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May 4, 2023

Media Advisory: UArizona researchers to launch $70M project to turn desert shrub into rubber

  • What: Representatives from the University of Arizona, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Bridgestone Americas Inc. will speak at a news conference announcing a USDA- and Bridgestone-funded initiative focused on developing a climate-friendly alternative to rubber production.
  • When: Monday, May 8. Remarks begin at 10 a.m. A short tour of the UArizona Controlled Environment Agriculture Center will immediately follow at approximately 10:30 a.m.
  • Where: UArizona Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, 1951 E. Roger Road
  • RSVP: RSVP to Jason Ground,

TUCSON, Ariz. —  The University of Arizona is launching a $70 million, five-year project to develop a new variety of natural rubber from a more sustainable source that can be grown in the arid Southwest. The project, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Bridgestone, will be led by principal investigator Kim Ogden, head of the university's Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering.  

USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie will speak at a news conference launching the new project. The event will also include remarks from Ogden and Bridgestone manager David Dierig, as well as UArizona Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell and Tribal Extension Programs associate director Trent Teegerstrom.

The five-year grant focuses on growing and processing guayule, a hardy, perennial shrub that Ogden believes could be an alternative source of natural rubber. Guayule matures in two years and is native to the Chihuahuan Desert, which covers northern Mexico and parts on the southwestern United States.

Rubber is currently sourced from a single species, the para rubber tree, which grows almost exclusively in Southeast Asia. A single source of such a widely used commodity can be subject to market volatility, and guayule has long been considered a potential alternative.

Half of the $70 million in funds for the project were granted by the USDA, with an equal match from Bridgestone to help growers transition to guayule crops from their traditional rotations of hay, cotton and wheat. The project will also involve the Tohono O'odham Nation and Colorado River Indian Tribes, Colorado State University, regional growers and additional partners.

The grant will fund the development and refinement of growing guayule with climate-smart practices. Bridgestone has worked with guayule in Arizona since 2012 at the company's farm in Eloy.

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Media contact:
Jason Ground
University Communications

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top 50 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2021 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $770 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 66 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually.

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