There is an urgent world need for alternative, less labor-intensive sources of natural rubber, which is irreplaceable in a variety of applications ranging from surgical gloves to aircraft tires. All tires made today come from raw latex that is harvested by hand in small cups, from Brazilian rubber trees whose bark has been wounded; nothing has changed in over a century. This laborious effort is carried out almost exclusively in Southeast Asia, where the vast rubber plantations of the British Empire were rebuilt in the aftermath of World War II. The monoculture of the Hevea brasiliensis tree is susceptible to devastating diseases and blights, and the colonial plantation model of rubber production has become increasingly stressed by the rapidly growing economies of China and India. Rubber demand and prices have risen dramatically, and the environmental and human costs of producing rubber in this manner have also been increasingly recognized in the countries where it is grown.
In its roots, Russian Dandelion (Taraxacum kok-saghyz or TKS) has been shown to produce a very high quality rubber that can be manufactured into all manner of familiar products, ranging from dipped and extruded latex goods (gloves, condoms, balloons, medical devices, etc.) to bulk rubber products such as automotive parts and tires. During WW II, when Asian supplies of natural rubber were cut off, the United States embarked on an emergency rubber program to research and develop alternative natural sources of rubber, and was successful in making a limited number of high quality tires from TKS rubber. The Soviet Union went further, establishing a tire manufacturing plant in what is now Uzbekistan, and supplying their army with tires made from TKS rubber.