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item Foulk, Jonn
item Akin, Danny
item DODD, ROY
item McAlister Iii, David

Submitted to: New Crops and New Uses Biodiversity and Agricultural Sustainability
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/25/2002
Publication Date: 10/25/2002
Citation: Foulk, J.A., Akin, D.E., Dodd, R.B., McAlister III, D.D. Flax fiber: potential for a new crop in the southeast. New Crops and New Uses Biodiversity and Agricultural Sustainability.2002. p. 361-370. Available from: crop/NCNU02/v5-361.html

Interpretive Summary: All textile and composite grade flax fiber is currently imported. Flax fiber continues to gain interest globally with U.S. farmers potentially losing a source of income. 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. This work evaluates traditional farm equipment for flax production and tests the new separation process called enzyme-retting. To evaluate fibers produced by this process new standards for marketing flax fiber are in development. Flax crops can be grown and harvested in the Southeast using traditional farm equipment and enzyme-retted with adequate yields and fiber properties. The results are important to U.S. farmers and a future flax fiber market in helping to establish a new, environmentally friendly domestic source of flax fiber. Towards this goal, a pilot plant for flax research is being established at Clemson, ARS-USDA.

Technical Abstract: Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) is the source of fiber for textiles, i.e., linen, and linseed. Globally, the U.S. is the largest per capita consumer of flax fiber, but no flax is produced for fiber. Development of a flax/ linen industry in North America is needed to supply a domestic source of clean, consistent quality fiber for blending with cotton in textiles and to osupply the emerging composites industry. The objective of this work was t evaluate traditional farm equipment for flax production and to develop and test an enzyme-retting method to replace dew-retting. Fibers retted by various formulations were tested for yield and for properties required in the textile and composites area. Flax was grown as a winter crop in the southern U.S. and harvested with traditional mowing and baling equipment. A retting formulation based on commercial, pectinase-rich enzyme mixtures plus chelator was used to ret flax, including both varieties grown for fiber and for seed, using a spray enzyme-retting method. Flax stems were crimped to disrupt the stem integrity and sprayed with an enzyme formulation. Retted stems were cleaned by a variety of means, including the commercial Unified Line and cottonizing system at Ceskomoravsky len, Czech Republic. New methods of harvesting flax, using traditional agricultural equipment to mow, bale and store flax produced fibers adequate for new retting methods. Flax fiber yield and properties can be varied with different levels of chelator and enzyme, respectively. Large scale production of fiber by this method should focus on improving retting efficiency, based on cost and fiber quality, and should be integrated with commercial cleaning systems.