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ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #122184


item Akin, Danny
item Rigsby, Luanne - Lowe

Submitted to: Textile Research Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/9/2001
Publication Date: 4/15/2002
Citation: Adamsen, A.S., Akin, D.E., Rigsby, L.L. 2002. Chelating agents and enzyme retting of flax. Textile Research Journal; Vol. 72(4), pp. 296-302.

Interpretive Summary: Farm economy is suffering, and new crops and products are sought to improve the plight of farmers, particularly in impoverished regions of the south. Flax offers the potential to have a new crop with existing markets in textiles and composites, but improved retting (i.e., the extraction of fibers from the plant stem) is required to overcome problems with use of flax fibers. Collaborative work between Danish and ARS scientists have improved enzyme retting by showing the type and amounts of chelating that could be included to facilitate enzymes. Work is important in showing methods to reduce costs of the new enzyme-retting procedures and offers possibilities of additional new formulations.

Technical Abstract: Chelators included with pectinase-rich enzyme mixtures increase the efficiency of enzyme-retting of flax. The multitude of available chelators requires research to optimize enzyme-retting for cost and fiber quality. Of several chelators tested, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) was the most effective in sequestering calcium from solution, with substantial activity even at pH 4 or 5. Phosphate was also effective but only at high pH. EDTA and Mayoquest 200, a commercial product with ~37% EDTA, in combination with the Viscozyme L or Lyvelin commercial enzymes with polygalacturonase activities gave high Fried Test scores, indicating efficient separation of fibers from core tissues. Neither chelator nor enzyme at the levels tested alone effectively retted flax at pH around 5. In contrast, EDTA at 20-mM levels and alkaline pH gave high Fried Test scores. The addition of BioPrep a commercial pectate lyase did not influence retting measured by the Fried Test with EDTA at alkaline pH, but the enzyme did improve retting with the weaker chelator sodium tripolyphosphate. The quality of fibers, as determined by the yield of fine fibers obtained by passing retted flax through the Shirley Analyzer, was substantially greater with EDTA plus Viscozyme at pH 5 than alkaline chemical retting with EDTA, sodium tripolyphosphate, or sodium oxalate without enzyme. EDTA was the most effective chelator at acidic pHs for stimulating flax retting by various commercial pectinase-rich enzyme mixtures. However, other less expensive candidates require additional study for more cost-effective formulations and applicable fiber properties.