Currently, Hevea brasiliensis has been only one resource for commercial natural rubber production. Rubber tree, H. brasiliensis (Willd. ex A. Juss.) Muell. Arg., commonly known as the Brazilian rubber tree is native to the Amazon River basin. Attempts to develop alternative sources of natural rubber have been made at various times and no fewer than eight botanical families, 300 genera and 2500 species have been found to produce natural rubber in their latex. Only two species, in addition to the Para rubber tree, are known to produce large amounts of rubber with high molecular weight: a shrub named guayule (Parthenium argentatum Gray) and the Russian dandelion (Taraxacum koksaghyz). These plants were considered sufficiently promising as alternative rubber sources that several research programs have been conducted on these plants, especially during World War II. Hevea rubber has been an undeniably beneficial commodity for the past 100 years. The superior qualities of the natural elastomers produced by this tree have never been surpassed by any of the synthetic products. Parthenium argentatum (guayule) is an industrial crop, which is the best potential source of latex suitable for use in medical products, gloves etc., which does not cause allergic reactions in patients suffering from Type 1 latex allergy. The dandelion rubber will be tested for use in a variety of applications, but primarily for use in tires. Researchers hope the project will lead to the production of the country's first dandelion rubber commercial facility in the next five years. By 2020, they hope the plant will be producing 60 million pounds of natural rubber. Other alternative rubber producing plants like lettuce (Lactuca serriola) and fig tree (Ficus bengalensis); have not yet been sufficiently studied to establish their usability. The ideal rubber-producing crop would be fast growing plant species that can grow in any type of land across the world. The major objective of this review was to provide the information about cultivation, genetics and breeding aspects of Hevea and also other natural rubber producing species for alternative source of latex production in the near future.
Keywords: Alternative rubber sources, biotechnology, breeding, Hevea brasiliensis, Parthenium argentatum, Taraxacum koksaghyz, Ficus bengalensis, Lactuca serriola
African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 12(12), pp. 1297-1310