The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded a US$35m climate-smart grant to Bridgestone Americas (Bridgestone) so the tire maker can invest in desert shrub guayule to expand natural rubber production within the USA. The investment will also provide growers who are struggling with a water crisis in the southwest of the country with an environmentally sustainable crop solution.
The multi-million-dollar grant was awarded under the USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Initiative. Bridgestone will use it to expand natural rubber production in the US Southwest with fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It will also create jobs within the area.
Funds from the grant will be used to attract additional guayule growers among local farmers and Native American tribes in the Southwest. The tire manufacturer aims to educate local growers on how to introduce climate-smart practices to enable a domestic natural rubber industry in the country by planting this climate-appropriate crop in the region.
The grant will be used between 2023 and 2027 to lower overall costs for guayule growers and reduce agricultural carbon impacts to 0% through the production of guayule. The company aims to achieve this target by introducing key agricultural practices, optimizing water use to match growers’ water allocations and offering incentives to guayule growers to implement sustainable practices.
“At Bridgestone, we have been committed to guayule as a domestic source of natural rubber since our research initiative in this desert shrub began in 2012 to offer a more sustainable solution for our environment and economy,” said William Niaura, director of sustainable materials and circular economy at Bridgestone Americas. “By participating in this larger industry-wide initiative led by the USDA, we can continue our commitment to establishing a natural rubber industry domestically in a climate-smart way alongside other industry thought leaders who are similarly dedicated to sustainable commodity production that will provide meaningful benefits for domestic growers.”
Bridgestone is targeting the commercial production of guayule-derived natural rubber by 2030. Through the use of guayule and other initiatives, the tire maker aims to produce tires from 100% sustainable materials and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.