University of Arizona researchers are teaming up with Bridgestone Americas Inc. to develop a new variety of natural rubber from a source that is more sustainable and can be grown in the forbidding conditions of the arid Southwest.
Kim Ogden, head of the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, is principal investigator on a $70 million, five-year project focused on growing and processing guayule (pronounced why-OO-lee), a hardy, perennial shrub that could be an alternative source of natural rubber.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted $35 million for the project, with an equal match from Bridgestone, the tire and rubber company, to help growers transition to guayule crops from their traditional rotations of hay, cotton and wheat.
Additional partners on the project include the Colorado River Indian Tribes, Colorado State University, regional growers and OpenET, a public-private partnership that facilitates responsible water management.
Bridgestone has been working with guayule in Arizona since 2012 at the company’s 280-acre farm in Eloy, about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. Bridgestone plans to expand the farm to 20,000 acres in the next several years by working with Native American farmers to grow guayule on tribal lands, and with other area farmers.
“Eventually, we hope to have plantings of around 100,000 acres, spread out across 15 or 20 facilities across the Southwest,” said David Dierig, section manager for agro operations at Bridgestone. …
Source: The University of Arizona