Mass plant propagation technology
Kirin's proprietary mass plant propagation technology
Our research of plants began with beer ingredients such as hops and barley, developed into proprietary mass plant propagation technology in the 1980s. Recently, various sectors are increasingly focusing on this technology for its potential to solve social issues. Kirin’s mass plant propagation technology is original and globally unprecedented in that it consists of four elemental technologies: stem propagation technique (organ culture method), sprout propagation technique (PPR method), embryo propagation technique (somatic embryo method), and potato propagation technique (micro tuber method).
Plant propagation is normally performed using seeds, cuttings, etc., but the cultivation period is limited and the growth rate can be quite low depending on the plant. However, Kirin’s mass propagation technology that we developed through our own research makes it possible to significantly increase the number of quality plants with the same characteristics as the parent plant, regardless of the season.
Kirin’s scenario analyses based on the TCFD recommendations that we have conducted since 2018 show that climate change has a significant impact on yields of many agricultural products used as raw materials. Mass plant propagation technology is also useful for the mass propagation aimed at promoting the spread of new varieties that have been developed in response to environmental changes as well as for mass propagation of new varieties, endangered species, and useful plants, and we thus expect it to positively impact the sustainability of agriculture.
Social impact of mass plant propagation technology
Through joint research with Bridgestone, the Kirin Central Research Institute succeeded in developing a technology that utilizes “bag-type culture vessel technology,” a production technology underpinning the commercialization of “mass plant propagation technology,” to improve the productivity of natural rubber derived from the “guayule” plant, and began infield assessments. “Rubber trees,” which are the main source of natural rubber today, are concentrated in the tropical zones of Southeast Asia, so there is a risk of decreased yields owing to climate change. “Guayule,” however, can be grown in arid areas such as deserts, and is thus expected to result in greater capacity to respond to this risk.
Regeneration of coastal forests in the Tohoku Region
For two years from 2014, the Kirin Central Research Institute participated in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries project, “Dramatic Improvement of Production of Seeds and Seedlings of Bursaphelenchus Xylophilus - Resistant Black Pine for Regeneration of Coastal Forests in the Tohoku Region.” We worked to regenerate the coastal protection forests that suffered devastating damage from the tsunami in 2011.
- Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Industry/Food Industry Science and Technology Research Promotion Project (lead institution: Forest Tree Breeding Center, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Forest Research and Management Organization)
Contribution to the lunar farm
The Kirin Central Research Institute took part in the lunar surface base project led by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology launched in 2017, which included industryacademia collaboration research on a pest free farm system and emergency backup system using bag-type culture vessel technology to reproduce growth patterns similar to those under the same atmospheric pressure as on the earth.
World’s first cultivation experiment performed onboard the ISS’s Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo”
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Takenaka Corporation, Kirin, Chiba University, and Tokyo University of Science, aiming at food production during long-term stays in space for future lunar and other exploration missions, carried out a demonstration experiment of bag-type culture vessel technology onboard the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” on the International Space Station (ISS). This was a first of its kind in the world.
JAXA is promoting research aimed at setting up farms on the moon and producing food to enable long-term stays without relying on supplies from Earth. Under a framework calling for joint research proposals, in 2017, JAXA began joint research related to bag-type culture vessel technology with a view to its application in space activities.
Based on the results of previous joint research, the team performed the experiment onboard Kibo, using lettuce cultivation in a bag-type culture vessel technology to assess the effectiveness of this cultivation method in a micro-gravity, closed environment in space, as well as its advantages over hydroponics and soil cultivation.
The team conducted the experiment over a period of 48 days from Friday, August 27 to Wednesday, October 13, 2021. During the experiment, the team promoted cultivation by ensuring the supply of a culture solution and exchange of air. The team confirmed the existence of true leaves of lettuce on September 10, and subsequently continued to steadily grow the vegetable before harvesting it.
We expect future applications of bag-type culture vessel technology to include not just the mass production of leafy vegetables, but also the virus-free growth of seedlings, which will support long-duration manned planetary exploration missions and large-scale cultivation in spacecraft in orbit and/or accommodation on the moon.
- The above information is reprinted from the Kirin Group Environmental Report 2022 and is current as of June 30, 2022.