21 June 2002

Demand for super nettles

SUPER nettles could soon be growing on British farms as a cash-generating environmentally-friendly crop, providing fibre for textile manufacturers.

They could even provide raw materials for the biochemicals industry and a spinach-like food for human consumption, says CSL alternative crops specialist Melvyn Askew.

"Within five years stinging nettles will be a commercial crop. Prospects look so promising we believe there could be tens of thousands of hectares grown within 10-15 years."

Research projects

The 2m-tall nettle clones, bred in Austria, are earmarked for a range of research projects in 2003, says Mr Askew. A sample batch of nettle fibre has already been spun and woven to produce the first non-itch stinging nettle sweater.

The crop will probably have a zero pesticide requirement, soak up around 80kg/ha of nitrogen from the soil and will act as a magnet for butterflies to enhance the environment. &#42