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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Chemical and Mass Spectrometric Evaluation of Water and Dew Retted Flax

Authors
item Morrison Iii, Wiley
item Archibald, Douglas
item Sharma, S - THE QUEENS UNIVERSITY
item Akin, Danny

Submitted to: Industrial Crops and Products
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 17, 1999
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Flax is the source of linen and is a commercially important crop in Europe; interest in flax/linen is gaining in the U.S. Flax fiber is released from the plant by a process called retting in which the action of microorganisms degrades the glue, which hold the fiber to the stalk. Retting can be carried out in the field, dew-retting, or in tanks, water-retting. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. Dew-retting is dependent on weather conditions and water-retting is less environmentally unfriendly. Water-retting produces a more uniform fiber but is environmentally unfriendly. The way in which the microorganisms degrade the plant differ and as a result, the chemistry of the fiber differs. Chemical evaluation showed that water-retted fibers had a higher palmitic acid, cutin and total wax content and that these were related to a finer, stronger fiber. This information will be used to help evaluate the action of enzymes tailored to ogive a more uniform retting that will be more economical, less polluting, and produce a high quality fiber.

Technical Abstract: Samples of dew-retted and water-retted flax were evaluated by chemical and mass spectral analyses to determine the chemical differences effected by the method of retting. Phenolics, waxes, cutin, and carbohydrates were determined by gas liquid chromatography. Water-retted samples contained more residual wax and lower arabinose content than the dew-retted and were finer and stronger. Statistical analysis of the pyrolysis mass spectrometric data differentiated water- and dew-retted samples. Principal component analysis of the chemical data including both strength and fineness measurements produced a grouping of the water-retted samples distinct from dew-retted samples. Principal component analysis of the mass spectral date produced the same grouping based mass markers characteristic of the chemical components that produced the initial grouping with fineness and strength measurements.

Last Modified: 9/23/2014
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