Molecular could boost the yield for an alternative desert rubber plant

Yulex hopes to break the Asian rubber monopoly using gene sequencing and an unassuming desert plant. The plant is called plant called guayule. Under the bark is soft layer called parenchyma. You can use it to make rubber, and that means you can make wetsuits, condoms, gloves, catheters, angioplasty balloons, and so many other medical devices. But most importantly, you can make tires. Car tires. Truck tires. Aircraft tires. In fact, this sort of natural rubber is essential to making tires. We now have synthetic rubber, but that isn’t as strong as the natural stuff. Our automobile tires contain about 50 percent natural rubber, and you simply can’t make a truck or aircraft tire without it.

Today, almost all natural rubber comes from hevea rubber trees grown in Southeast Asia.

The average guayule plant yields relatively small amounts of rubber. Yulex believes they can massively boost the yield and grow the new rubber plants in the USA.

Mathur was the chief technologist at SG Biofuels, which transformed a plant called jatropha into a source of jet fuel. Now, he’s applying the same science to guayule.

SGB raised jatropha seed yields by as much as 900 percent, eventually signing a deal with BP and others to plant 75,000 acres of the stuff in Brazil. “Their work really showed the potential of molecular breeding technologies, particularly for new crops,” says Iowa State professor Schnable

Guayule plant

SOURCE – Wired