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item Foulk, Jonn
item Akin, Danny

Submitted to: Industrial Crops and Products International Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/5/2000
Publication Date: 5/21/2001
Citation: Foulk, J.A., Akin, D.E., Dodd, R.B. Processing techniques for improving enzyme-retting of flax. Industrial Crops and Products International Conference Proceedings. 2001. v.13 (3). p. 239-248.

Interpretive Summary: Interest and use in flax fiber for textiles and composites is gaining interest globally, but no fiber is produced in this country and a potential source of income for farmers is lost. To produce quality fibers for use in textiles and composites, new and environmentally friendly methods of separating fiber from woody stem tissues (called retting) is required. Work by USDA and Clemson University scientists evaluated methods to optimize a newly developed enzymatic-retting system to extract flax fibers and identified specific actions that improve enzyme activity and/or reduce costs. The results are important to U.S. farmers and a future flax fiber market in helping to establish a new, environmentally friendly process for processing a domestic source of flax fiber.

Technical Abstract: Research is required to optimize enzymatic-retting based on a pectinase- rich mixture and chelators applied to crimped flax stalks. Seed flax straw from North Dakota in 1998,'Natasja' fiber flax straw from South Carolina in 1993, 'Ariane' fiber flax straw field-aged and dried from South Carolina in 1999, 'Ariane' fiber flax straw shed-dried from South Carolina in 1999, and Canadian seed flax straw in 1997 comprised diverse samples that were subjected to various tests to improve absorption of enzyme formulation by stems or to evaluate clean fiber yield. Mechanical disruption by crimping stems through fluted rollers at about 80 Newtons gave the highest fiber yield of any treatments in conjunction with enzymatic-retting and was, therefore, used in further tests to evaluate enzyme absorption. Enzyme absorption was significantly increased for uncrimped flax stems with increased pressure of about 310 Kpa or with a vacuum around 88 Kpa; increased pressure was more effective than vacuum treatment. Samples having little post harvest handling were more effected by alterations in pressure than samples that had considerable disruptions, such as seed flax straw or field-aged straw. In contrast to uncrimped stems, crimped stems showed little advantage for increased enzyme absorption with alterations in applied pressure. Mechanical treatment of stems by crimping provided the greatest benefit for increasing enzyme absorption and significantly increased fiber yields. With a variety of sample types, results suggested that normal atmospheric conditions are satisfactory for penetration of enzyme formulation into crimped stems, and extraordinary measures are not required to expedite the enzyme-retting process.