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Ramie Fiber

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Ramie is one of the strongest natural fibers. It exhibits even greater strength when wet. Ramie fiber is known especially for its ability to hold shape, reduce wrinkling, and introduce a silky lustre to the fabric appearance. It is not as durable as other fibers, and so is usually used as a blend with other fibers such as cotton or wool. It is similar to flax in absorbency, density and microscopic appearance. However it will not dye as well as cotton. Because of its high molecular crystallinity, ramie is stiff and brittle and will break if folded repeatedly in the same place; it lacks resiliency and is low in elasticity and elongation potential.[3]

 

Physical and chemical properties of ramie fiber

Cellulose (wt%)

Lignin (wt%)

Hemicellulose (wt%)

Pectin (wt%)

Wax (wt%)

Microfibrillar angle (°)

Moisture content (wt%)

Density (mg/m3)

68.6 - 76.2

0.6 - 0.7

13.1 - 16.7

1.9

0.3

7.5

8.0

1.50

Source: [4]
 

Mechanical properties of untreated ramie fibers

Fiber diameter (mm)

Fracture load (N)

Tensile strength (MPa)

Fracture strain (%)

0.034

0.467

560

0.025

Source: [5]

 

Uses

Despite its strength, ramie has had limited acceptance for textile use. The fiber's extraction and cleaning are expensive, chiefly because of the several steps—involving scraping, pounding, heating, washing, or exposure to chemicals. Some or all are needed to separate the raw fiber from the adhesive gums or resins in which it is ensheathed. Spinning the fiber is made difficult by its brittle quality and low elasticity; and weaving is complicated by the hairy surface of the yarn, resulting from lack of cohesion between the fibers. The greater utilization of ramie depends upon the development of improved processing methods.

Ramie is used to make such products as industrial sewing thread, packing materials, fishing nets, and filter cloths. It is also made into fabrics for household furnishings (upholstery, canvas) and clothing, frequently in blends with other textile fibers (for instance when used in admixture with wool, shrinkage is reported to be greatly reduced when compared with pure wool.) Shorter fibres and waste are used in paper manufacture.

Ramie is also used as an ornamental plant in eastern Asia.

Ramie (Boehmeria nivea), commonly known as China grass, white ramie, green ramie and rhea, is one of the group referred to as the bast fiber crops. It is a hardy perennial belonging to the Urticaceae or Nettle family, which can be harvested up to 6 times a year. It produces a large number of unbranched stems from underground rhizomes and has a crop life from 6 to 20 years. The bark contains gums and pectins causing the fibers to be useable only after chemical treatment.

The true ramie or ‘China Grass' is also known as ‘white ramie' and is the Chinese cultivated plant. It has large heart shaped, crenate leaves covered on the underside with white hairs that give it a silvery appearance. Boehmeria nivea var. tenacissima, is known as ‘green ramie' or ‘rhea'. It is believed to have originated in the Malay Peninsula. It has smaller leaves which are green on the underside, and is better suited to tropical climates.
 

Ramie is one of the oldest textile fibers. It was used in mummy cloths in Egypt during the period 5000 - 3000 BC, and has been grown in China for many centuries. The main producers of ramie today are China, Brazil, Philippines, India, South Korea and Thailand. Only a small percentage of the ramie produced is available on the international market. Japan, Germany, France and the UK are the main importers, the remaining supply is used domestically (in the country in which it is produced).

Ramie fiber is very durable, is pure white in colour and has a silky luster. It is reported to have a tensile strength eight times that of cotton and seven times greater than silk. However, other reports claim that the tensile strengths of cotton, flax, hemp and ramie are similar. These discrepancies can be partly attributed to the effects of source of supply, method of processing, the test conditions, temperature and humidity, on the fiber strength.

The stems of ramie grow to a height of 1 - 2.5 meters. The most suitable climate for ramie is one which is warm and humid, with an annual rainfall of at least 1000 mm.  Well established plants can tolerate drought and frost, but grow better without. As ramie productivity is high it can rapidly deplete the soil of nutrients.

 

Properties

Advantages of Ramie as a Fabric :

 

Resistant to bacteria, mildew, alkalis, rotting, light, insect attack.

 

Extremely absorbent and therefore comfortable to wear, especially during warm weather.

 

 

Has natural stain resisting ability with ease of stain/soil removal similar to that of linen (and this is better than cotton).

 

Not harmed by mild acids.

 

Dyes fairly easily.

 

Good wet-fastness in laundering - though dark colors may lose their vibrancy over repeated launderings.

 

Increases in strength when wet.

 

Withstands high water temperatures during laundering.

 

Smooth lustrous appearance improves with washing.

 

Keeps its shape and does not shrink.

 

Can be bleached.

 

 

 

Disadvantages of Ramie as a Fabric :

 

Low in elasticity.

 

Low abrasion resistance.

 

Wrinkles easily (but application of wrinkle-resistant finishes or blending with synthetic fibers can reduce the problem in woven fabrics).

 

Stiff and brittle.

 

The fiber is high cost which reduces its competitiveness against other textile fibers - this high cost is due to high labor requirement for production, harvesting and decortication.

 

There is a need to de-gum the fiber prior to processing.

 

 

 

 

Applications

 

Apparel.

 

dresses, suits, skirts, jackets, pants, blouses, shirts, children wear, mixed with cotton in knitted sweaters.

 

Home Fashion.

 

curtains, draperies, upholstery, bedspreads, table linens, sheets, dish towels.

 

Sewing thread.

 

Handkerchiefs.

 

Parachute fabrics.

 

Woven fire hoses.

 

Narrow weaving.

 

Canvas.

 

Filter cloth.

 

When used in a mixture with wool, shrinkage is reported to be greatly reduced when compared with pure wool. 

 

Short waste fibers are used for the production of high quality papers, such as bank notes & cigarette papers.

 

As ramie takes up phosphorous, it is potentially useful for cleaning up the Everglades.  This region suffers   from a nutrient overload from the sugar industry.

     

Ramie as a Blend

Ramie is most often blended (common is 55% ramie/45% cotton) with other fibers for its unique strength and absorbency, luster and dye-affinity. When blended with high-quality cotton it offers increased luster, strength and color.
When mixed with wool, ramie adds lightness and minimizes shrinkage. When blended with rayon, it offsets the low wet strength.

 

   
Care Recommendations for Ramie Fabrics
 

Care procedures prescribed on the care labels of ramie products vary. Items of 100 percent ramie should not require special care. Generally, they may be laundered or dry-cleaned depending on individual dyes, finishes and design applications.

High temperatures will not harm the fiber itself, making washing in hot water and ironing at high settings possible; however, color retention, shrinkage control or properties of blended fibers may dictate lower temperatures.

 


Recent laboratory testing done has led to the conclusion that the best performance results when gentler or more special handling is used in care. For example, fabrics retained the best color and shape with the most wrinkle-free appearance when they were dry-cleaned.

Machine washing in cold water on gentle cycle with line drying was better than machine washing in warm water with tumble drying on permanent press cool down cycle.

 

   

Hand washing in cool water with flat drying is the most strongly recommended home care method for both knits and woven fabrics. The consumer who knows the strengths and limitations of the fiber can receive maximum service and enjoyment from ramie products.

When storing ramie or ramie blends, lay them flat. Ramie fibers are brittle and tend to break.
Avoid folding the garment or pressing sharp creases in woven fabrics.

 

 

Ramie's role in farming systems :

The following characteristics of the ramie crop would influence its suitability in Australian farming systems:
 
 

It is a perennial crop with a life of 6 to 20 years.

 

It is capable of producing high yields of biomass and if the harvesting system involves total removal of this biomass, there would be a rapid decline in soil fertility  and

 

Ramie is subject to a number of pests and diseases, including nematodes.

 

Grades

 

Fibers

 

Tow/Tops

 

Spun yarns

     
     

 

 

Processability

The crop

Ramie is a member of the Urticaceae or nettle family and is a hardy perennial which produces a large number of unbranched stems from underground rhizomes.

The stems of ramie grow to a height of 1 to 2.5 m. The crop is generally propagated vegetatively, using rhizome or stem cuttings. Production begins to decline once roots become overcrowded.

 
 

Harvesting

Ramie is normally harvested two to three times per year but under good growing conditions can be harvested up to six times per year. Harvesting is done just before or soon after the onset of flowering, since there is a decline in plant growth at this stage and maximum fiber content is achieved. Stems are harvested by cutting just above the lateral roots or the stem can be bent, to enable the core to be broken and the cortex can be stripped from the plant in situ. Mechanical harvesters have been developed but are not used commercially. After harvesting, stems are decorticated while the plants are fresh as the bark gets harder to remove as the plant dries out. The bark ribbons are dried as quickly as possible to prevent attack by bacteria or fungi.

The dry weight of harvested stem from both tropical and temperate crops ranges from about 3.4 to 4.5 t/ha/year; a 4.5 ton crop yields about 1,600 kg/ha/year of dry non-de-gummed fiber. The weight loss during de-gumming can be up to 25% giving a yield of de-gummed fiber of about 1,200 kg/ha/year.

 

Extraction of fiber

Extraction of the fiber occurs in three stages.

 

Firstly, the cortex or bark is removed, either by hand or machine, in a process called de-cortication.

 

The second stage involves scraping the cortex to remove most of the outer bark, the parenchyma in the bast layer and some of the gums and pectins.

 

The third stage involves washing, drying and de-gumming of the residual cortex material to extract the spinnable fiber. Details of the de-gumming processes tend to be regarded as commercial-in-confidence information

 

Ramie fiber

Ramie fiber is one of the premium vegetable fibers. The ultimate fibers are exceptionally long and are claimed to be the longest of vegetable origin, with one report claiming the fibers range up to 580 mm, averaging about 125 mm.
Ramie fiber is very durable, is pure white in colour and has a silky luster.

For the hand spinner, ramie is treated similar to flax in that it can be either wet or dry spun. A wet spun yarn will produce a smooth softer yarn with high luster, while a dry spun yarn will feel hairier, have less luster and a harsher handle. It can readily be blended with other fibers such as wool or silk, although the length of ramie can sometimes cause difficulties.

 

 

 

 

Ramie spinning technology
 

 

 

 

 
  Raw Ramie Material   Degumming Process of Ramie Fibers   Degummed Ramie Fiber  
             
       
  Ramie Drawing Frame   Ramie Flyer Making    Ramie Spinning Frame   
             
         
  Ramie Coning Process   Finished Ramie Yarn on Cones      
 

Background information

History

Ramie is one of the oldest textile fibers. It was used in mummy cloths in Egypt during the period 5000-3000 BC and has been grown in China for many centuries. Brazil began production in the late 1930s with production peaking in 1971 with about 30,000 t. Since then, production has steadily declined as a result of competition with alternative crops, such as soybeans and the importation of synthetic fibers. Production in the Philippines began in the early 1950s, peaking in the mid 1960s with 5,500 t. Since then, production has declined steadily.

 

Our supplier partner

Hunan Isunte

Ramie (Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaud, is the only member of the Urticaceae family used commercially for fiber production. The plant produces a large number of erect and slender stems or stalks, usually non-branching and grows from 4 to 7 leaves that are silvery white underneath, 7.5 to 15 cm. long with clusters of small greenish flowers, ranging from 8 to 16 mm in diameter. The stalks turn brown and woody as they mature.

The fiber obtained from Ramie plant is one of the strongest vegetable fiber known in the world today. It possesses highest strength and length, good durability and absorbency with excellent luster. These remarkable characters make it rather more suitable for use in the manufacture of wide variety of textiles and cordage products. However, despite its unique quality, ramie has received comparatively less prominence in the calendar of important crops of the world.

Recently with the availability of more technical know how, the crop has started getting slightly more importance and the countries like China, Brazil and the Philippines have come forward with commercial cultivation.

 

Principal Uses

 

Fabric - Ramie tetoron

 

Yams

 

Industrial Threads

 

Sacks

 

Carpets

 

Twine and Cordage

 

 

 

Conditions Required for Growing

Ramie grows well in the areas having good rainfall and warm climate. The following type of soil and climate is best suited for ramie cultivation.

 

Soil

The soils best suited for ramie are sandy loam or loamy, very sandy. The clayey or gravel soil is not suitable. The plant is too much sensitive to soil moisture conditions. It grows well in land, which have adequate supply of moisture, well distributed throughout the growing season. Soil must be well-drained i.e. high land and should have no problem of water logging or flooding. Flat and slopy lands are good. Ramie plants give poor growth in the dry sandy soil and the poorly drained soils. The soils deficient in calcium and poor in Base Exchange capacity are also not suitable unless proper liming is done and sufficient organic manure is added. The pH of the soils for ramie should be around 5.5 to 5.6.

 

Climate

Ramie is grown best in a warm moist climate where the temperature during winters goes down to freezing. A temperature of approximately 25°C to 31°C during the summer and rainy months with annual rainfall of 1500 to 3000 mm. evenly distributed throughout the year is considered good for the growth of the crop. However, the crop makes very little growth during winters. It is usually grown at altitudes less than 300m above sea level. The ramie plants are very much sensitive to frost. Even strong winds are harmful as during storms the stalks rub with each other resulting in breaking and ultimate lodging of the canes. The relative humidity of 80% during the growing period is found to be best.

 

Methods of Cultivation

Ramie is propagated vegetatively through rhizomes for commercial production throughout the world. The cuttings of rhizomes are planted directly in the field and the plants arising from them spread rapidly. Rhizomes are obtained from the roots of healthy and disease free plants which are dug out by a spade from an already established plantation. The rhizomes are then removed separately and cut into pieces of 10 to 15cm. in length.

These pieces are planted in field immediately or may be stored in a shady place for a week or so before planting. The practice of propagation through rhizomes ensures good sprouting, clonal purity and is economical. It makes the cultural operations also simple. The quantity of rhizomes obtained from an unit area depends on the age of plantation and variety. Usually the quantity of rhizomes obtained from one hectare of 2 years old plantation can give enough planting material to cover at least 20 hectares of land.

As a perennial crop, ramie occupies the land for a number of years. It is, therefore, necessary that the land is deeply and thoroughly prepared. Planting should invariably be done under good soil moisture condition. The planting period may extend from May to September depending of course on the local seasonal conditions. Rhizomes are planted 45 c.m. apart within the row and 60 c.m. between two rows. About 250 to 275 kg. of rhizomes are required for covering one hectare of land in a spacing of 60 cm x 45 cm.

Ramie can also be cultivated in open blocks or as intercrop with coconut plantations as is normally followed in the Philippines. Good results have been obtained when sufficient quantity of organic manure is applied in the field at the time of land preparation. Lime if needed should be applied at the time of land preparation itself at least 3 to 4 weeks before planting. The land is leveled after proper laddering.

 

Methods of Production

 

Rhizome cuttings - 80-95% germination

 

Divisional of parent stock - 90% germination

 

Layering

 

Stem cutting
 

     
     

 

 

Planting Season

Ramie can be planted at the start of the rainy season, or anytime in places where rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year.

 

Distance of Planting

Cuttings are usually planted in furrows spaced 40 to 50 cm apart and 3 cm deep at an angle of 45° leaving 1/3 or the length of the cutting above the ground and 2/3 covered with pulverized soil. If rhizome cuttings are used, they should be set in furrows about 3-4 cm deep, laid either flat or at an angle of 45°, from 30-40 cm apart in rows 80-100 cm between rows.

 

Rate of Fertilization

If the soil is rich, additional fertilizer of 80 kg N, 60 kg P2O and 60 kg K2O is recommended. If the soil is deficient such as sandy loam soil, higher rates of nitrogen and potassium are needed. Apply fertilizer using split method of application, spread out from 5 to 8 times annually.

 

Some Major Pests and Their Control

 

Leaf roller - causes heavy infestation resulting in complete defoliation and cessation of the plant growth.

 

Ramie weevil - brown beetle and green looper feed directly on buds, leaves and petioles. Spray with Methyl Parathion.

   

Black caterpillar - feeds directly on leaves thus leaving the veins with a mesh-like appearance before falling. This can be kept under control by spraying with organophosphorous insecticides.

     

Some Major Nematodes and Their Control

 

Cotton-root-knot nematode - causes root galls. Control with available nematicides.

   

Bud nomatodes, pin nomatodes - result to blighted tips of ramie plants. Use available nematicides.

 

Maturity and Harvesting

Seventy days after planting for the first harvest and ratooned 45-60 days for the succeeding harvests. Maximum of fiber yields are attained on the second and third year. Rejuvenation of the area is needed after 4-6 years.

 

Method of Extraction

 

Retting - extraction of fiber by means of soaking the stalks in running water, pond, lake of designed tank.

 

Raspador-decorticator - a twoman raspador-decorticator could produce 100 kgs of dried ramie fiber a day.

 

Yield per Hectare

Ramie has an average yield of 1,575 kg of dry fiber based on three cuttings per hectare per year. Approximate potential yield of ramie per hectare (per year) may reach 2,700 to 4,800 kg of fiber per year. Dry fiber recovery ranges from 3.5% to 5%.

 

Official Standard Grades

Decorticated

 

RD-A - Special

 

RD-1 - Good

 

RD-2 - Fair

 

RD-3 - Short

 

RD-O - String

 

RD-T - Tow

 

RD-W - Waste

 

Fermented

 

RF-A - Special

 

RD-1 - Good

 

RD-2 - Fair

 

RD-3 - Short

 

RD-W - Waste

     

 

 
 
 
 
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