Rubber-replacing desert blooms could be boon for arid-region farmers

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In New Mexico, researchers at New Mexico State University are participating in Sustainable Bioeconomy for Arid Regions, a project facilitating collaborative research and commercialization of products such as rubber, resin, and polysaccharide from guayule and guar.

Guayule and guar both grow well in the Southwestern United States, requiring little water and demonstrating drought-resistance.

“This project is coming at a time when various agricultural systems are facing challenges in New Mexico, with many farmers seeking alternative crops that can help maintain and improve farm profit,” said John Idowu, the lead principal investigator for NMSU. “Guayule and guar can serve as the alternative rotation crops that can help farmers in New Mexico to become more profitable.”

Guar gum is used in the oil and gas industry as well as in many food products and pharmaceuticals, adds Kulbhushan Grover, NMSU associate professor specializing in sustainable crop production. “Demand for guar gum in the United States is up to $1 billion annually and most of the guar gum used is imported.”

The project is led by University of Arizona and also includes Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, Bridgestone Americas and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. It has $15 million in funding as part of a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.