Manufacturer Bridgestone has outlined plans to invest an additional US$42m to commercialize guayule as a domestic source of natural rubber and an environmentally sustainable crop in the southwestern deserts of the USA.
The investment will be used to establish commercial operations by collaborating and partnering with local US farmers and Native American tribes. This will increase capacity by creating up to 10,000 additional hectares of farmland for planting and harvesting the woody desert shrub. Bridgestone aims to begin the sustainable commercial production of guayule-derived natural rubber by 2030.
Bridgestone is expanding the number of local farmers it works with in central Arizona and is aiming for 140ha of new guayule to be planted over the next year. Guayule can be farmed using existing row-crop equipment, which saves costs for farmers. It also requires half as much water for growth as existing crops such as cotton and alfalfa.
“We’re extremely bullish on the potential for guayule as a domestic source of strategically critical materials, such as rubber, hypoallergenic latex, building material adhesives and renewable fuel, just to name a few. We’re thrilled to be taking this major step toward commercialization before the end of the decade,” said Nizar Trigui, chief technology officer and group president of solutions businesses at Bridgestone Americas. “With guayule, we can reduce the environmental impacts that come with overseas sourcing while also realizing a more sustainable agricultural system for parts of this country that are facing persistent and worsening climate conditions, so it’s really something with many benefits for our environment and our economy.”
Having launched its guayule research initiative in 2012, the company now operates a research center in Mesa, Arizona, and a 113ha guayule farm in Eloy, Arizona. The tire maker has so far invested more than US$100m to commercialize guayule.
Firestone Firehawk race tires produced using a guayule-derived natural rubber in the sidewall were introduced at the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge in May 2022, ahead of their competition debut as the alternative race tire on August 7, 2022, at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, USA. The story can be found here.