Dandelions: A New Cash Crop for Ohio?

As demand for natural rubber continues to increase and shortages continue to occur, research at The Ohio State University’s (OSU) Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center is addressing the issue by developing a new crop that can be grown in Ohio and other northern states to supply rubber.

Additional analysis of rubber samples from a plant called “Russian dandelion” by the University of Akron Polymer Research Center has shown that it has properties nearly identical to those of conventional rubber trees.

An Ohio’s Country Journal article reports that Russian dandelion was previously grown as a crop during World War II in both the United States and the Soviet Union to supply rubber for the war. Today, researchers at OSU’s Department of Horticulture and Crop Science have developed high yielding Russian dandelion varieties that produce up to 15 percent rubber in their roots.

According to an article at gizmag.com, there are two main reasons the Russian dandelion has attracted interest again. First, industries that utilize rubber, like those that make car parts, tires and hoses, need to find new materials to meet increasing demand. Secondly, these industries want to make the quest for new materials as sustainable as possible.

Currently, the United States is dependent on natural rubber derived from rubber trees grown in Southeast Asia. It’s hoped that once the research has been conducted, Ohio farmers will be given the opportunity to grow Russian dandelion and help the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign natural rubber.

What are your thoughts about this new potential cash crop? Would you or do you know any farmers that would be willing to grow Russian dandelion?

Photo obtained from: bbc.co.uk