Edison Agrosciences is developing a sunflower rubber crop that will serve to diversify global rubber production and provide the US with an alternative source for this strategically important commodity. Sunflower is a native rubber-producing plant that represents the most attractive candidate for the development of a broad acreage rubber crop in the US. Rubber accumulates in commercial sunflower leaves to levels of 1 to 2% of dry weight. It is predicted that a 4- to 5-fold increase in this level of rubber production would be sufficient to make sunflower a commercially viable source of natural rubber.
Sunflower is an annual crop grown on 1.56 million acres in the United States in 2014. This crop is seen as especially attractive because of its short growing season, relatively low water requirements and tolerance to stresses induced by both high and low temperatures. While most commercial sunflower production is currently in northern states, it also will fit into empty rotations in southern areas. Sunflower production is highly mechanized, allowing for the production of large acreages with minimal labor costs. Agronomics for sunflower production have been refined over decades, allowing for large production areas in diverse environments.