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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Integrated Crop, Soil, and Water Management Systems for Sustainable Production of Sugarcane for Bioenergy Feedstock

Location: Sugarcane Research

Title: Natural fiber production, harvesting, and preliminary processing: options and opportunities

item Webber, Charles - Chuck
item D'souza, Nandika
item Stevens, Kevin
item Ayre, Brian
item Allen, Michael
item Chapman, Kent
item Dickstein, Rebecca

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/17/2012
Publication Date: 9/18/2012
Citation: Webber III, C.L., D'Souza, N.A., Stevens, K.J., Ayre, B.G., Allen, M.S., Chapman, K., Dickstein, R. 2012. Natural fiber production, harvesting, and preliminary processing: options and opportunities [abstract]. BioEnvironmental Polymer Society Conference, September 18-21, 2012, Denton, TX. Poster No. 15.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The utilization of natural fibers and plant oils in bio-products introduces numerous logistical challenges not typically encountered with non-agricultural resources. Once it has been determined that a plant material is suitable for commercial development, the production, harvesting, and processing systems should be thoroughly evaluated to assure consistent and sufficient quantity and quality are available for delivery to the manufacturer. Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L., Malvaceae), a natural fiber and seed oil source, will be used to illustrate the production, harvesting, and preliminary processing options and opportunities available when dealing with bio-based inputs. The selection of the appropriate kenaf production and harvest system is dependent on many factors, including location, equipment availability, storage options, processing plans, and plant component utilization. Products using kenaf plant material utilize different yield components (plant parts) with a range of characteristics. Yield components may include the whole plant, the leaves and stalks individually, portions of the stalk (bast and core), and the seeds. Yield component research with five kenaf varieties over a two year period produced plants at harvest which averaged 26% leaves and 74% stalks by weight. The kenaf stalk's average composition was 35% bark and 65% woody core by weight. Kenaf bark contains a long fiber called bast fiber, while the woody core contains short core fibers. Historically, kenaf was hand-harvested for use as a cordage crop (rope, twine, and sackcloth). The bark portion, which contains bast fiber strands for cordage, was hand-stripped, bundled, and placed in water for the retting process. The advent of new uses for kenaf has resulted in the development of new equipment for harvesting and processing. Four major approaches have been advanced in the development of mechanical whole-stalk harvesters; cutter/crimper-type harvesters, in-field decorticators, forage/chopper-type harvesters, and soldier-type sugarcane harvesters. The types of harvesting equipment used within this algorithm, even though actually used for kenaf harvesting, are just representative examples of the different harvesting types. The selection of the specific equipment will depend on local availability and the required yield component characteristics. The demand for the specific bio-product will determine to a large extent the pathway through the kenaf harvesting and processing algorithm. Two primary considerations for all harvesting and processing systems must include the 75% moisture content of actively growing kenaf plants and the low bulk density of dried kenaf stalks. The high moisture content is an important consideration for safe storage. Typically, the kenaf plant material is allowed to dry to safe levels before compaction for storage. Compacting is often advantageous for storage and transport because it increases the bulk density of the typically rarefied kenaf stalks. The flow chart aspect of the algorithm will assist the producer and manufacturer in gaining a greater grasp of the complexities of management options, and the resulting opportunities, resulting with the use of bio-based material in the manufacturing setting.

Last Modified: 09/21/2017
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