While most Canadians try to get rid of their pesky yellow-headed invaders, a University of Guelph professor is purposely cultivating an entire crop of dandelions in the hopes of harvesting them for rubber. Plant agriculture professor Dave Wolyn has received a grant of $143,500 to grow and breed Russian dandelion plants to see whether they can become a lucrative new field crop to produce natural rubber and related products.
The only commercial source of natural rubber, the Brazilian rubber tree, grows mostly in Southeast Asia. These plants are vulnerable to disease outbreaks and may also be adversely affected by climate change.
Rubber forms naturally in dandelion roots and in parts of other plants. Russian dandelion rubber is chemically suited for use in tires and as latex for gloves, making it an ideal replacement for rubber tree products, says Dr. Wolyn. Unlike other rubber-bearing plants, this dandelion species also contains inulin, a food additive and feedstock for biofuels that might also add value for growers.