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.
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.