London, Dec 13 (IANS) A species of dandelion, a widely distributed weed of the daisy family, could prop up failing rubber productions, with the glutinous, milky sap found in its roots.
In July, tyre manufacturer Apollo Vredestein rolled out the first prototype tyres produced from European-grown dandelion rubber. If tests go well, they hope to start full production in 2015.
The dandelion, Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS), is one of the three plants currently being investigated by various international consortia, made up of government agencies, big businesses and research establishments that are trying to find alternatives to natural rubber, according to the Telegraph.
Native to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and discovered in 1931, TKS is a foot-tall yellow-flowered dandelion. It can grow in a range of soils, but prefers the cool conditions of its homeland and similar locations, such as northern Europe.
World supplies of natural rubber are falling short of demand, which is driven by the needs of developing nations such as China, India, Brazil and former Soviet bloc countries.
Around 80 percent of the world's natural rubber is produced from plantations of the tropical tree, Hevea brasiliensis, primarily located in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and South America.
With demand projected to outstrip supply by around 20 percent in 2020, there are serious concerns for the future. Falling yields of natural rubber, the monopoly of producer countries, crop diseases, changing climate and dwindling oil reserves paint an unsettling picture.