Among other species, especially Russian dandelion (Taraxacum koksaghyz Rodin) produces highly promising amounts and qualities of rubber. T. koksaghyz was discovered in 1931 in the framework of a program to make the USSR self-sufficient in strategic materials, including natural rubber.
Subsequently, efforts were made to domesticate and improve the crop. In 1941, a combined total of 67,000 hectares was planted in the USSR and agronomic procedures and processing methods were tested. These efforts were discontinued around 1950.
Emergency Rubber Act
A feasibility study was conducted in the US in 1942-1944 as a part of the Emergency Rubber Project established by the United States Congress in response to rubber shortages in World War II. During World War II, when supplies of natural rubber were cut off by the Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia, a national initiative known as the “Emergency Rubber Act” was enacted by the United States Congress. To supplement successful efforts with guayule, at that time, the USDA and the US Forest Service obtained T. koksaghyz seeds from the Soviet Union and grew plants that produced rubber, which was successfully applied in tyres.
Only scattered reports on T. koksaghyz have appeared since. However, these indicate that breeding can rapidly increase the rubber content. In addition, the molecular weight of rubber extracted from T. koksaghyz appears to be higher than of H. brasiliensis rubber (thus explaining the good quality of the tyres made during WWII). Economic models for T. koksaghyz are also considered promising.
A new EU FP7 project on Russian dandelion as natural rubber crop, as a follow-up on the research performed within EU-PEARLS, has been granted and started February 1st 2014. The focus of this project is demonstration of the economic feasibility of natural rubber and inulin production by Russian dandelion. In total 13 partners from both industry and research organisations form the consortium working on all aspects of the production chain, ranging from optimal breeding lines, cultivation, rubber and inulin extraction, conversion, up to product uses. The coordinator of the DRIVE4EU project is Dr Ingrid van der Meer.