Fiber Science

Fiber Science
• A large part of agriculture is involved with the
production of fiber to make clothing and other
items such as rugs, tapestry, and cloth goods.
• Using modern research, development, and
management, agricultural fibers will continue
to be a constantly renewed source of fiber.
Fiber production trends
A. Historically, several plants and animals
were used to produce natural fibers.
B. Fibers: a long threadlike strand of a
C. Much of the cloth produced today is
synthetic (artificial; man-made), and
manufactured from petroleum (i.e. rayon,
nylon, and polyester)
Process involves turning petroleum into
long fibers that are then used to make
Synthetic cloth is relatively inexpensive
Synthetic cloth is durable
Synthetic cloth is more wrinkle
Synthetic cloth cannot match
agricultural fiber for comfort
D.Today, natural fibers are becoming more popular
again after declining in popularity when synthetic
cloths were popular.
E. Fiber is produced from both plants and animals
Plant fibers: cotton, flax, hemp, jute,
kenaf (4,000. year old new crop), sisal
(agave plant)
Animal fibers: Wool, mohair, camel
hair, alpaca hair, angora rabbit, silk
(strongest of all natural fibers)
F. Four main types of agricultural fibers in the U.S.:
cotton, wool, silk, and linen
A. Historical perspective
Likely first used in the Nile Valley in Ancient
In North America, cotton use pre-dates the
arrival of the European settlers
In approximately 1800, cotton production
made a major impact of agriculture in the U.S.
The invention of the cotton gin (1793; Eli
Whitney) allowed for the removal of the cotton fibers
from the seeds
More varieties could be grown all across the
southern portion of the U.S.
B. Plant characteristics
Cotton is a shrub-like perennial that requires
a long growing season with warm temperatures
Cotton is pollinated by bees and other
insects, and as well as being self-pollinated
The fertilized flower forms the seed pod
(known as a boll) that is shaped like a small football
the cotton fiber forms on the seeds – each
fiber is actually a single long plant cell and most
measure near 2” in length when dried and ready to
Seed cotton is called lint
C.Cotton Harvesting
1. Cotton is picked with large machines
with rotating finger-like projections that
remove the fiber from the bolls
2. Cotton pickers replace the manual
labor once required to pick cotton
3. Big loaf-like bales are made – a bale
weighs around 1200 pounds before seeds are
removed, and around 500# after the seeds are
D.At the gins
1. The seeds are removed
a. Seeds are a secondary industry
b. Seeds are pressed to remove the oil
Uses for cottonseed products
Cooking oil
Cake (leftover seed after oil’s
removed) is ground into a meal (cottonseed
meal) and used as a protein supplement for
ruminants (gossypol is a substance in the seeds
that can kill simple-stomached animals)
2. The cotton is cleaned of trash and foreign
E.At the mill
1. At the mill, bales are mixed to
ensure uniformity
2. The fibers are run through a
carding machine that separates and
aligns the fibers
3. The fibers are twisted and
stretched, and spun into thread/yarn and
are then ready to be made into fabric
F. Cotton Production
1. Number one state is Texas: Produces
the most used Upland cotton
2. Cotton quality distinguished by the
staple (the length of the fiber)
3. Upland cotton fibers can be used for
a wide range of products including fine
clothing as well as heavy canvas materials
4. AZ grows both Upland and Pima.
III. Flax
A.Uses of linen dates back to the Stone Age –
Linen was used to make fishnets
B.Most countries in the world use linen for
C.Wide range of uses for linen: clothing,
tablecloths, napkins, bedding
D. Linen comes from fibers produced in a
plant called flax
1. Flax likes to grow Europe and New Zealand
Plant characteristic
1. Plants grow to a height of
about 3 feet and are then harvested
2. Linen comes from the fibers
(called bast fibers) that make up the
phloem of the plant (the tubes that
transport plant food from the leaves
to other parts of the plants)
F. Plant processing
1. The outer layer of woody material
must be dissolved so the fibers can be
a. One method involves soaking the stems
in warm water where bacterial action decays
the materials
b. More modern method is using
chemicals to dissolve the outer layer (called
c. After the outer layer is removed, the phloem
fibers are passed through rollers, and the
woody substances connected to the fibers are
d.the usable fibers are separated out in a
process called scrutching
e.Collected fibers are then combed out in much
the same way as cotton (called carding) and
spun into yarn

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