To date, Cooper – the lead agency in a research grant project – has completed a number of tire builds, iterative work that includes the replacement of both Hevea and synthetic rubber with guayule in various components, and then testing each build for overall performance, the Findlay-based tire maker said.
“We have nearly finished our work on developing guayule-based tire components and have tested these tires to assure a full performance evaluation,” said Chuck Yurkovich, Cooper’s senior vice president of global research & development.
“The results are highly promising. We have proven that we can replace traditional polymers with guayule in certain components, and that tires made from these components perform equal to conventional tires. We are optimising the use of guayule formulations to develop not only a full guayule tire, but we will also evaluate guayule blends in certain components where an advantage has been shown to exist.”
Another grant consortium partner, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS), announced at the BRDI meeting that it has completed the most extensive irrigation study ever done on guayule. Growing guayule in desert regions requires judicious management of irrigation water for maximising yields while minimising water usage.
The study, which began in 2012 and involved two guayule fields in Maricopa, Arizona, compared surface irrigation and subsurface drip irrigation to determine the most effective method to drive higher rubber yield per acre.
The final harvest was completed in March 2015 and ARS concluded that drip irrigation provided an “enormous benefit” over other irrigation techniques and led to improved yields. The information obtained is critical to developing optimum guayule farming techniques to support a potential future guayule industry, the agency said.
ARS said it is developing a Web-based application that will allow farmers to use the data to maximise their yields.
The service also is sequencing the guayule genome so the crop can benefit from modern breeding and genetics tools. The molecular efforts are designed to advance improvements in terms of yield, resistance to disease and pests, cold tolerance and other factors, laying the foundation for molecular breeding of the plant.
ARS announced that this work has resulted in three patent disclosures on the genome, which will be submitted to the US Patent Office, significantly advancing the understanding of the plant and how to engineer it moving forward to maximise its potential in the production of rubber for the tire industry.
"We now have the first-ever assembly of the guayule plant genome,” said Colleen McMahan, PhD, research chemist, ARS, Western Regional Research Laboratory. “This resource, and the advanced breeding tools from Cornell (University), will benefit breeders for decades to come through agricultural innovations.”