Rubber from dandelions
Lion-Flex uses the research facilities of KeyGene and Barenbrug for its breeding research. Barenbrug has an extensive research centre with a laboratory in Wolfheze (NL). The centre performs selections and crossings, and tests on yield potential, root proportion, fertilisation requirements, latex content in the root, drought sensitivity, and so on. In doing so, Lion-Flex is developing varieties that should yield excellent and predictable results under all circumstances.
The aim of dandelion breeding is to create a plant that:
- Contains 15% latex in the root
- Produces plenty of roots
- Is uniform
- Is fast-growing and robust
To produce natural rubber in a commercially viable way, the research focuses on the following aspects:
One dandelion plant produces 10 flowers per season. Each flower generates 150 to 200 seeds. 1,500 seeds can potentially be extracted from a single dandelion plant. Extracting seeds and preparing ready for production is an important step in the long-term cultivation of dandelions for the natural rubber production chain.
An important step in rubber extraction from dandelion roots is developing the extraction process. A small-scale bio-refinery prototype is currently being tested. Lion-Flex will use this prototype to optimise the process parameters and conditions, in order to maximise yield and quality.
To make dandelion cultivation competitive with Brazilian rubber tree cultivation, at least 750 kg of rubber per hectare must be extracted. The research is focused on optimising the cultivation process and achieving consistent rubber yields per hectare.
Upscaling & Validation
Finally, we will scale up the developed technology to see if it is technically and economically viable. The ultimate goal is a sustainable and competitive production chain for natural rubber.
Apart from latex, dandelions also contain relatively high levels of inulin. The food industry uses this carbohydrate as a sugar substitute. Lion-Flex wants to extract this substance from the roots as well, and develop a sustainable production chain for this purpose.