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Griffin M. Bates, Sarah K. McNulty, Nikita D. Amstutz, Victor K. Pool and Katrina Cornish

Rubber dandelion (Taraxacum kok-saghyz, Rodin) is being developed as a temperate-zone source of rubber, but best agronomic practices must be determined before it can become a viable supplement to imported rubber produced from para rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis, hevea) plantations located mostly in Southeast Asia. In our study, the effect of planting density and harvest time on yield was determined by transplanting 1.5-month-old greenhouse-produced plants at planting densities of 1.24, 2.47, 4.94, and 9.88 million plants/ha, randomized across four planting boxes with two densities per box (i.e., two planting areas at each density). Half of each planting area was selected randomly and hand-harvested after 6 months, and the remaining plants were hand-harvested after 1 year. Rubber yields per plant were greater after 1 year than after 6 months, but yields per unit area were similar as a result of the loss of half the plants during the severe 2013–14 Ohio winter. A maximum rubber yield of 960 kg dry rubber/ha was obtained from the 9.88 million-plants/ha planting density after 1 year, but root size was significantly decreased compared with lower densities, and appeared too small for mechanical harvest. A planting density between 2.47 and 4.94 million plants/ha may produce the optimal combination of root size and total rubber yield. Greater rubber concentrations, faster-growing plants, short-season germplasm, and in-field weed control are required before yields obtained in outdoor planting boxes can be matched or exceeded on farms, especially in a direct-seeded rubber dandelion crop.