WRD is a disease that affects the roots of Para rubber trees, which is difficult to diagnose and causes trees to rot if left untreated. WRD can therefore impact natural rubber harvest yields.
According to Bridgestone, there is currently no effective means of combating this disease. Prior diagnostic methods entailed calling on the tacit knowledge of Bridgestone farm experts to make judgments based on comprehensive evaluations of the foliage and observing factors, such as leaf color and leaf development, of affected trees.
Trees suspected of being infected by WRD were dug up and roots were inspected. Thus, the accuracy of the diagnosis was dependent on the skills of each individual team member.
The development of this technology, Bridgestone said, is part of a larger initiative to address such environmental issues by diversifying and expanding its sources of natural rubber.
By 2050, the company said, the global population is projected to reach 9.6 billion while the number of automobiles owned will exceed 2.4 billion. Accordingly, the amount of materials needed for tire production is expected to increase.
At the same time, there is a push to decouple economic growth from environmental impacts, as indicated in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. NR used to produce tires grows primarily in Southeast Asia, where the depletion of tropical rainforests to accommodate the growing of NR and other cultivation has drawn considerable attention.