For sustainable production, guayule grows well in arid and semi arid areas of the southwestern United States, North Central Mexico and regions with similar climates around the world. Because the guayule plant produces terpene resins, which are natural pesticides, it is resistant to many pests and diseases. Herbicides are primarily necessary for stand establishment.
In the 1920s, the plant saw a brief and intense amount of agricultural research when the Intercontinental Rubber Company in California produced 1400 tons of rubber after leaf blight decimated the Brazilian rubber industry. Then again during World War II when Japan cut off America's Malaysian latex resources. The war ended before large-scale farming of the guayule plant began, and the project was scrapped, as it was cheaper to import tree-derived latex than to crush the shrubs for a smaller amount of latex.
Recently, the guayule plant has seen a small but growing resurgence in research and agriculture due to its hypoallergenic properties. While Hevea-derived rubber contains proteins that can cause severe allergic reactions in a few people, guayule does not. With the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, the surge in rubber-glove usage revealed how many people were allergic to latex (about 10% of health-care workers, according to OSHA), and thereby created a niche market for guayule. There are synthetic alternatives for medical device products, but they are just not as stretchy as natural rubber. Guayule performs like Hevea but contains none of the proteins that cause latex allergies.
Selection of high-yielding guayule is complicated by its breeding system, which is primarily apomixis. However, the breeding system is somewhat variable and considerable genetic variation exists within wild populations. Selection of high-yielding lines has been successful (Ray et al. 2005).
The company leading the commercialization of guayule as an industrial crop is Yulex Corporation, founded by Daniel R.Swiger manufacturing and producing guayule rubber for medical devices and specialty consumer products that are safe for people who have latex allergy. Yulex Corporation has cultivated proprietary, high-yielding lines of guayule with agricultural operations concentrated in Arizona as well as some operations in Queensland, Australia. Yulex rubber is marketed as a cost-effective, clinically proven solution to the serious health risks posed by Hevea-derived latex products imported from Southeast Asia.
Guayule's viability as a potential biofuel has been enhanced recently in light of commentary from a variety of experts, including Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, stating that "[food based] biofuels pit the 800 million people with cars against the 800 million people with hunger problems" , meaning that biofuels derived from food crops (like corn) raise world food prices. Guayule can be an economically viable biofuel crop that doesn't increase the world's hunger problem Guayule has another benefit over food crops as biofuel - it can be grown in areas where food crops would fail.