|DODD, ROY - CLEMSON UNIV.
|McAlister Iii, David
Submitted to: Production, Processing, and Use of Natural Fibers Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/22/2002
Publication Date: 8/15/2002
Citation: Production, Processing and Use of Natural Fibers. Book of Abstracts. Furl, C, Editor. 110 pages, pages 18-19.
Interpretive Summary: The United States, as in Europe, is pursuing natural fibers as sustainable, environmentally friendly sources for a variety of industrial applications. Production of flax for fiber could provide a new crop for U.S. farmers. Flax fiber can be produced in the southern U. S. as a winter crop, with low chemical input and good straw yields. Results are important in showing that flax fiber can be produced successfully to address ARS priorities for new crops, improved rural economies, and improved global competitiveness. Research on flax fiber production, enzyme-retting, and standards development is urgent to support interest in the U. S., and globally as well, for cost efficient, value-added fibers for sustainable agriculture and new bio-based products.
Technical Abstract: The United States, as in Europe, is pursuing natural fibers as sustainable, enviromentally friendly sources for a variety of industrial applications. Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) fiber offers many possibilities towards this goal. Specific USDA research objectives are to: (1) evaluate traditional farm equipment for flax production,(2) improve enzyme-retting, especially through use of enzymes as in improvement for traditional methods, and (3) test fibers for manufacturing performance and/or aesthetic properties. Today in the United States, fiber flax for short staple uses can be rapidly harvested by equipment readily available on U.S. farms. Major technical problems associated with establishing a flax fiber industry in the U.S. are the efficiency of harvest methods, inconsistency of fiber extraction (retting), and the lack of standards for judging fiber quality. Rather than dew-retting, cut stalks are field-dried and baled for retting with pectinase-rich enzyme mixtures. Standards are being developed to judge flax fiber for quality related to processing and marketing decisions. Warm southern climates allow this crop to be grown in the winter to produce flax on traditional dormant fields or to double crop for higher economic benefits. The use of enzymes to extract fibers provides an environmentally friendly method for reliable and sustainable agriculture. Commercial enzymes and calcium chelating agents provide a key step in the economic development of a controlled and scientific approach to efficiently produce fibers of high and consistent quality. Development and disseminaton of standards is proceeding through the Flax (Linen Content) Products subcommittee (D13.17), which meets as part of the Textile Committee of ASTM International. ASTM test methods and practices are currently being developed to grade flax fibers for length, strength, fineness, color, and trash to aid in utilization and marketing. Enzyme-retted flax fiber blended with cotton and spun by rotor and ring-spinning equipment at the Cotton Quality Research Station (CQRS), ARS-USDA, provide a final stage of evaluation of the new methods. Yarn test results and processing changes may identify and modify steps to lower the economic costs while producing better fibers and yarns. Further work is needed to optimize the retting formulation for cost and fiber quality and to integrate enzyme-retting with other steps in the process (i.e., variety selection, harvesting methods, and cleaning). A USDA Flax Pilot Plant, with a version of a commerical flax cleaning system, is near completion at ARS-USDA, Clemson, South Carolina. The pilot plant will provide a better understanding of fiber quality parameters, fiber standards, processing costs, and eliminate uncertainties of raw material supply. Research on flax fiber production, enzyme-retting, and standards development is urgent to support interest in the U.S., and globally as well, for cost efficient, value-added fibers for sustainable agriculture and new bio-based products.