With disease and high demand posing threats to the world’s primary natural rubber supply in Southeast Asia, scientists are working to ramp up the U.S. rubber market by advancing methods to extract latex from two sustainable North American plant sources: a dandelion species and a desert shrub.

Researchers reported their methods to improve efficiency and increase latex yield in two recent publications, building upon decades of research led by Katrina Cornish, professor of horticulture and crop science and food, agricultural, and biological engineering at The Ohio State University. She has a greenhouse full of desert shrub guayule on the Wooster campus, where she hopes to one day build a full-scale latex processing plant.

Cornish and colleagues have added specialized agents during the processing of the Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TK) dandelion and the guayule shrub to coax a higher amount of latex from both plants. Neither source can simply be tapped – the method used on tropical trees produces the only commercially available natural rubber in the world.

“We need to have efficient extraction methods for any and all alternative natural rubber-producing species, especially at a large scale,” Cornish said. “And they have to be low-cost if you’re going to be able to compete in the tire market in the long term.”

The TK dandelion work was published recently in Industrial Crops and Products, and the guayule research in Environmental Technology & Innovation.

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