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Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Dandelions Seen as the Future Replacement for Rubber

Rubber extracted from a dandelion

(Photo : Reuters)

Tire makers are in a race to extract material from dandelions as a substitute for the rubber used to build tires.

Rubber is a substance that's very high in demand but very low in supply. Latest estimates say the demand for rubber will outstrip supply by 20 percent by 2020.

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This development will lead to a rise in prices considering the immense number of items made from rubber.

That's why scientists and teams from around the globe are focusing their efforts on the dandelion as a substitute for rubber.

The dandelion is considered a common garden weed. Once their roots are dissected, however, one can find a natural rubber latex that can be used to create tires.

While the number of existing dandelion plants isn't enough to meet the projected demand, Dutch company KeyGene is opting for genetic improvement to solve this problem.

KeyGene intends to speed-up the evolution process to develop dandelion crops with higher yields and more resistance to pests.

They're also implementing a process called "planet phenotyping." This process crosses different breeds of the dandelion in to grow a much bigger root, and a much bigger latex yield.

KeyGene said if trials are successful, the dandelion-tires could be ready for mass production within five to 10 years.

Tire industry leader Bridgestone Corporation of Japan and number four company Continental AG of Germany are supporting the research.

A small-scale trial by a United States research team has already shown a great harvest of rubber from the dandelion fields. This is on par with the rubber tree plantations found in tropical Asia.

Apart from the impending global shortfall in rubber, tire makers are fearful that an uncontrollable fungus that stopped the production of rubber tree plantations in Brazil could reach Southeast Asia.

That's why scientists have begun studying and perfecting the dandelion, not only in genetics, but also in mastering the farming process.  

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