7 July 1995

Sting-less nettles as fibre crop?

NETTLES could be the fibre crop of the future if researchers can remove the weeds sting and develop its agronomy.

Work is well under way at ADAS Bridgets, with a 0.25ha trial to examine agronomy as well as at the John Innes Institute in Norwich where genetic engineering is being developed to remove the sting.

Yields are up to 8t/ha DM already, with a 17% fibre content. Uses could include fashion textiles, pulp and fibre board and geo-textiles for soil stabilisation. British Home Stores already uses fabrics containing 50% ramie, a related species, says ADASs Melvyn Askew.

ADAS researcher Jenny Smith adds: "Few farmers would have trouble growing the crop." Roundup would provide effective destruction before a following crop.

&#8226 Coriander could cut the UKs production of noxious nitrous oxide gases by 10%, claims Mr Askew. As a provider of adipic acid, a constituent of plastics, it provides an environmentally friendly alternative to petrochemical processes. But there are some improvements to be made yet on field characteristics, he admits.