Thursday, 13 December 2012

Driving on Dandelion Wheels

A newspaper article in Saturday's Daily Telegraph caught my eye. I suppose it was the seeming incongruity of it. The article concerned the making of rubber from dandelion roots. It has to be said though that this does not mean that every lazy gardener in the United Kingdom has a veritable rubber plantation in his back garden. The dear old variety of dandelion which is native to these islands does not contain a sufficiently high percentage of rubber to make its cropping a commercially viable venture. 

The dandelion which is causing all the excitement is from Russia and has the catchy name of Taraxacum koksaghyz, TKS for short. It is reported that an Indian-Dutch company by the name of Apollo Vredestein has now exhibited the first prototype tyres made from the milky sap that is found in the dandelion tap root. Selective plant breeding has so far enabled scientists to increase the rubber yield from TKS from 1.4% to 8.9% of dry weight, just short of the 10% which is viewed as the commercial percentage.

Whilst we tend to deride the dandelion perhaps it will ultimately provide us with an economic alternative to natural rubber. Its tap root is of course already used for the manufacture of a coffee substitute and its young leaves are sometimes added to salads. I have to say that the diuretic and other propensities of the dandelion would make me rather loath to ingest it.

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