As children, we all used to scour our yards in search of dandelions. Little did we know we were actually searching for what could be the key to a pollution-free future. While most farmers and homeowners do their best to get rid of weeds, a team of researchers from The Ohio State University are desperately trying to grow them.
The weeds that Katrina Cornish and her team are attempting to sprout aren’t your average weeds; instead, they are a special variety of dandelion from Kazakhstan – nicknamed Buckeye Gold. This variety of dandelion could be the key to revolutionizing the rubber industry, an industry that is responsible for contributing tremendously to our overall carbon footprint.
Although it may look like a normal dandelion on the surface, the Buckeye Gold dandelion has special roots which contain nearly 10-15% natural rubber. The goal of Cornish and her team’s research is to successfully cultivate the crop so that it can be utilized by the rubber industry as an alternative to rubber trees.
Rubber trees currently grow in far-off countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Taking years to grow, rubber trees aren’t the best rubber source, causing the industry to produce petroleum-based rubber that has a substantial carbon footprint. Plus, transporting this rubber from foreign countries to the United States costs the industry a fortune and emits a lot of greenhouse gasses in the process.
Buckeye Gold offers the perfect solution for rubber manufacturers because it can be grown locally and has a much faster maturity rate than rubber trees. Current agriculture methods make this crop difficult to cultivate in our climate; therefore, it becomes widely overlooked by rubber manufacturers who are looking to produce as much rubber as possible in a short amount of time.
Cornish and her team are just one of the many research teams looking to genetically modify this plant so that it becomes a sensible solution for rubber manufacturers. By introducing a genetically engineered gene to the Buckeye Gold, researchers hope to create a hybrid that can withstand disease and United States pest control measures.
With their work cut out for them, only time will tell if Buckeye Gold will hold up to its reputation as being one of the most sustainable plants capable of limiting our carbon footprint.