Agronomy VI - Fibre Crops

Learn to grow cotton and other fibre crops

Plant fibres have a range of uses in fabrics and materials. Research is continually finding more uses for cellulose. Fibre crops can be grown and harvested within a single season. 

 

Course Content

Ten lessons:

1. Scope and Nature of Fibre Crops 

  • Introduction
  • Fibre Properties
  • Fibre Uses
  • Types of Fibre Crops 
  • Commercial Viability
  • Assessing Land Characteristics
  • Assessing land suitability 
  • Broad Acre Farming
  • Crop Production Considerations
  • Production Systems
  • Crop Rotation and Management
  • Cover Crops
  • Crop Islands


2. Cotton – Part 1

  • Cotton Production 
  • Sustainable Agriculture
  • Crop Rotation
  • Conservation Tillage 
  • Insects and Diseases
  • Insects
  • Aphids
  • Armyworm
  • Cotton bollworm
  • Cotton Diseases 
  • Fungal Diseases
  • Viral Diseases
  • Bacterial Diseases
  • Pesticides and insecticides
  • Cotton Life Cycle
  • Types of Cotton 
  • Better Cotton Initiative
  • Genetic modification

3. Cotton - Part 2

  • Cotton Fibre Properties
  • Improving Properties of Cotton Fibre
  • Flexural testing 
  • Industrial Use of Cotton
  • Cotton Fibre in Clothing
  • Wicking
  • Cotton - Milkweed blends
  •  
  • Ginning
  • Coloured Cotton 
  • Textile Dyeing
  • Load Bearing Materials 
  • Harvesting 
  • Cotton Pickers
  • Cotton Strippers
  • Cotton Ginning
  • Uses of Cotton 

4. Jute

  • Types and Properties of Jute
  • Jute Production
  • Climatic requirements for Jute 
  • Jute Characteristics
  • Genetic Yield Improvements 
  • Pests and Diseases
  • Harvesting
  • Uses and Consumption

5. Industrial Hemp

  • Terminology
  • Types and Properties   
  • Cultivation
  • Countries of Production 
  • Climate
  • Soil Fertility
  • Water 
  • Pests and Diseases
  • Cost 
  • Genetic Modification
  • Harvesting 
  • Uses and Consumption
  • Geotextiles
  • Fabric
  • Carbon Capture
  • Phytoremediation
  • Hempseed
  • Building 
  • Paper
  • Cannabidiol  

6. Sunn Hemp and Kenaf (Deccan Hemp)

  • Sunn Hemp
  • Properties 
  • Cultivation  
  • Soil Fertility 
  • Water 
  • Cost 
  • Phytoremediation
  • Pests and Diseases
  • Genetic Modification 
  • Harvesting 
  • Retting
  • Uses 
  • Fibre
  • Weed Control 
  • Green Manure
  • Biofuel
  • Kenaf (Deccan Hemp)
  • Types and Properties
  • Cultivation
  • Countries of Production
  • Climate 
  • Soil Fertility
  • Water Requirements
  • Pests and Diseases 
  • Harvesting and Processing
  • Uses and Consumption
  • Textiles
  • Food
  • Sustainable Material
  • Soil Structure
  • Paper

7. Flax 

  • Types and Properties  
  • Cultivation
  • Countries of Production 
  • Climate
  • Soil 
  • Water Requirement
  • Pests and Diseases
  • Genetic Modification
  • Harvesting 
  • Processing
  • Uses and Consumption
  • Fabric 
  • Bio Composites and Industrial Materials
  • Paper
  • Bioplastic
  • Food

8. Leaf Fibres and Grass Fibre

  • Abaca and sisal fibres
  • Abaca 
  • Types and Properties 
  • Production and Cultivation 
  • Pests and Diseases 
  • Harvesting and Processing
  • Uses and Consumption
  • Sisal
  • Sisal Cultivation
  • Harvesting and Processing
  • Uses and Consumption
  • Grass Fibres – sugarcane and bamboo 
  • Sugarcane
  • Properties
  • Sugarcane Culture
  • Growing & Production
  • Soil Conditions
  • Ratooning
  • Tillage
  • Crop Rotation and Break Crops
  • Harvesting
  • Burn-offs
  • Sugarcane Straw 
  • Sugarcane Yield Limitations
  • Pests and Diseases
  • Pathogens
  • Uses and Consumption
  • Sugar 
  • Energy
  • Bioethanol
  • Bioplastics/Biomaterials
  • Paper and containers
  • Other Uses
  • Alcohol – Rum
  • Bamboo
  • Types and Properties 
  • Cultivation 
  • Pests and Diseases 
  • Harvesting and Processing
  • Uses and Consumption
  • Food
  • Fuel
  • Medicine
  • Building Material
  • Furniture, Household Items and Accessories
  • Clothing
  • Paper

9. Fruit Fibre - Coir

  • Types and Properties of Coir
  • Coir Production and Cultivation
  • Countries of Production
  • Climate 
  • Soil Fertility
  • Water Requirement
  • Cultivars
  • Pests and Diseases 
  • Harvesting and Processing
  • Uses and Consumption
  • Cordage
  • Horticulture 
  • Construction material
  • Biocontrol

10.Fibre Processing and the Fibre Future

  • Fibre Quality
  • Retting
  • Biological Retting
  • Dew Retting
  • Water Retting
  • Enzyme Retting
  • Chemical Retting
  • Mechanical Retting
  • Physical Retting
  • Drying
  • Fibre Future
  • Hybrid Composites 
  • Geotextiles
  • Building Industry
  • Car Interiors
  • Genetic Improvements 
  • Other Fibre Sources 

WHY USE PLANT FIBRES?

The quality of the extracted fibre will often determine its end use.  Quality parameters include fibre length, strength, micronaire (fineness), length uniformity, and colour grade.  High quality fibre is often reserved for the textile industry, with the longer fibres producing stronger yarns that allow for more valuable end products.  Longer fibres with good strength, also enable higher spinning speeds.
Fibre quality can be determined not only by the retting or processing method used, but also during crop production.  Fibre length for example, will often be determined not only by the genetics of the varietal used, but also by moisture and severe weather events during the fibre elongation period.  Fibre strength on the other hand, whilst also influenced by varietal selection, can also be affected by potassium levels in the root zone of the soil.  
Even if good management of a good fibre crop varietal has been achieved, equal care must be taken in processing to ensure a high value fibre crop.  

Whilst these crops have been utilised for centuries, with the advancement of technology throughout the 20th century, synthetic fibres were developed to overcome some of the disadvantages of natural fibres, and to produce a more economical, mass-produced product.  Nylon was the first human-made product to arrive, and shortly followed by polyester and spandex.  Today the rapid consumption of petroleum-based products and its negative impact on the environment has led to an increase in environmental consciousness when it comes to sustainable materials and products. The benefits of choosing natural fibre products over synthetic ones range from health reasons, sustainability and environmental concerns and longevity benefits.  

Some of these advantages include:

  •  Absorbent - Natural fibres have an incredibly high absorbency, as the fibres tend to have a strong affinity for water. This makes natural fibres a great option for bed sheets and towels, along with clothing, especially in warm climates.  Natural fibres also tend to be very breathable.
  • Eco-friendly - Natural fibres usually have a smaller environmental impact than synthetic fibres because natural fibres do not use as many chemicals during the production process. Some natural fibres are less eco-friendly than others because some plants require more water.  They are also biodegradable.  
  • Durable - Due to the structure of cellulose, which makes up natural materials, most plant-based fibres are very strong. 
  •  Safe – natural fibres are non-carcinogenic, fire-resistant and are also naturally hypoallergenic, making them safe to wear.  

There are also several disadvantages to natural fibres, when compared with synthetic alternatives.

  • Bast fibres, like many biological products, are not uniform in their dimensions or other qualities, particularly when products grown in different locations are compared.
  • Second, plant fibres are relatively hydrophilic, which limits their ability to bond with hydrophobic polymers in composites and causes the fibres to swell or contract with changes in humidity.
  • Third, natural fibres cannot withstand the high temperatures used in some manufacturing processes. 
 

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