Seed World

Partnership to Scale Up Rubber Production from Dandelions

Kultevat Inc. and Keygene N.V. will continue a research collaboration to produce natural rubber from dandelion roots. The renewed collaboration builds on plant breeding breakthroughs by KeyGene, expanded planting by Kultevat and improved rubber extraction technologies. The collaboration includes commercial growing of hybrid rubber dandelion plants that will increase per acre production of natural rubber in North America.

“We are very glad to extend our long standing collaboration with Kultevat into a commercial phase,” says Anker Sørensen, KeyGene vice president of new business and leader of the rubber dandelion program. “The Kultevat team is very experienced in the natural rubber industry and dedicated to make our Flexilis hybrid crop into a commercial success.

“The world is in need of a novel sustainable alternative to the Hevea rubber grown in rubber tree-plantations in south-east Asia, and the combination of strengths of our two companies are ideally suited to make that happen.”

A Novel Crop

Significant milestones have been reached in KeyGene’s rubber dandelion development program. Using molecular
breeding technologies KeyGene has, for the first time, combined the capacity of the Kazakh dandelion plant
(Taraxacum koksaghyz) to produce high levels of rubber, with the well-known vigorous growth potential of the common Dutch dandelion plant (Taraxacum officinale).

A novel interspecific hybrid crop, Flexilis hybrid, has been developed. The hybrid produces the same amount of high quality rubber per gram of root tissue as the much smaller Kazakh dandelion plants. Simultaneously a high performing variant of the Kazakh dandelion Flexilis plus has been developed, ready for large scale production of dandelion roots.

Kultevat is a strategic KeyGene partner for exploitation of the novel dandelion varieties in North America. The
Kultevat team has developed cultivation practices for the dandelion crop and initiated the first production fields at
various locations in the United States. Initial results confirm the ability of this crop to deliver a profitable rubber business.

In addition the Kultevat team has developed a highly efficient rubber extraction method that can be scaled to factory level. The next goal of Kultevat is to produce sufficient amounts of dandelion rubber for the development of various
natural rubber applications.

“Kultevat is committed to the joint development of rubber dandelion to promote the better use of natural resources while, in the future, enabling Kultevat to deliver a reliable and efficient supply of natural rubber at production bases in North America,” says Dan Swiger, CEO Kultevat. “We expect that development of the Flexilis plus and Flexilis hybrid varieties will allow Kultevat to provide a steady supply of high-performance natural rubber with low environmental impact to a greater number of customers.”