At the moment natural rubber is exclusively harvested from the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) of which about 90% is grown in South East Asia. In an earlier research project coordinated by the same organisation, EU-PEARLS, the potential of two new natural rubber crops was investigated. This project demonstrated the viability of a new natural rubber production from Russian dandelion (Taraxacum koksaghyz, TKS).

DRIVE4EU will demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of the use of Rubber dandelion as a production platform for both natural rubber and inulin. The inulin can be used as the raw material for interesting green chemicals, such as furan-based polymers. The common name Russian dandelion for Taraxacum koksaghyz is actually not fitting very well since TKS originates from Kazakhstan and can also be found in specific areas of China and Kirghizstan. Therefore the name ‘Rubber dandelion’ is used in this project. The combination of rubber and inulin makes Rubber dandelion very interesting as a production platform.

The main objectives of DRIVE4EU are:

  • plant genotypes with high root biomass, high rubber and inulin yield,
  • seed batches for agronomic tests and large scale demo field trials,
  • optimized cultivation and harvest methods for TKS,
  • ecological analysis of the gene flow between TKS and wild dandelions,
  • scaled-up and optimised extraction and refinery protocol for TKS natural rubber and inulin,
  • testing and application of TKS natural rubber and inulin in end product uses,
  • demonstration of the economic viability of the TKS production chain for natural rubber and inulin.

The DRIVE4EU consortium consists of eight industrial partners and five research organizations from six EU countries and Kazakhstan that bring together a wide knowledge and expertise, from bioscience to product development.

Outline of production chain for rubber and inulin, presenting the main activities in the production chain and in DRIVE4EU (WP tasks). Corresponding WP numbers are given in brackets.