Photosynthesis and assimilate partitioning between carbohydrates and isoprenoid products in vegetatively active and dormant guayule: physiological and environmental constraints on rubber accumulation in a semiarid shrub

Michael E. Salvucci Csengele Barta John A. Byers Alberto Canarini

First published:19 August 2010


The stems and roots of the semiarid shrub guayule, Parthenium argentatum, contain a significant amount of natural rubber. Rubber accumulates in guayule when plants are vegetatively and reproductively dormant, complicating the relationship between growth/reproduction and product synthesis. To evaluate the factors regulating the partitioning of carbon to rubber, carbon assimilation and partitioning were measured in guayule plants that were grown under simulated summer‐ and winter‐like conditions and under winter‐like conditions with CO2 enrichment. These conditions were used to induce vegetatively active and dormant states and to increase the source strength of vegetatively dormant plants, respectively. Rates of CO2 assimilation, measured under growth temperatures and CO2, were similar for plants grown under summer‐ and winter‐like conditions, but were higher with elevated CO2. After 5 months, plants grown under summer‐like conditions had the greatest aboveground biomass, but the lowest levels of non‐structural carbohydrates and rubber. In contrast, the amount of resin in the stems was similar under all growth conditions. Emission of biogenic volatile compounds was more than three‐fold higher in plants grown under summer‐ compared with winter‐like conditions. Taken together, the results show that guayule plants maintain a high rate of photosynthesis and accumulate non‐structural carbohydrates and rubber in the vegetatively dormant state, but emit volatile compounds at a lower rate when compared with more vegetatively active plants. Enrichment with CO2 in the vegetatively dormant state increased carbohydrate content but not the amount of rubber, suggesting that partitioning of assimilate to rubber is limited by sink strength in guayule.