DID I WAKE UP IN THE 1960s?!?! I know some here would like that – especially another chance to attend Woodstock. But soon, the iconic symbol of the music festival, the dandelion, could be fueling a domestic rubber revolution in the U.S. With the help of the U.S. Air Force Research Lab, Department of Defense, BioMADE, and Farmed Materials, the often sprayed and mowed weed could be the new rubber “weed” that near-shores the rubber goods industry back to the U.S.A.
Rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis in scientific terms), are grown for their latex sap, which is then processed into the rubber we know. There are a few caveats in growing rubber trees, particularly en masse. They take 7-10 years to reach maturity before they can be tapped. Each tree’s life is only 30 years, after which the amount of latex production decreases. Then it must be cut down, destumped, and replanted. Also rubber trees require massive amounts of water, either from rain or irrigation. But flooding and disease can be very destructive to the crop. Finally, NO FROST!!! It causes the latex to become brittle and useless.
Enter the dandelion. Cold-hardy, able to handle all soil types from desert to swamp, even able to resist repeated sprayings of Round-Up. These critters are TOUGH!!! Taraxacum kok-saghyz, one of only a few species with the potential to be used by Goodyear, is the star of the show. Its ability to produce a natural rubber stronger than the rubber tree is highly desirable to the rubber industry. The possibility of longer life, lower rolling resistance, and a lower cost due to no import tariffs are nice for drivers, who are feeling the pain of high tire prices.
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