Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and partners have been awarded a $6.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study use of the guayule plant as a major source of natural rubber.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Cooper will lead a consortium of two universities, three units of the Department of Agriculture, and five companies.

Brown said Cooper applied for the funds in October 2011 through the department's Biomass Research Development Initiative. Brown said he wrote a letter to support the application.

"The impact of the guayule plant on our nation's manufacturing, farming and alternative fuel industries has the potential to be tremendous," Brown said.

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