(Brownish) Green Acres

Although agriculture is not something that we ordinarily (or ever) write about here, activities that Bridgestone Americas is undertaking in the southwestern portion of the U.S. is of note:

It has invested more than $100-million in research into guayule, a woody desert shrub that grows in places where many other plants would wither, and has just announced an additional $42-million to develop the means by which there can be commercialized planting and harvesting of the shrub at scale.

No, Bridgestone is not getting into the nursey business for cacti and the like.

Rather, it is developing guayule as a source of natural rubber.

Yes, rubber that can be used to produce tires.

It made its first guayule-based tire in 2015, and as part of its continuing of its developmental work, the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix IndyCar race that was held in Nashville (home of Bridgestone Americas’ HQ) earlier this month had the tires as alternates for the race cars.

The guayule plant and a tire made with rubber from the shrub. (Image: Bridgestone Americas)

While it has a 281-acre guayule farm in Eloy, Arizona, the new investment will include working with farmers and Native American tribes to up the acreage to about 25,000 between now and 2030.

Nizar Trigui, Chief Technology Officer and Group President, Solutions Businesses, Bridgestone Americas, Inc., said, “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.”

According to Bridgestone, more than 90% of the world’s natural rubber come from para rubber tree plantations that are located in Southeast Asia. Although the trees originated in Brazil, in the early 20th century South American Leaf Blight hit the crops, which is why there was the shift to the other side of the world.

That said, turns out that white root rot disease is on the rise there, so presumably guayule is a really good idea for simply being able to make tires going forward.