Gardeners are very familiar with the common dandelion. Many homeowners spend lots of money and time trying to eradicate this weed from their lawns. However, the lowly dandelion may play a role in reducing our dependency on foreign imports.
In the 1940's Russia extracted rubber from the roots of dandelions to make tires for the war effort. The Russian dandelion (Taraxacum kok-saghyz) root contains up to 20 percent rubber. Currently, most natural rubber comes from plantations in Southeast Asia. With higher fuel prices, the cost of synthetic and natural rubber is increasing.
Looking for alternatives to shipping natural rubber across the globe, researchers at Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center are experimenting with different varieties of the Russian dandelion to find ones with the highest amounts of rubber in their roots. Dandelions are an attractive crop because they require little fertility and irrigation. Tires made from dandelions had similar quality as those made from other natural sources. There is so much potential in this crop that Ohio State University is considering plans to build a rubber processing facility that can produce 20 tons of dandelion rubber a year.
For more information on extracting rubber from dandelions, go to: Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center.