The importance of developing alternative sources of natural rubber becomes clear when considering that there has been a shortage in the supply of this critical resource every year since 2004, said Bryan Kinnamon, Industry Liaison Office director for Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences -- which includes OARDC. Rapidly increasing demand from emerging economies such as China and India is behind the shortage.

This situation has led to supply uncertainty and price volatility, which affect industries dependent on natural rubber. And things are expected to get worse.

"By 2020, the global shortfall of natural rubber is projected to be more than the entire amount (1.2 million metric tons) the U.S. imports every year," Cornish said.

More information about the natural rubber project is available at http://www.oardc.osu.edu/penra/.