D. Dierig, G. Wang, V.M. Cruz, W. Niaura
Bridgestone Americas, Inc.,
Keywords: rubber, guayule, bio-based materials
Summary:Guayule has been an alternative source of natural rubber for the US since the 1940’s during the WW II era. There have been fluctuations in research and development mainly driven by federally funded programs from various Agencies. Yet from these resources a sustainable commercial success with natural rubber/latex products has proven elusive. The most recent effort over the past eight to ten years, including private industrial investment, has provided the ability to move from small plot research to large scale production. Direct seeding technology has replaced costly and hand-labor requirements of transplanting. As a result, growers have been engaged and successful test fields planted on their Arizona farms ranging from 20 to 50 acres. This is apart from the fields on the Bridgestone Guayule Research Farm of 280 acres. The shrub produced from these sites supply the Bridgestone Bio-Processing Research Center advancing more efficient and technologically advanced processing of shrub to rubber and coproducts. Shrub and seed harvesting technology has also developed because of this activity. Advanced breeding tools and methodologies have begun to be used to improve and understand yield potential. The partnership of government and industry have demonstrated that a new domestic rubber industry is ready to be deployed. Prior to data on a larger scale, important decision-making tools such as techno-economic models and life cycle analysis have been crude estimates. The ability to produce data approaching an increasing scale provides a path to increase production to a level necessary for a commercial facility.