by Calvin Trostle, Extension Agronomy, Lubbock, (806) 723-8432, firstname.lastname@example.org
Guar production in Texas has fluctuated from only a few thousand acres to over 100,000 acres in recent years. Currently world guar gum prices are quite low due to the downturn in crude oil prices which has led to a major reduction in oilfield drilling/fracking of new wells or reduced renovation/fracking of existing wells. When guar prices have been in their historical price range (e.g., gum at $2-3/lb), the value of guar imports through the Port of Houston has exceeded $1 billion annually (USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, 2011).
Guar is a heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant crop that has a relative advantage to other crops the drier it gets. Though some guar is irrigated, in general other crops likely can provide a better return on irrigation water. To the extent that climate change may influence cropping practices in Texas, guar is the type of crop that can handle those negative changes and become a relatively more viable crop that can produce agronomically in face of dry conditions.
Guar has the added attraction of being a legume. Although we actually don’t see guar nodulate very much in Texas soils, and there is only one commercial Rhizobium product that is marketed as specific for guar, producers for decades have commented that crops, particularly cotton, look better after guar, and farmers can identify to the row where guar was the year before. Older Texas A&M data from the Rolling Plains suggested this rotation benefit to cotton was as high as 15% though more recent data from Dr. Paul DeLaune, AgriLife Research, Vernon, suggests the potential benefit is 5 to 10%.
A few key tips for guar production in the Texas include:
- Gaur is not for your weedy ground. Trifluralin (Treflan) is your foundational herbicide, but after that you can use clethodim products to control grasses, and Aim (carfentrazone) is labeled for hooded sprayer use.
- Insects and diseases are not an issue in Texas production as long as you avoid the rainy, humid areas of the state. Guar’s adaptation is best west of a line from Wichita Falls, to Abilene to Uvalde.
- For Texas AgriLife recommends that guar be planted no later than July 1 for good production, but a little sooner is advantageous. Guar is also a fit, because of residual yellow herbicides, in a hailout/replant situation after cotton. Afterwards, mid-season management needs in guar are few.
- At harvest time growers increasingly find that using a harvest aid (paraquat and sodium chlorate are labeled) helps dry the stems down to enable harvest several weeks sooner, especially if fall humidity is an issue. Custom harvesters that have an air real appear to have an advantage in harvesting the crop vs. a conventional platform or flex header. Dry guar pods may break off the stem (rather than split open like soybean), and the air reels help push any shattering pods into the header.
AgriLife resources for guar are on the web at http://lubbock.tamu.edu/programs/crops/other-field-crops/guar/ Two primary production resources there are the 2017 update for Texas guar production (Trostle) and the old ‘KEYS’ document that describes historical guar production practices, primarily in the Rolling Plains.
Currently Guar Resources (not to be confused with the former West Texas Guar) in Brownfield, Texas is the sole contractor for guar. Their new processing plant has been splitting and powdering for guar gum since last fall. Though field guar prices are low at $0.16/lb. due to low crude oil prices, about 25,000 acres are under contract due to guar’s crop rotation benefits and low cost of production.
If you have grown guar in the past and were hit with heavy discounts due to black seed, two things have mitigated this concern in current production: A) Texas Tech research shows that the gum content of black seed (usually due to long delayed harvest) has essentially the same gum content as light-colored seed, and B) harvest aids can significantly reduce the development of black seed. Guar Resources does not discount until black seed exceeds 50% (though they still prefer lighter colored seed as it processes easier). Guar Resources’ contact information is in the above 2017 crop information.