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Specialty crops at MAC
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More than 2,000 species of plants can produce rubber, but guayule (Parthenium argentatum) is the only one other than Hevea which has had commercial success, dating to the first decade of the twentieth century, when guayule rubber producers operated along the U.S.-Mexican border. Recently, renewed interest has developed because of the discovery that guayule rubber has a protein content one-fifth that of the Hevea natural rubber plant.

Guayule latex is unlikely to cause widespread sensitization associated with Hevea latex and is safe for people with latex allergies. This means that guayule users are far less likely to develop latex allergies and, if already allergic, are safe from adverse reactions. In addition, research performed by USDA and private industry is finding uses for the 85 to 90 percent of the guayule shrub that remains after latex extraction. For example, the recent study showed the guayule fibers to contain a type of natural pesticide to termites and, in addition, to be anti-fungal.

The Maricopa Agricultural Center, in cooperation with the USDA-ARS, has maintained and evaluated plantings of guayule, the Chihuahuan desert-native shrub, for the past 10 to 15 years. Maintaining germplasm, selecting varieties, evaluating latex rubber yield potential, modifying cultural practices and investigating alternative uses of the guayule plant have been the objectives of this project. If guayule becomes a viable economic crop for Arizona agriculture and the acreage expands as anticipated then the research information and technology produced here at MAC will have been the major contributor to that success.

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