-saghya (TKS) — Russian dandelion — to exploit the latex produced by the plant and thus reduce reliance on the Hevea rubber plantations of southeast Asia.
Kultevat serves sustainable agricultural markets, primarily by the production of rubber and mixed sugar feedstocks for the biofuels market, SRI said.
The link-up complements the Kobe-based company's efforts to develop more environmentally sustainable tires. These, it said, include 100-percent fossil resource-free tires, fuel-efficient tires and runflat tires.
“We are now examining the potential of Russian Dandelions as a new, alternative source of natural rubber to possibly replace the conventional source of natural rubber: Para rubber trees,” SRI said.
Kultevat is developing and testing new varieties of TKS for increased productivity of rubber in greenhouse and field trials in the U.S. through a partnership with Keygene Inc., a Dutch advanced plant breeding company.
“Kultevat's commercialization strategy calls for the company to sell into specialty rubber markets at the outset while the company continues working with the Sumitomo Rubber Industries to develop products for their purposes," Kultevat CEO Daniel Swiger said.
“We have engaged a number of customers and are currently growing TKS for processing and rubber for prototype and testing purposes,” Mr. Swiger said. “We expect commercial sales of rubber beginning in 2016."
The agreement with SRI will accelerate the breeding effort and the selection of varieties that have specific traits that meet SRI's goals to develop proprietary products that reduce the environmental impacts of rubber production and refinement.
Unlike Hevea rubber trees, TKS can be grown in temperate regions around the globe, including in North America, Kultevat said.
Kultevat's goals include increasing the yield of rubber from cultivation of highly productive varieties of TKS in multiple locations in North America, and developing green technologies for extraction of product from plant tissues.
"We expect that development of TKS as an economically viable source of rubber will allow SRI to provide a steady supply of high-performance tires with low environmental impact to a greater number of customers in the future," said SRI President Ikuji Ikeda said.
SRI declined to quantify its budget for the research project.
Other tire makers also researching TKS include Apollo Tyres Ltd., Bridgestone Corp., Continental A.G., Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and CGS/Mitas A.S.
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