Natural rubber is the main component of many types of industrial rubber goods. Of these, about half are made from synthetic rubber. Approximately 70% of all natural rubber mined in the world is used for the production of automobile tires. Its main source - the Brazilian rubber tree, unfortunately, is very sensitive to various diseases.
Thorny lettuce, a weed that causes a lot of trouble for American farmers, has not accidentally attracted the attention of scientists at the University of Washington. As it turns out, this distant relative of the cultivated lettuce is a potential source for natural rubber production.
University employee Jan Berg noticed back in 2006 that the latex contained in the juice of prickly lettuce is very similar to the polymers found in natural rubber. It was then that he had the idea to grow prickly lettuce on an industrial scale.
Together with colleagues Jared Bell and Michael Neff, they sampled the prickly lettuce with the highest latex content. In the future, when a certain variety of this plant is developed on their basis, which is distinguished by its unpretentiousness and the ability to give several harvests a year, it will be possible to start its mass breeding.