Despite the fact that there are thousands of acres of guar (Cyamopsis tetragonoloda) throughout the semiarid areas of Texas and Oklahoma, many people have not ever even heard of it. Guar can be characterized as an extremely drought tolerant summer annual legume that is adapted to the poor sandy soils found throughout the region.
Demand for guar gum is extremely high due to oilfield fracking needs. Guar is a key ingredient for hydraulic fracturing fluid used by the oil and gas industry. It takes a tremendous amount of guar, up to 80 acres, for one well completion.
It is anticipated that worldwide demand for products made from guar gum will increase in the near future, said Dr. Richard Teague, Texas A&M AgriLife Research rangeland ecologist at Vernon. The Rolling Plains is particularly well suited for commercial production of guar.
Guar produces a bean about one-half the size of a soybean. The endosperm of the bean contains galactomannan gum, an industrial gum used in paper sizing, petrochemical applications, and cosmetics. In addition, guar gum can be used as a thickening agent in ice cream and instant puddings. Guar meal is also an excellent source of protein which can be extruded into feed pellets for animals. Currently, most of the domestic guar beans are imported from either Pakistan or India; therefore, development and promotion of guar production would be beneficial to agriculture in this area.
Currently, on an annual basis guar is contracted and mostly grown in the lower Texas High Plains (Lubbock region), the Rolling Plains (to the east, toward Vernon and Wichita Falls) and occasionally in southwest Oklahoma. There are two producers in Clay County that are growing guar. One of them, Tommy Henderson of Byers, said that “guar is a good, soil-building crop.” Numerous farmers have commented how they like the condition of their land after growing guar, and guar is a good rotation with any crop including cotton and grain sorghum.
West Texas Guar out of Brownfield serves as the only contractor and receiver for farm production of guar in the US. West Texas Guar is also the only significant source of guar seed in the US, but they only provide seed to those producers who have a signed production contract with WTG.
“Guar Potential for Agriculture in the Rolling Plains” will be the topic of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center Monthly Seminar Series on November 26 in the center auditorium, 11708 S Highway 70, south of Vernon. The seminar is set for noon to 1 pm with Kyle Amos of Highland Farm Asset Services in Amarillo presenting. The seminar is free, and while no lunch is served, those attending are invited to bring a lunch. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP by November 25.
“Farmers are interested in guar because it is a low input, drought tolerant crop,” said Teague. “Guar also fixes nitrogen and some producers believe it could be useful as a cover crop to improve soil organic matter and fertility.”
Before venturing into alternative crops, farmers must consider production and harvest logistics along with market risk, pest control and balancing with current crop acreage.
For more information about this topic, contact the A&M AgriLife Extension office, Clay County at (940) 538-5042.