OSU studies homegrown sources of fuel, rubber and fiber

dandelion sap
OSU is spearheading efforts to convert sap from Russian dandelion roots into rubber products. (Photo: Lynn Ketchum)

Agronomists test tomorrow's crops today

Importing oil, rubber and other strategically important commodities can put the U.S. and its economic interests at the mercy of foreign nations.

So scientists at OSU's Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center are working to replace imported and nonrenewable raw materials, like rubber and petroleum, with domestic substitutes made from alternative crops. OSU studies these new plants, such as euphorbia, grindelia and Russian dandelion, and runs them through a battery of tests. Growers can then use this information to grow these crops successfully without the trial and error. Take Russian dandelion, for example. Its roots can be processed to produce rubber that is comparable to latex from the Brazilian rubber tree and stronger than synthetic rubber for high-impact uses such as jet aircraft tires. By testing new crops, OSU researchers hope to move them beyond botanic curiosities to viable, valuable commodities. After all, almost every established crop in Oregon was once an alternative crop.

Source: Richard Roseberg, agronomist at KBREC

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