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An overview of CIRAD and partners' research activities to address the question of the variability of latex and natural rubber quality

Bonfils F., Bottier C., Char C., Geniez M., Sainte-Beuve J., Vaysse L.. 2021. s.l. : AFICEP, 1 p.. e-RubberCon 2020, 2021-02-11/2021-02-12, (France).

CIRAD, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development, is a public establishment (EPIC) working for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions. The research in CIRAD is dedicated to various tropical value chains, including natural rubber (NR). Several CIRAD's research units are mobilized to study NR in various fields such as agronomy, genomics, socio-economy or technology/quality. NR is a biopolymer produced from the latex of Hevea brasiliensis. NR exhibits very specific properties (low heat build-up, crystallization under strain, etc.) never mimicked by synthetic rubbers and it is thus a highly strategic material, in particular for tire industry which uses 80% of the global NR production. However, NR presents a drawback: the rather non consistency of its quality linked to the variability of the latex composition used to manufacture NR. As a consequence, an additional energy cost is required by industrial processes to tackle the NR/latex variability. This presentation will focus on different research projects led by CIRAD's researchers of UMR IATE and their partners to address the question of the variability of NR quality. A first part will be dedicated to the description of the tools used to characterize NR and latex at various scales, i.e. macroscale (NR bulk properties), mesoscale (macromolecular chains and aggregates) and microscale (biochemical/mineral compositions and structures). Then, a few results will be exposed in the second part to illustrate how this multiscale characterization approach is implemented to study various factors of influence (e.g. genotype, agronomic and post-harvest practices), in order to identify and possibly rank the drivers of the variability of NR/latex quality.

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