Orange growers get boost from tire maker

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Central Florida orange growers and juice processors could get a boost from the tire industry.

There's a valuable by-product that's hidden in the orange peel -- orange oil -- and the new use for that by-product could be a big money maker.

A grove full of oranges may be just what's needed to make a longer lasting tire.

"It sounds crazy, but it really works," Yokohama tire engineer Pat Keating said.

At Showcase of Citrus south of Clermont, the company launched a new line of tires made with orange oil.

Keating said how many orange peels go into each tire is a "closely guarded secret."

At orange juice processing plants across Central Florida, the oil is pressed out of the peels and has been used to make medicines, candy, cleaners and now tires.

"I'll tell you what -- it has completely surprised all of us growers," Showcase of Citrus owner John Arnold said.

Arnold said a greater demand for orange oil can trickle down to Central Florida growers. It can be a very hot commodity that hinges on supply and demand.

"There's only a couple of drops in each orange. So we obviously consider it a very valuable asset," Arnold said.

Keating said Yokohama has figured out a way to process the orange oil into a resin added to the rubber in its tires, giving them a better grip and a tread life of 75,000 miles. While the resin is currently made in Japan, the most important ingredient is Florida grown.

"There are no better oranges than Florida oranges. And it takes oranges to make orange oil," Keating said.

Yokohama first used orange oil for race car tires. They used them in Sebring International Raceway and won a lot of races.