Secret Manzanar Guayule Rubber Project to Be Spotlighted in Educational Forum

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Dr. Glenn Kitayama (left) with his father Frank Kitayama during a demonstration at the Manzanar National Historic Site. They showed how to make high-grade rubber from guayule. (Manzanar National Historic Site)

Dr. Glenn Kitayama (left) with his father Frank Kitayama during a demonstration at the Manzanar National Historic Site. They showed how to make high-grade rubber from guayule. (Manzanar National Historic Site)

GARDENA — “The Secret Manzanar Guayule Rubber Project,” a program sponsored by the Manzanar Committee about the high-quality, natural rubber from the guayule (pronounced y-yoo-lee) plant that was researched and developed, in part, by Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated at the Manzanar concentration camp during World War II, will be held on Sunday, Aug. 30, at 1 p.m. at the Merit Park recreation room in Gardena.

Rubber was in short supply during World War II, and with the U.S. in need of a new source of rubber, the government invested $37 million to support the Emergency Rubber Project (ERP) in Salinas, where more than 1,000 scientists and technicians worked to plant and grow 32,000 acres of guayule, a plant native to Mexico.

A smaller guayule rubber project was started at Manzanar to develop techniques for faster growth of the plant and to increase yield of a higher-quality rubber.

On five acres of land, and at a cost of about $100, 40 Manzanar incarcerees produced a higher-yield plant and a higher-quality rubber than the Salinas Project or natural tree rubber.

Featured at the event will be Glenn H. Kageyama, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience and cell biology at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, whose father, the late horticulturalist Frank Kageyama, was a key figure in the Manzanar project during his incarceration. Glenn will speak about the history of guayule and his father’s work, and will demonstrate making rubber from guayule.

Also featured will be Colleen McMahan, Ph.D., lead research chemist for the Agricultural Research Service Domestic Natural Rubber Project, U.S. Department of Agriculture, who will talk about guayule as a domestic source of high-quality natural rubber, as well as its potential for low-cost bioenergy fuel.

The event is free and open to the public. The Merit Park recreation room is located at 58 Merit Park Dr. in Gardena. For more information, call (323) 662-5102 or email [email protected]

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