A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) team has tapped biotech tools to help develop improved varieties of the guayule plant. While the commercial industry is in its infancy, rubber from the crop is processed to make tires, medical devices, and other items.
Chemist Colleen McMahan; molecular biologists Grisel Ponciano, Niu Dong and Dante Placido; and technician Trinh Huynh, all based at USDA’ Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at Albany, Calif., last year delivered more than 3,000 experimental guayule plants to research partner Bridgestone Americas for field tests.
Rubber is typically made from petroleum and the Asian rubber tree. Yet a U.S. home-grown domestic source of rubber is from the woody desert shrub guayule grown in the Southwest.
In 2013, Bridgestone Americas and ARS started to evaluate ARS’ genetically improved guayule. Rubber content per plant was increased substantially in greenhouse and laboratory testing. Bridgestone is now evaluating some new varieties in the field.
Read more about USDA-Bridgestone Americas guayule research in the March issue of AgResearch.
According to Western Farm Press sources, guayule acreage in Arizona could reach several thousand acres or more in the future. Read two Western Farm Press articles on Arizona guayule online at http://tinyurl.com/k9p2lt5 and a guayule grower feature story at http://tinyurl.com/lakqh6b.
One place where Bridgestone is growing new varieties in the field is at the Bridgestone Americas farm near Eloy, Ariz., located south of Phoenix in Pinal County.