WeatherImpact Earth


Pinal County farmers using water-friendly crops to deal with water shortage

Posted at 5:26 PM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 20:46:50-04

As water shortages loom in Arizona, farmers are looking to alternative crops that use less water than cotton and alfalfa.

The ABC15 Impact Earth team, along with our partners at The Water Desk, highlight the crop "guayule," a source of natural rubber.

Kevin Moran from the Environmental Defense Fund says crop switching and looking at lower water-use crops like guayule is one of the solutions that should be looked at.

"The ability to use half the water that alfalfa uses and still potentially have a viable farm and still potentially have a viable farm and agricultural economy," Moran says.

Guayule is an example of the kind of alternative crop that could transform agriculture in Arizona.

Dr. David Dierig of Bridgestone Americas is researching and developing the technology needed for guayule's practical use in manufacturing products, like tires.

"Combined with other materials, the rubber on this ten-acre field would produce over 500 tires," Dr. Dierig says.

Pinal County farmers like Will Thelander are working on field trials with guayule, which is native to the Desert Southwest, and can thrive on a fraction of the water that farmers currently need.

“The kind of water we’re doing now, when we’re flooding, we have to do that about every two weeks for the corn and the cotton. The guayule is about once a month," Thelander says.

Guayule may be what farmers need to sustain their livelihoods, says Thelander.

“Without things like guayule that will use less water, the prospects of future generations being able to do this are not great in Arizona to be completely honest with you.”