The Latest Triumph in Fibers
HISTORY, CULTURE, PROCESSING
I FLORIDA A
1By W. B. GRANGER
Sltanagcr of Slale Farm i
I BI-ELLE GLADE, FLORIDA
ESTATE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
NATHAN MAYO, Commissioner
A) -- .^.^.^^U~U ^.- ^.^_Y IH
The La/est Triumph in Fibers
HISTORY, CULTURE, PROCESSING
By W. B. GRANGER
.\lanagr r of Staef Farj m
BELLE GLADE, FLORIDA
STATE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
NATHAI N MAYO, Con mui..ioner
The following are interested in the ramie industry in
NATIONAL RAMIE CORPORATION
SEA ISLAND MILLS, INC.
53 Worth St., New York City
RAMIE MILLS OF FLA., INC.
RICiHAR WVHITNEY, Pres.
(Mfakes thread of the fber )
The only sound principle upon which a new industry
can base its claim for a place among the successful enter-
prises are: A proven source of raw materials, the practica-
bility to achieve the desired results and an increasing
demand for that production. Yet, though full acceptance
and solid establishment must be based on all three, any one
of the components may be the motivating and dynamic
force behind the projection of a new endeavor.
An abundance of raw material stimulates its fabrication
because of ever-increasing demands for a better, low cost
Inventive ingenuity is constantly on the alert to find new
sources of raw materials to which may be applied its me-
Increased demand for production spurs inventive inge-
nuity to build new and better robots, and sends out pros-
pectors in search of new materials to fill this demand.
When these forces are integrated, the industrial cycle is
complete; the success of a new industry becomes inevitable.
For many years the ramie fiber industry stood on the
threshold awaiting an entrance into the industrial empire
of the nation. That it had not taken its rightful place was
due chiefly because integration of its component parts had
not been fully achieved. Now, the unlimited quantity of
the plants from which ramie fiber is obtained is not only
assured but its quality and consistency is continually being
improved. The demand for the finished products is sur-
passing even the most fanciful earlier expectations. And in
its third essential, the practical decorticating and degum-
ming process, the kinks are being fast ironed out by the
mechanical genius to which we owe the vastness of our
The industrialization of ramie fiber daily becomes more
imminent, and its success inevitable, as the last arc of the
cycle is being rapidly bridged and narrowed to completion.
1 reiterate: Here, is a new crop and industry for Florida.
I predict outstanding success.
A Fiber-Bearing Plant Which Has Been
Challenging Man All Down the Centuries
By T. J. BROOKS
Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture
How many acons of time did ores, coal and gases lie in the
earth and electricity exist in plenty before man discovered
how to utilize them. How long did the wild weeds flax,
hemp, cotton and other fiber-bearing plants wait for man
to find out how to utilize them; then how long before they
could be produced in large commercial quantities!
Flax, hemp and ramie bore their fibers in the stalks. Cot-
ton was a plant that bore its short staple in a boll-the lint
or fiber grew from seed. Why was it that ramie was the
last to yield to the ingenuity of man to master the processes
necessary to release the fiber without damaging it?
For many centuries "China Grass" has been in the mar-
ket which was ramie decorticated and degummed by hand
by cheap labor, mostly in China. The process was by taking
sheaves of stalks to a river and with wooden hammer and a
block of wood the stalks were put into the water and soft-
ened, then pestled till all was removed but the fibers. The
main obstacle has always been the gum that was attached
to the fiber. This was not the case with either hemp, flax,
cotton or sisal.
Counting on the ingenuity of man to devise a method of
decorticating and degumming ramie on a commercial,
mass production scale, I predicted a future for this plant
in a speech at the University of Miami in August, 1928.
The following is from the Miami Newzs, Aug. 1st, 1928:
"Some future day will see a great tract of the Florida
Everglades devoted to growing Ramie, a fiber-growing
plant, and supplying the product to the world markets in
huge quantities, predicted T. J. Brooks, head of the State
Bureau of Immigration, in an address Wednesday morning
before the South Florida Farmers' H-omemakers' Congress
at the University of Miami."
At that time I did not know the hurdles that would have
to be passed before ramie could be handled efficiently on a
commercial scale. But the challenge to man has been ac-
cepted and success is assured. It is destined to take its place
along side other fibers that have filled such a large place
in the fiber-using factories of the world.
It has been demonstrated that the ramie plant has more
uses than the regular fiber plants. The stalk is a combina-
tion of vastly different properties. The outside bark is very
thin but has in it tanic acid. This protects it from insects.
Under this brown covering is the fiber. It is imbedded on a
layer of gum. To remove this gum without damaging the
fiber has been the bottleneck in its utilization for ages. It
has been found that the gum will make toilet soap. Under
all this is the main stalk which makes good cigarette paper.
The foliage makes cattle feed. Can you bear that?-
Ramie is a perennial and strictly a southern crop like
cotton, sugarcane, citrus, sisal, tung nuts, etc. Its fiber is
better suited for some purposes than any other and is usable
for almost any purpose that any other is used for. It is not
a-non-conductor like silk.
It takes soil rich in humus and must be torn up and re-
planted in from eight to twelve years.
The market value has not been established on any certain
basis; mainly for the reason that not sufficient amount has
been produced to supply mills with certain quantities.
Contrary to the law of supply and demand the more that
is produced the better the price. Unless the supply is suf-
ficient to guarantee a definite run in the manufacture it is
not wanted at any price. The demand is here; to grow and
prepare it for spinners is the problem.
The sources of supply of the materials for rayon and
kindred products is gradually being used up. The acreage
planted to cotton is on the decrease. We are more and more
dependent on foreign countries for wool. The supply of
linen fabrics is not keeping pace with demand. All this
indicates that ramie will have a world-wide market and
ample demand to justify a good price when perfected to
the demand of textile factories.
Florida's New Industry
The continued and increasing inquiries concerning the
production, decortication, degumming and market possi-
bilities of ramic prompts the issuance of this bulletin on
ramie. This interest, from near and afar, is heartening in-
deed to the various agencies, individuals and groups who
have, these many years, worked zealously and untiringly in
its development. The quest for information about ramie,
and its varied possible uses, is a natural evolvement in the
continuous search for superior commodities which are to
add to our ever-improving standard of living. The mount-
ing interest in the where, hows and whyfores may be said
to be the reconnaissance of the industrially-minded, to
whose sagacious judgments our entire industrial and eco-
nomic empire stands in tribute.
To answer these queries it would be simple to recite the
usual blandishments which are the stock in trade of un-
scrupulous promoters and exploiters, for the products of
ramie have so many proven superior and unmatched uses.
As a matter of fact, some of the chief deterrents to its de-
velopment have been the hair-brained schemes of quick
riches which would not stand under the stern investigations
of sound enterprise. Thus dreams turned to despair, in turn,
putting ramie into disrepute.
Yet much was to be learned from these failures, too.
The wisely initiated, who were not lured by the promises
based on unsound theories but who had the vision and cour-
age to face the problems confronting a new industry,
learned how not to grow ramie; how not to process it.
Slowly and methodically they continued the experiments
in the growth of ramie. With each success greater acreage
was set aside to where, today, there is enough root stock in
the State of Florida to plant 50,000 acres in ramie.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
The mechanical processing of this plant has been looked
upon as the chief stumbling block to the industry for many
decades. Machine after machine was tried out. Failure
after failure was registered. It seemed senseless to attempt
to produce and process ramie in competition to the cheap
labor of the Orient.
Thus, a fiber known as "China Grass" continued to be
imported; ribbons of ramie fiber, undegummed and poorly
washed, were thrashed out from between the inner woody
stalk and an over-hardened outer bark by primitive hand
methods. The method of growth was hap-hazard, devoid
of all but a few basic cultural expediencies. The harvesting,
which is now recognized to be one of the most important
aspects of mechanical decortication, was equally hap-haz-
ard, being done at the whim or convenience of the farmer
instead of at such rime when the fiber is at its best for
strength and easier processing. In the "China Grass,"
which was being exported at the rate of three million pounds
a year, there was neither uniformity of length, uniformity
of strength, nor uniformity of age, etc. Indeed, the chief
property it seemed to possess was a total lack of uniformity.
It was because of this lack of uniformity that every at-
tempt made to fit the preciseness of mechanical equipment
to the "China Grass" was doomed to failure.
Because mechanization is not only symbolic of uniform-
ity in its output-but in its intake as well.
"It became apparent to the Sea Island Mills, Inc., who
tried out the Chinese ribbons, that if a uniform base pro-
duct were available ramie could be processed into yarns
and fabrics on ordinary cotton mill equipment. Trials
made with ramie which the State of Florida supplied from
their experimental farms proved out the theory.
"Florida is now growing ramie that is second to none.
Its culture, harvesting and decorticating is being done on
a scientific basis. Florida grown and decorticated ramie is
RAMIE IN FIORIDA
uniform in root stock length of stem and age, and ribbons
have a gum coating 30'; less than the imported.
"This uniformity has made possible, within the past three
years, what was tried and failed for nearly 90 years before
in this country."
In short, it became apparent that instead of building
machines to overcome the shortcomings of "China Grass,"
ramie should be grown with scientific care and precision to
fit the exacting demands of the mechanical operations ne-
cessary for its practical processing.
With this sound logic as a basis, and after an extensive
study of the plant by its Agricultural Experiment Station,
the State of Florida set aside an experimental acreage at
the State Farm in Belle Glade, Florida, under the supervi-
sion and guidance of the State Department of Agriculture.
As each crop grew to maturity and was cut down, more
was learned about growing ramie. Year after year this
acreage was expanded. Facts and figures were being accum-
First ye.1r rarnii-thre nonrh old. Nod forrih/cr uwdcci Florida Statc Earn]. Belle 61adr.
10 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
ulated as to green tonnage per acre per year-type and
amount of fertilization necessary for the greatest yields-
moisture requirements and the plant's susceptibility to frost
and flood, as well as pests and diseases.
The results of these large scale experiments proved very
fruitful. First, to show that extensive acreage could be
planted profitably, especially from the standpoint of a
diversified crop for the region. And secondly, that the rich
muck soil, the controlled water system and the long growing
season of the Florida Everglades region produced the best
"Within the United States, experiments in growing ramie
have been conducted by individuals, state agricultural ex-
periment stations and Department of Agriculture along
the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts and in Cali-
fornia. Although good stands have been grown in many
different places in the United States, the Everglades region
in Florida is generally conceded to be the best location."
From the agronomical standpoint ramie has already
reached the commercial stages of production. The plant
yield per acre today exceeds by 15 tons the 25 to 30 tons
which were considered even then, commercially feasible.
Thousands upon thousands of acres are being prepared for
ramie planting in addition to the acreage from which ramie
is being processed into fiber today. New corporations have
formed, and more are in the act of forming, to enter this
It is no exaggeration to predict that the very near future
will find over one hundred thousand acres planted in ramie
throughout the State. Based upon the maximum yield of
3 % of degummed fiber per acre, from a total green tonnage
of 45 tons per year, this acreage would not begin to fill the
demand which today exists for top grade ramie alone.
Since the publication of the last bulletin on ramie, many
new developments have been affected in the mechanical
decortication and degumming of the ramie plant. Im-
provements to machines and processing plants, as well as
new machines, have been added to those already operating.
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 11
At this writing, Florida grown and decorticated ramie is
moving along to northern markets in increasing quantity
and quality. The ramie production graph is rapidly begin-
ning to surge upward with future prospects brighter with
each shipment. The industry is swiftly emerging from its
embryonic stage into fuller development.
Further, it is interesting to note that shipments of Florida
grown ramie have been recently exported to European
countries where a dire shortage of fabrics will continue to
exist for a long time. At Zurich, Switzerland, ramie has
been mixed with silk, wool, linen and cotton. Cloth of pure
ramie had been spun there for years before the war.
The French, pioneers of ramie fiber in Europe, success-
fully grew and processed it as early as 80 years ago. How-
ever, like the First German Ramie Company at Emminden-
gen, they relied almost solely upon the supply of "China
Grass" for their raw material. From well-combed, selected
ramie they produced high quality, finely woven fabrics
from which art linens and silk-substitutes were made. The
French Government, recognizing the versatility of the
fiber, used ramie to make rope and other marine cordage,
and it is said that the bank of France used it for banknotes
of a superior quality.
The English became acutely aware of the wonders of
ramie products as early as the first world war, and much
more so during the past one. They found that ramie fiber
was excellently adaptable for flexible water mains and fire
hoses. One hundred per cent ramie was used to weave water
mains of large sizes (up to 14 in.) and these were success-
fully used to replace regular mains broken in bombing at-
tacks. Surprisingly, the water mains woven from ramie
needed no rubber or waterproofing of any kind. As the
fabric became thoroughly saturated, it stopped giving off
a fine mist and there was no further leakage under normal
pressures. Only the scarcity of the fiber prevented them
from using it where other strong fabrics were needed, such
as tarpaulins, tents, duffle bags, etc. Likewise, the greater
12 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
tensile strength of ramie was used to advantage as parachute!
cordage by the British.
In the United States, practically the entire output of
ramie fiber was being used by the United States Navy as
packing for the drive shafts of naval vessels, during the
war. It proved lighter and more absorbent while being less
abrasive than the packing which was generally used.
While it is next to impossible to foresee all of the uses to
which ramie fiber will be put in the future, it is not an over-
statement to say that wherever a strong durable fabric is
required the need will be filled by ramie./ At the same time
it can be woven into the sheerest, silk-like cloth without
loss of its strength and durability.
Consumer demand, while tremendous, has been some-
what skeptical because of earlier experiences of wide claims
which, at the time, had no basis in fact. Glittering generali-
ties and vague promises were offered that could not be sup-
A piece of rafmic root three weeks after planting without fertilizer. Sprout are S to 10
inches t.ll. Fl,rid. Sate Farm. Belle Glade.
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 13
ported by the only logical assurance-continued produc-
tion that could meet the increasing demand. As this assur-
ance becomes an established fact among the varied possible
users, the acceptance of ramie, the strongest of all vege-
table fibers, grows far beyond all former stretches of
Its fineness, its luster, its durability, its strength and
length of a staple-to mention but a few of its general prop-
erties-bring forth possibilities that have heretofore seemed
fantastic. Its perfection in blending with fibers such as
cotton, wool, linen, silk, rayon and others, plus its adapt-
ability to be spun and woven on the same equipment, will
increase in value and add beauty to the fabrics thus blended.
Indeed, one need but to look about him to find some new
use for it which will prove superior to existing concept.
To the further assurance that continued production was
possible, feasible and profitable, the Department of Agri-
culture of the State of Florida has spent much time. Its
experimentation was a part of the state-wide program to
further the economic expansion of Florida by making the
fullest use of its abundant natural resources and climate.
In doing so, it was hoped that new industries, which are
essential to economic stability, would foster and grow.
Ramie is now taking the place among other Florida
HISTORY AND BOTANY
The history of ramie dates back some five or six thousand
years to the Chinese discovery of this wondrous fiber. The
plant grew in reckless abandon in Southern China, India,
Japan and parts of the East Indies. Until 1 century and a
half ago it was regarded more as a pest than a fiber with
commercial possibilities. Since then, over 200 million
pounds have been produced in one year, most of which was
used locally. A limited amount of the fiber, processed by
hand, was purchased by itinerant buyers for export to
European countries and a negligible amount came into
this country as a duty-free commodity before the last war.
14 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
A mild controversy occasionally arises as to the origin of
ramie as the fiber from which strong fabrics could be wo-
ven. It is believed that the Egyptians were the first to realize
its potentialities as a decay-resistant fabric having used it
as wrappings for their dead. Modern science proves the
basis for the logic in this belief. A chemical analysis reveals
that 97 to 99 per cent of the fiber is composed of cellulose
crystals to which, when free of gums and pectins, no micro-
organisms that cause decay are attracted.
The introduction of the ramie plant into the United
States did not take place until the middle of the last century.
Interest in it was very slight. Cotton, which was then reach-
ing the hectic stage of its development, was then king.
Shortly after, some ramie found its way to our Latin and
South American neighbors. There ramie has been success-
fully grown in Brazil, Mexico, Cuba and Haiti by means
Of the 16 known varieties of the plant, which itself is a
member of the hemp family, only one type Boehmeria
Nivea, is considered a satisfactory source of fiber. This
perennial grows to heights of more than eight feet within
a period of eight to ten weeks. Straight, non-branching
stalks up to 5/s of an inch in diameter spring up rapidly and
under normal conditions of warmth and moisture three
and possible four crops may be harvested in the Florida ra-
mie growing regions.
The fibers are encased within a layer of gums and pectin
compounds between the light outer bark and the thin layer
of woody tissue which surrounds the pithy center. The
stalks are topped by a cluster of heart-shaped, serrated,
dark green leaves whose undersides are white. Upon reach-
ing maturity they produce small staminate flowers. Shortly
after the seed bearing flowers appear.
The root stock of the ramie plant, it is found, is separated
into two classifications. Feeder roots and reproductive
roots. The feeder roots, through which the plant takes
nourishment from the soil. grow downward seeking the
RAMIE IN FLORIDA
water level of the area. The reproduction roots grow out-
wardly and send up new stalks through eyes, like those of
a potato, where germination begins. If undisturbed by
disking or plowing they will cover the entire planted area
in a matter of a year and a half.
The life of a ramie root is, as yet, a matter of conjecture.
Some believe that a field should be replanted after seven
or eight years while others contend that harvesting from
the same root bed may be continued indefinitely. Both
theories are under experimentation to determine which is
more practical from a commercial standpoint.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate the unlimited uses to
which ramic fiber may be put is to list its characteristics and
properties. From them the imagination need not be unduly
taxed to find newer and better uses, besides those which
come to mind immediately.
Rmle on Florida State Farnm. Belle Wdc. ROts ; %Car, old: ta.ik k 1' it, "CA, old; l1cSlh
*1.5 fcet without fertilieCr.
16 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Ramie has a greater tensile strength than any known
fiber. It is three times as strong as hemp, four times that of
flax, more than seven times stronger than silk and over eight
times the strength of cotton. This quality alone makes it a
fiber highly desirable where sturdiness is a prime considera-
tion. Its durability coupled with this strength has opened
new vistas to buyers of fibers for commercial uses. More-
over, unlike all other fibers, ramie strength increases when
it is wet by some 30 to 60 per cent, nor will it rot in water.
The shipping and fishing industries can well realize the
potential uses that ramie fiber harbors.
The length of the ramie staple ranges from a half inch
to 20 inches, whereas long staple cotton does not exceed two
and a half inches. Thus it can be spun and woven on any
of the present day textile machines simply by cutting to
the staple ordinarily worked on that machine.
Scientific research reveals that ramie owes its smoothness
to the fact that its cellulose crystals are continuous and lie
parallel to the fiber axis, which is not the case with cotton
whose crystals lie inclined toward the fiber axis.
In elasticity, it is equal to that of cotton, greater than
that of flax and hemp, and is surpassed only by silk. A re-
fractive index shows ramie to be more deflective than wool,
rayon, cotton, silk or nylon. It is a fine fiber, measuring
less than silk, mohair, alpaca or wool. The human hair is
nearly three times as coarse as ramie!!
Ramie turns whiter with each washing without the neces-
sity of bleaching. It takes dyes readily and retains them
longer and better than other fibers. It will not shrink no
matter how many times it is wet and then dried. Cloth
made of ramie is resistant to mildew under any climatic
One of the most peculiar characteristics of ramie fiber
is its water absorbent capacity. It will absorb water only
to a certain degree and then stop. It was this property
which enabled the British to weave ramie into cloth for
water mains. It has the ability to seal itself and thus remain
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 17
water-tight. Since it will not crack under extreme heat or
cold, nor mildew, nor deteriorate with age, a multiplicity
of uses demanding these qualities, such as large or tiny flex-
ible tubes, fire hoses, life rafts, shipping containers, etc., are
apparent. These articles made of ramie fiber will long out-
wear those made of paper, plastics or rubber.
It would, indeed, be an overstatement to say that ramie
is ready to supplant cotton and other fibers used in the tex-
tile industry, but it will tangibly supplement them-to
advantage. Its adaptability in textiles makes it the perfect
fiber for blending with all others.
Greater strength, fineness and luster when blended with
silk will add durability besides amplifying its beauty.
Non-shrinking, greater wet-strength and unusual ab-
sorbent qualities can augment oft-washed cotton fabrics.
Repeated creasing and bending under varying degrees of
heat or cold will have little effect on ramie threads thus
blended. Cotton or other fabrics blended with ramie will
not wear out as rapidly.
Again-its strength, together with its absorbent and
refractive qualities when used as a fabric for clothing will
be cooler in summer and warmer in winter. These absorb-
ent properties permit blending ramie with wool with little,
or no, impairment to the warmth absorbency qualities of
Cloth and fabric woven solely of ramie fiber may be soft
and fine, or coarse and heavy as desired. It will not lint nor
attract micro-organisms. Thus it is superior for use as sur-
gical dressing and hospital equipment.
The textile industries will be but one of the many indus-
tries interested in purchasing ramie fiber. Commercially,
the hardier characteristics of the fiber presupposes a de-
mand that may well surpass that of the textile industry.
As has been said before, the shipping industry will find
advantageous use for strong and durable shipping contain-
ers, hawsers and other marine cordages which can be re-
peatedly wet and dried without loss of strength, a lighter
Is DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
weight stern tube packing which will be more absorbent
and less abrasive than that commonly used today, tarpaulins
that will not rot, etc. Also, the fishing fleets will find use
for lines made af ramie, nets, canvas, etc.
The automobile will shortly contain upholstery which
may well outlast the life of the rest of the car. The un-
Single ramic plant showing straight, clean stalk ready for decorticraing.
Planting of Newport Industries. Inc.. on lands of U. S. Sugar Corpa-
ti.iion, Northern Iverglades, near Pahokce, Florida-July 21, 1944.
matched strength of ramie will be a boon to the rubber
products which require reinforcement with fabric.
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 19
Belting and brake lining for heavy industries; filter-
cloths for air-conditioning equipment; laminated plastics
reinforced by ramie fabric for aircraft parts; nap or back-
ing for exquisite rugs and carpets, these are but a few of
the myriad of uses of this fiber.
Another big industry which will demand a tremendous
amount of the fiber is the manufacture of paper. The trans-
luscency and opaqueness in combination with ramie's
strength is ideal for high grade and documentary paper
along with the fine strong papers made for cigarettes.
But one of the uses of the plant is especially being
watched keenly by all cattle raising interests and dairymen
in this State. Florida, to feed the largest numbers of cattle
of any state in the country, must import practically all of
its livestock feed from other states. Ramie livestock feed
is now being produced from the tender tops and leaves and
analyses reveal that it contains a higher protein and caro-
tene (food and fattening) content than does alfalfa which
is considered the most valuable feedstuff today. The high
per ton shipping charges on alfalfa feed, which comes main-
ly from the mid-west, presents a home-grown ramie feed
for dairy and beef cattle in a most favorable light. This
part of the new industry may equal in value the proceeds
from the wonderful fiber of ramie.
The federal government is at present sponsoring a re-
search program to develop the possibilities of tannic acid
and other by-products in the ramie plant. These would be
in addition to chlorophyll, vitamin A, gums and waxes
under investigation by private interests.
By and far, to the public at large the most intriguing
possibilities of ramie are those of wearing apparel. Sheerer
and more delicate than any yet made. Lighter and stronger
than any yet imagined. Non-shrinking clothing that will
launder indefinitely, absorb perspiration readily and dry
To further illustrate the most important characteristic
of ramie-its superior strength-a short-short story is
20 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
As most young boys are wont to do, Johnny was happily
devouring a watermelon in a neighbor's melon patch. In
the nick of time he spotted the owner and was off like a
scared antelope to the nearest fence. Alas, as he was scam-
pering over, his britches caught on the barbed wire! The
owner was getting near. Johnny struggled frantically. Just
before the outstretched hand of the owner did reach him,
something gave way. Johnny did not look-he was gone.
The neighbor looked and shook his head. The barb was
Ramie is not that good. But it comes closer to making
the story true than any other fabric woven today.
PROSPECTS FOR FUTURE
The Department of Agriculture of the State of Florida
takes pride in announcing that the prospects for the ramie
fiber industry in this state have never appeared brighter.
The manifestations of many years of planning and ex-
perimentation which continues uninterrupted may not, as
yet be fully apparent. The task has not been easy. Slowly,
one after another, experiments and research findings have
been tabulated and the information derived therefrom has
been passed on to the new industry. This information has
not always been favorable in character, as is usual in the
development of any new idea. Even in this there is a source
of consolation. In the early stages of a new concept it is
equally important to recognize the wrong as it is the right.
From this order scientific and technological integrity can
Further evidence of the continuing research in the scien-
tific and technical aspects of ramie is the program an-
nounced by the United States Department of Commerce
March, 1947. Under the sponsorship of the Industrial Re-
search and Development Division of the Office of Technical
Services, $50,450.00 was provided to supplement supplies,
equipment and workers furnished by the State of Florida
and the United States Department of Agriculture to carry
out the research program. The purpose of the project,
RAMIE IN FLORIDA
which is being carried out at the University of Florida's Ag-
ricultural Experiment Station in Belle Glade, is to furnish
information to all who are interested in growing or pro-
cessing of ramie fiber and the by-products of the ramie
The scientific study of the ramie plant is, today, very
far advanced. This pertains to the agronomical as well as
the technical phases of the industry. The governmental
agencies that are charged with these new problems of de-
velopment have worked industriously to keep abreast of,
and probe, the countless new theories which spring up. They
are ready to impart all knowledge and information gained
in their experimentation. Indeed, they are eager to give out
all proven information thus gained.
However, there is a limit beyond which the governmental
agency can not go. The industry, though it is at present a
healthy infant, may easily suffer a discrediting relapse
through the shortsightedness on the part of management.
Seven foot ramic from one-year old rnxts on Everglades peat. Plantation of Newport Industrie.
Inc.. on lands of U. S. Sugar Corp.. Northern Everglades near Paluokee. Florida-July 21. 1944.
Left to right: Col. W. D. Outman. Capt. Alex C. Kidd. Mr. John M. Dempsey.
22 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
To be sure, the difficulties, and they have been many, which
have come up, have, for the most part, been approached
with judiciousness and caution. Those of scientific and
technological nature are being slowly resolved. But new
questions, those of organizational nature, are now still to
The organization problems which loom large are, how-
ever, not insurmountable. The need for synchronization
between the various branches of the industry and the
smooth and coordinated flow of raw material and finished
products, through the different markets, is the prime essen-
tial by which the new industry is confronted.
It would be a simple task if the grower, the decorticator,
the processor and fabricator were one and the same. This
entails but one organizational problem eliminating move-
ment through numerous markets in varied phases. For a
time this may even be the ideal solution to the present need
for a swift transfer of a uniform product to the ultimate
consumer. But as the industry expands, and a more equiva-
lent ratio between demand and supply is established, these
markets will become an indispensable part of the general
industrial scheme. The time to lay the solid foundations for
this correlation is now. The long range plans for synchro-
nization between the grower and processor, and between
the processor and manufacturer, if well founded, can elim-
inate the waste of capital on idle plants and unharvested
Since green decortication has become widely recognized,
and is generally conceded, as the best method of separating
the fiber from the stalk, the need for the closest coordina-
tion between grower and processor is obvious. While pro-
fitable operation demands that the grower can supply the
raw material to keep the decorticating plant in continuous
operation, and at the same time, that the decorticating
plant have a capacity great enough to use all of the green
ramic grown by the farmer in the locale, expensive hauling
costs somewhat limit ramie growing to a definite area. This
is to say, that a given area from which the harvested ramie
RANMIE IN FLORIDA 23
is to be processed by a specific plant can be only that which
can be economically hauled to that plant.
This is further made obvious by the fact that ramic,
being a warm weather crop, is harvested during the rainy
season when the roads to and from the fields are, at times,
nigh on impassable. Perhaps the fact that it requires some
50 tons of green ramie to produce one ton of dry fiber
presents a more comprehensive picture of the magnitude
of the task of transporting to the central plant.
It still remains to be determined whether a series of such
plants which would dot an entire ramie growing area would
be financially feasible. If so. the ramie could be decorti-
cated at the nearest of these plants eliminating the neces-
sity of the long haul. The field plants could be of smaller
size and would not necessarily carry through the entire
process from green scalk to degummed fiber. Separation
of the fiber from the stalk would eliminate 98 per cent of
the green tonnage ordinarily hauled the longer distance.
Since the urgency for decortication right after harvest is
due mainly to facilitate easier processing of the fiber, the
residue of the plant, which represents but 10 to 15'i of
the total weight harvested, may be hauled back to the field
or trucked to the parent plant for dehydration for feed and
other by-products at the convenience of the processor.
The advent of additional portable type machines, which
can be taken into the field to decorticate the mature crop,
will stimulate the broadening of the possible area for grow-
ing ramie. With little capital outlay the individual farmer
can plant smaller acreage, decorticate his own crop and
ship the fiber to a nearby degumming plant or a distant
market with the minimum of hauling cost.
Another need which will develop as the industry in-
creases is the market or trading exchange. Because the de-
mand for ramie fiber exceeds the supply for years to come,
it is, today, not immediately necessary. The reputable
farmer can even sell his crop on a "future" basis. This is a
common practice in agriculture where the processor or
manufacturer buys up an anticipated crop before it is ma-
24 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
ture and, at times, before it is even planted. As the supply
increases these markets will be the main artery through
which ramie fiber will pass between producer and user.
Such markets will have the affect of stabilizing "quota-
tions" or prices, as well as the quality, of ramie fiber. It is,
therefore of the utmost importance to have a system of
trading which will insure an equitable distribution of profit
to all concerned.
Rundle of ramie stalks showing the leafy topi valuable for production
of high protein feed for livestock-Plantation of Newport Industries,
Inc., on lands ot U. S. Sugar Corp., Northern Everglades, near
Pahokee, Florida-July 21, 1944.
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 25
Not all of the ramie fiber produced will be of top grade
quality but very little, if any, will be unmarketable. Ade-
quate marketing facilities will thus serve as a means of
grading the various qualities for disposal to different pur-
chasers according to their needs.
For instance, the textile manufacturers will be interested
only in a long, straight, lustrous, white fiber that is soft,
clean and fully degummed by methods which will insure
against brittleness. For this type of product they are pre-
pared to pay a price that offers more than a sufficient
Other users, to whom the length, texture, etc., of the
fiber is of secondary importance to strength and durability,
as in the manufacture of marine cordage and belting, will
provide the market for this grade of fiber. Still others, like
paper manufacturers, makers of lubrication packing and
other commercial users, will purchase the grade which is
most economically suitable for their products.
How and when these problems will be resolved depends,
of course, on the progress of the industry itself. In this re-
gard an analogy can be drawn to the cotton industry which
had a somewhat similar beginning. Both are products of
Oriental culture. Like ramie, cotton was originally pro-
duced by primitive hand methods which were slow and
variable. As the knowledge of cotton fabrics became uni-
versal, the demand for them grew comparatively. The
invention of the cotton gin in 1793 and, subsequently,
carding, weaving and spinning machines proved the answer
that magnified the primitive Chinese methods into the in-
dustry that it is today.
Because of the length of the ramie staple it can be spun
and woven on any of the present day textile machines.
Thus its development will not be hampered as was that of
cotton. And it is not too far-fetched to say that new ma-
chines which will take advantage of the long, strong staple
of the ramie fiber will be developed to manufacture fabrics
unimagined heretofore. Special machines for use with ramie
have already been made in Ireland and England.
26 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
There is no yardstick by which future demands for
ramie and ramic by-products can be measured. Sea Island
Mills, Inc., pioneers in ramie for textile uses, states that
garments made of ramie, and ramic blended with rayon,
cotton and wool, have been "most enthusiastically" re-
ceived. Manufacturers of automobiles upholstery are anx-
ious to secure sufficient amounts of this durable fiber to fill
increasing demands made upon them by the nation's third
largest industry. At this writing it is impossible to state
completely the extent to which the paper industry will de-
mand ramie. By contrast, the manufacturers of sheer, silk-
like fabrics, art linens and damasks look to ramie as a source
of raw material. Thus, on and on, the uses for ramie fiber
may be forecast. Singularly fortunate is the industry in
this regard. If there be a doubt as to its success, demand
for the products of ramie is not one of them.
The readiness with which Florida-grown ramie is received
in northern markets, and increasing interest of farmers
located in favorable regions, insures the success of the in-
dustry from the agricultural standpoint. For the past three
or four years ramie acreage has been steadily but slowly
increased. This gradual enlargement was maintained and
encouraged for two reasons. First, that there would be
enough root stock of a proper reproductive age to expand
operations when decorticating plants are ready to use more
ramie. Secondly, to prevent an unwarranted rush into a
new undertaking which had not been fully developed.
To the farmer these words of caution may well mean
the difference between success and financial failure. Before
contemplating setting in a crop of ramie, it is of prime im-
portance to understand the following: It is strictly a south-
It must be realized that the cost of preparing land for
ramie culture runs high; that no commercial crop can be
expected the first year. This cost may run between one and
two hundred dollars an acre.
Ramie is a perennial and, as said before, it is believed by
authorities that it will produce for some twenty to thirty
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 27
. '~ ~ a.'
Ribbons of rimic fbcr prdJu ic byW C. R. Short decorticator, July 21, 1944. Florida
State Farm, Belle Glade.
28 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
years from the original planting. Thus long term operation
must be planned on.
The annual rainfall requirement is from 40 to 50 inches.
Where rains are frequent, a controlled water system capable
of quick drainage is necessary. The roots, when subjected
to flood for more than 48 hours, are highly susceptible to
"drowning out." This is a factor which can not be too
strongly stressed; one of the few ways to kill ramie roots
is by drowning or flooding.
A ready market must be assured for prompt disposal of
Further caution should be emphasized to the beginner
in this field. Before committing a large tract of land and
a huge sum of money, it is advisable to start with an ex-
perimental acreage, thus learning the culture and agronomy
of ramie from actual experience. This small acreage will
serve the dual purpose of experience and as a rootbed from
which a greater acreage may be planted.
To the farmer, the investor, and to all in general who
have or may take an active interest in the ramie fiber indus-
try the best advice that can be given is to use "good common
sense". In any new enterprise or endeavor there exists a
certain amount of risk or venture hazard. This risk should,
nevertheless, be substantiated by reasonable assurance of
Unwarranted claims, false hopes and poorly considered
action has never been conducive to favorable economic de-
velopment. It has always been the policy of the Department
of Agriculture of the State of Florida, in its efforts to ex-
pand the basic economy of this state, to foster independent
intercourse between its producers and users, free of regula-
tory and supervisory edict. This policy will continue in
regard to this new industry. However, a careful watch
will be kept by its numerous agencies so that any undue
practices, or those of a purely promotional nature, can he
"scotched" before they can develop to the detriment of this
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 29
CULTURE AND AGRONOMY
Contrary to belief in some quarters, ramie will not make
a favorable commercial stand in any type of soil. It is true
that it will make some sort of growth in a wider variety
than must plants but the successful farmer need not ponder
long to realize the difference between a weak, stunted
growth and a full luxuriant stand of tall straight stalks
which will yield an optimum of fiber. In three require-
ments the culture of the ramie plant for commercial pro-
duction must be studied as carefully as that of the most
delicate of plants. To plant ramie without first considering
these specific requirements is to invite financial disaster for
ramie is not a cheap crop to set in.
The three requirements are temperature, proper soil and
moisture. By these, the culture of ramie for profit is spe-
cifically defined and limited to certain favorable areas.
Ramie is a warm weather plant. Profitable growing is
,not possible today in an area which is interrupted by fre-
quent or continued frosts. While experience has proven
that a cutting of ramie following a period of frost will be
markedly heavier, it must be fully understood that a frost
which will penetrate to the roots will kill them. Thus pre-
cluding the continued operations essential to offset the high
original cost of planting.
In a favorable climate, such as the sub-tropic tempera-
ture of Florida, three crops are assured and a fourth and
fifth are possible providing, of course, that the requirements
of soil and moisture are equally favorable.
Ramie grows best in a somewhat acid soil (pH between
5 & 6). The land must be fertile and of a highly nitrogenous
quality. Because the plant is voraciously demanding of
plant nutrients it is mandatory to be fully aware of the
fertilization requirements for land upon which ramie cul-
ture is contemplated. Likewise, the soil should be given such
preliminary treatment as may be deemed necessary to off-
set natural deficiencies of minerals, etc. Such treatment
will, of course, vary according to the area and the soil treat-
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
ment for crops preceding the planting of ramie. For in-
stance, when ramie is planted upon acreage that had been
previously used for crops demanding a fertilizer with a high
potash content, such as celery or potatoes, its growth may
Clhrles R. Shlit of Clerinoint. Florida, showing hAnk of ramic fiber
from Florida State Farm. decortiLated un his pIrtable machine and
degumnmed without the aid of alkali. Clermont. Florida. May 15, 1944.
be lavish for a year without need of any additional fertili-
zer. However, this should be carefully investigated before
it is relied upon. New lands may be deficient in some min-
erals while plentiful in others as e.i. Everglades and Okee-
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 31
chobee muck is generally deficient in copper sulphate yet
rich in most of the other requirements for profitable ramie
Ramie requires a well distributed, ample rainfall-be-
tween forty to fifty inches annually. Where heavy seasonal
rains are frequent, suitable drainage must be provided. A
water control system capable of draining two or three
inches of rainfall per 24 hours would be ample enough to
carry away excess water under the most unusual conditions.
This is, of course, relative to the rainfall of the specific area.
The usual provisions are mole drains, farm ditches, laterals
and canals leading up to pumping stations which can drain
off the excess water, leaving enough in the soil to maintain
a proper level. The maintenance of a proper water table
(between 20 and 24 inches) is of the utmost importance
in ramie culture for two reasons. One, it must not be so
low as to require "extraordinary" effort on the part of the
feeder roots to seek the required moisture. Two, a varying
water level will tend to stunt the normal action of root
growth, thus having similar effect upon the stalk, or con-
tinued immersion will drown out the roots.
Once the factors of temperature and soil requirements
have been met, the matter of moisture is the only require-
ment that the farmer need be continually watchful about.
The actual agronomy of ramie begins with the selection
of the land upon which it is to be planted. Assuming that
frost-free climate has been chosen, the first thing to be
ascertained is a suitable drainage system for heavy seasonal
rains are frequent in such climates. When the feasibility
of proper water control is assured, the preliminary treat-
ment of the soil is the next step. An analysis of the soil will
quickly reveal the lack of any of the minor elements which
may be needed, such as magnesium, copper sulphate or zinc.
When the preliminary soil treatment is made the land
should be thoroughly disked, plowed and scratched until
it is as near level as it is possible to get it. No low areas
where surface water may stand should be allowed to remain.
32 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
The need for this caution is again stressed since, as has been
mentioned before, standing water will readily kill the roots.
A part of the sub-drainage of the soil is called moling.
This is an additional means of assuring equal distribution
and elimination of excess moisture for the entire acreage
by drawing a bullet-nosed cylinder through from one farm
ditch across to the opposite one. In parallel lines about 10
feet apart, these mole drains should be about 5 inches in
diameter and about thirty inches below the surface. Natur-
ally, it is easier to do this moling at such time when the water
table is below the depth of the mole. These mole drains will
give ample distribution and egress to the water for at least
five years and when the ramie is replanted, it is necessary
The field is thus ready for planting of the root cuttings.
These are three or four inch sections of the reproductive
roots which contain one or more eyes. The number of roots
to the acre vary among the individual farmer. The closer
they are planted, the sooner they will cover the field with
a full stand of ramie fiber for production purposes.
On land which is not intended to be cut for commercial
use for some two years, ramie roots may be planted about
5500 to the acre. The best results obtained in the experi-
ments conducted at the Florida State Farm #2 in Belle
Glade were those where about 7500 roots to the acre were
used. These were planted in thirty inch rows 24 inches in
the drill. In the second year a luxuriant growth of fine fiber
ramie could thus be cut for commercial use.
The possibility of check drill planting was tried to de-
termine if mechanical cultivation could do away with
manual labor entirely. It was found that the young plants
had to be cleaned of weeds close around them anyway. Be-
sides, cultivation is only necessary for a part of the first year
before ramie has grown high enough to shade the ground.
After the first year no cultivation is necessary.
The matter of fertilization is as vet so controversial
among individual growers that it is impossible to set up any
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 33
definite time or standard. Some farmers firmly believe that
ramic should be fertilized in the spring, while others believe
just as firmly that they are getting better results by fertiliz-
ing in the fall. Still others are of the opinion that a small
amount should be broadcast after each cutting. The State
Farm #2 has employed the last method with favorable re-
sults for a number of years. The more frequent fertilization
affords regular and more equal stands throughout the year,
it is believed.
The Agricultural Experiment Station at Belle Glade,
which has conducted extensive cultural experiments, states:
Portable decorticator of C. R. Short, Clermont, Florida. Operated successful on Florida
State Farm, Belle Glade, May 15, 1944.
Mr. Short is now constructing a new machine with improvements and a greactr capacity.
There are other testing machines of which we do not have pictures, namely: Captain Gardner's
machine, operating at Moore Haven for Sea island Cotton Mills, Inc.; the J.lp machine on
the Newport Industries plantings near Pahokee; the Krupp machine operating in Haiti.
'Ihere are several other machines for decorticating now being built by others, namely: Florida
Ramic Products. Inc., Newport industries. Inc.. the Alfred Stauffer Machine Works, and others.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
"The first application of fertilizer preceded the plant-
ing of the roots. It was scattered in shallow furrows, after
which the opening plow was drawn through again to mix
the fertilizer with the soil before the roots were planted. If
the land has never been fertilized before it is mandatory
that fertilizer including the minor elements be thus applied
before planting. The subsequent annual applications were
broadcast some time after the last cutting in the fall and
well in advance of the spring growth. Fertilizer should be
broadcast soon after a cutting is taken off, before there is
much new growth. Should there be a foot or more of win-
ter growth it should be mowed before the fertilizer is
This may be said for certain: all agree that ramie responds
best to a high potash content fertilizer.
Under favorable conditions, such as have been set forth
above, ramie will grow rapidly and abundantly. Within
two weeks from planting, young shoots will appear above
the ground and an early rate of growth may well exceed
two inches daily. This is especially so during the long,
warm days of the summer months. As the plant reaches
maturity this rate decreases to less than a half inch. An
average good stand of ramic will reach the height between
six and eight feet in 60 to 70 days when it is ready for
The normal tonnage harvested in the Florida Everglades
is between 10 and 12 tons of green ramie per acre per cut-
ting. This will result in a net dry fiber yield approximately
between 1800 and 2000 pounds per acre per year. The
foregoing estimate is based on a fiber recovery rate of 2.5%c
which is considerably lower than indications of recently
improved decorticating methods.
In a comparison of yields of fiber per season made by the
Agricultural Experiment Station in Belle Glade, it is inter-
esting to note the following:
" "Culture, Fertilizer RequirementL and Fiber Yields of Ramic in llh Florida Ever-
aladcs." Bulletin 412, Agricultural Experiment Station. By J. R. Ndllcr.
RAMIE IN FLORIDA
"It appears that yields may be expected to be less the
third year than the first 2 years and that there will be a
slower decline thereafter. The time will come after several
years of growth, however, when a field of ramie should be
dug for replanting of the roots elsewhere; or possibly the
stand in the old field may be improved by cultural
The longer ramie grows in the same field the thicker the
stand becomes but the stalks become thinner in diameter.
These slender stems have more leaves per stem resulting in
a less suitable fiber yield, even though the total tonnage per
acre may remain the same as earlier years. It is said, that to
offset this decline it is possible to rejuvenate the field tempo-
rarily by disking and tilling after some nine or ten years to
break up the spreading root masses. The other method, as
stated by the Experimental Station, is to replant in a new
The rate of increase of rootstock is a factor which may
well advocate the last of the above stated theories, in that
ramie roots increase at the average ratio of 50 to 1 in a
three season growing period. Thus ramie acreage can rapid-
ly increase to where some day it may become the crop of
the Everglades, as well as other parts of the State of Florida
which has a total of more than two million acres suitable to
its lush, luxuriant growth.
Though a description of methods and a proper time for
harvesting would normally come under the heading of cul-
ture and agronomy, which has been written about in pre-
ceding paragraphs, the time and method of harvesting
ramie may be more logically stressed in the description of
the now proven methods of decortication.
The most successful method of decorticating is the "cen-
tral type" plant which processes ramie in great quantities.
These large plants require from one hundred to two hun-
SBulletin 412. By J. R. Neller, etc.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
dred and fifty tons of green material daily which necessi-
tates mechanized harvesting for efficient operation.
To harvest from 10 to 25 acres of ramie the plants employ
a combined reaper and binder somewhat similar to that used
for hemp harvesting. The machine cuts and binds ramie
stalks into 50 to 60 pound bundles which are loaded upon
trailers or athea wagons to be drawn to the decorticating
The time for harvesting is likewise, in a manner, subject
to the capacity of the decorticating plant and integrally
connected with a speedy method of harvesting. As has been
noted before, ramie will, under favorable conditions, ma-
ture in from 60 to 70 days. If it is permitted to stand be-
yond that period the outer bark becomes tough making
decortication more difficult; producing a fiber not nearly
as desirable as that which is cut at the peak of its growth.
To assure the coordination between maturity and decor-
ticating, a system of staggered growth is employed, based
^ _3:~Z~~l AjU ^^ljplJ~,
Ramie degumming plant, C. R. Short, Florida Stare Farm, Belle Glade, July 13, 1944.
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 37
on the capacity of the decorticating plant. This is done
while the short winter growth, which is undesirable for
fiber, is being cut down in early spring.
Assuming that the capacity of the processing plant is
500 pounds of dry undegummed fiber per hour, which is
a net fiber yield of 2.5'(, of the total green tonnage harvest-
ed, ten tons of green material (or approximately the ton-
nage from one acre) would have to be hauled to that plant
in that hour. Based on a ten hour day this would require
some 200,000 pounds of ramie fiber daily.
Theoretically then, the staggering of crop growth would
need to be timed accordingly, over a period of 60 to 70
days, enabling additional cuttings from the original har-
vested acreage without any intervening or overlapping
period to shut down the plant or overtax its capacity. Like-
wise, the capacity of the decorticating plant determines the
extent of the overall acreage necessary to keep it in con-
tinued operation throughout the growing season.
The small or portable type decorticator need not be thus
specifically defined or limited since more than one may be
brought into the field to process a crop ready for harvest.
However, to date, the practicability of this type machine
has not yet attained the degree of success and economic
feasibility essential to profitable, large scale operation. The
portable type machine lends itself more readily to small
acreages where the time factor and mechanization of har-
vesting equipment will not be of comparable consequence
to plants using ramie from greater acreages.
This past summer two plants began large scale operations
in the Everglades and a third is in the process of building.
Newport Industries at Canal Point is decorcicating ramie
from 1200 acres of land furnished them by the United
States Sugar Corporation. Their regular daily output is
some 14,000 pounds of dry fiber per hour, and at the present
time are operating their large decorticator on a two shift
basis of ten hours each.
38 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
The harvested ramie is brought to a huge plant, which is
located in an almost diametric center of their planted acre-
age, from a reaper-binder on tractor drawn athea wagons.
There the ramie is unloaded onto a, conveyor and carried
past a saw which cuts off the tender leafy tops. These, in
turn, are carried upon another conveyor belt to the dehy-
drator for feed purposes.
As the detopped bundles of ramie stalks move on toward
the decorticator, the twine holding the bundle together is
cut and the ramie is spread apart and automatically fed
into the machine in thick layers. This machine, a modified
version of the Krupp machine, strips the remaining leaves;
throws out the young immature stalks and emits a wet de-
corticated fiber. The wet fiber is then sent through a me-
chanical drying process on to the bailing room after which
it is ready for shipment in an undegummed state.
In a recent interview with J. M. Dempsey, the plant man-
Fiber delivery side of U.S.D.A. decorticator built by J. S. Reeves, for sanseviera and roselle;
works well on ramie. Boynton, Florida, October 10, 1944.
RAMIE IN FLORIDA
agcr, he held out high hopes for a degumming process upon
which he has been working for some time. His enthusiasm
at the result of his long experimentation is indeed note-
worthy since Mr. Dempscy is not disposed to making over-
The third large plant in the Everglades will be the one
now building on the Hillsboro Plantation, near Belle Glade,
for the Peter J. Schweitzer Co. of New York. The firm is
one of the largest makers of cigarette paper in the world.
They propose to utilize some 10,000 acres of this plantation
for the growth of ramie which will be decorticated on a
machine patented by J. S. Reeves. A prediction by Herbert
F. Loring, engineering assistant to the president, that be-
tween 50,000 and 100,000 acres may be planted eventually
for paper making alone, is an interesting indication of the
future development of this industry.
Outside of the Okeechobee Lake region in Florida, the
largest ramie development area is centered around Zell-
wood, Florida. Three companies are in various stages of
May 1947 the National Ramie Corp., with a capital of
$200,000, purchased 7000 acres of land for eventual ramie
planting. Work has begun on a water control system pre-
liminary to the actual planting. Further intentions are, at
this writing, not known but this tremendous acreage pre-
supposes a huge plant or, perhaps, a series of smaller ones.
A new, small machine invented by David E. Patterson
of Philadelphia, who is a patent holder of a number of suc-
cessful hemp decorticators, is holding the interest of many
growers of ramie. The machine is a solidly and compactly
built unit powered by a two cylinder gasoline engine. Its
overall weight is a little more than one ton and may be
mounted upon a platform or upon a carriage to be taken
out to the field. In a stationary test run at the Florida State
Farm #2 in Belle Glade, 100 pounds of wet fiber was de-
corticated in one hour, using one man to feed the machine
and another to take off the decorticated fiber. Patterson
spent several months in Belle Glade making improvements
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 41
to the machine: to increase its output, add a positive take-
off (method of removing the decorticated fiber from the
machine) in the hope of eventual operation of it by one
man, and to eliminate some minor faults. At this writing
he is readying the machine for another trial.
It may be said in complete confidence that mechanical
processing of ramie is now at hand. The successes thus far
attained no longer leave room for doubt.
DECORTICATING MACHINE SPEEDS WORK ON RAMIE
"From sources considered wholly reliable, reports come of
a newly developed decorticating machine for the handling
of ramie. Exhaustive tests reportedly convince developers
that the new machine will do the work which hundreds of
years have failed to solve.
"The machine, known as 'Siland' Combine Decorticator,
has been put through tests. The machine and its operation
have been kept from the public until all doubts are removed.
"The principles of operation are said to be revolutionary.
Developers state that they wanted no publicity until actual
operation of the machine, under field conditions had proven
its merit. They state that two steady weeks of actual field
running each day, has satisfied them beyond doubt.
"The machine is 34 feet long and 10 feet wide. It rolls on
two pairs of caterpillar treads. In combination with the
decorticator there is a harvester, making one entire unit.
This unit is pulled by a tractor. The harvester is controlled
from the decorticator. This machine cuts and lays the stems
on a conveyor which feeds the weed into the decorticator.
"The course of the stems through the decorticator is al-
ways forward so that the decortication is always in one
direction. There .is said to be only slight waste of fiber
through this process. The Siland Combine will weigh about
15 tons but the weight is so distributed that it will operate
on ground able to support a man walking.
"The capacity of the machine is reportedly two acres per
hour, which combines the harvesting and decorticating.
StIiricj': Can!hinc Dorticitui iii Operation. Uxed hv overn16s4n utI L-a IslIj Cotunn MiLk Inc. New Y')rk, NN". York.
arru~h ~c ..uYr~
~vkl, L1.:~(IC-~C~.I(~C- L~ ti ~~YII~W.L
SRAM1IE IN FLORIDA 43
I The plant is powered by two 60 horsepower gas engines. It
can be operated by three or four men. The reports spring
I from results of actual harvesting and decorticating tests
under field conditions.
"Persons informed on the problems of ramie growing and
processing have long faced insoluble problems. These are
agreed that if such a machine as is now reported can accu-
ally operate in the Glades, a new and staple crop of almost
limitless potential can come from Glades farms."-Palmn
RAMIE FEED NOT YET READY BUT
OUTLOOK IS PROMISING
"It's not ready yet-but preliminary tests of feed con-
taining high percentages of ramie indicate that it may be at
least part of the answer to Florida's livestock feeding
"Ramie, of course, is the widely touted 'wonder fiber'
which is now being produced and processed in the Ever-
glades by several firms, one of which is Newport Industries,
Inc., whose plant is located eight miles east of Canal Point.
"By-product of the process is the tops of the ramie plants
-sections which contain a minimum of fiber and hence are
not useful for fiber production but which are more than 24
'Naturally when we discovered this high protein per-
centage we thought of the need of protein for livestock,'
Rex A. Rhoden, chemist for Newport Industries, reports.
The result was a three-cornered arrangement whereby Bro-
ward Grain company of Ft. Lauderdale mixes dehydrated
ramie with other feedstuffs and the Everglades Experiment
station at Belle Glade feeds the mix to cattle.
"'Initial results are pretty good,' Rhoden reports. The
experiment started in August, will be completed on Decem-
ber 31, and is being carried on under direction of R. \V.
Kidder, assistant animal husbandman at the station.
"SiIjnd' Cumllbir DCcOrtiCaO r in Operation. C~ipa of Iargc~t mirchine for Iinrvcstinls niproximaidyg 35,~OtJ punds of fIeld stclnv per hour. IJ'Id by
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 45
"A check group of cattle is being fed with alfalfa leaf
meal used in place of the ramic. Both groups receive a feed
which is 20 percent corn meal, 24 percent citrus pulp, 20
percent molasses and the remainder ramiee or alfalfa leaf
"Indication of the amount of feed which may be available
is the production of ramie fiber which Newport Industries
has achieved from the 800 acres of muck which have been
planted to date.
"Production averages 1500 pounds of fiber per acre, mak-
ing a total production from the 800 acres of 1,200,000
pounds per year. Equipment at the processing plant is
capable of handling 1200 pounds of crude ramie fiber and
2500 to 3000 pounds of dehydrated ramie meal per hour.
"These figures indicate, of course, that the plant is cap-
able of handling considerably larger quantities of ramie
than are now being produced, and Rhoden reveals that ex-
pansion of acreage planted to ramie is being carried on
rapidly, with some 300 acres now going in.
"Chemical analysis of the ramie meal shows that it con-
tains 22.19 percent protein, 32.24 percent nitrogen-free
extract (carbohydrates), 14.10 percent ash (minerals),
6.00 percent fat, 5.92 percent moisture, 18.55 percent fiber,
4.33 percent calcium and 0.24 percent phosphorus. The
large percentage of protein plus the small percentage of
moisture and the amounts of other elements were the tipoff
that ramie might make an exceptionally valuable feed.
"Manager of the Newport Industries plant is J. M. Demp-
sey, and chemical analysis was made through the Ashcraft-
W\ilkinson Company of Atlanta which reports as follows:
'One advantage of dehydrated ramie leaf meal is that it
is not as dusty as alfalfa leaf meal. Unlike alfalfa the ramie
plant is grown and harvested primarily for its fiber, which
has the highest tensile strength of the vegetable fibers .
The fact that the fiber is in such good demand, at a good
price, indicates that the production of dehydrated ramie
leaf meal will continue.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
'From the standpoint of Vitamin A, chemical analysis,
and regular source of supply, we recommend to the manu-
facturers of mixed feed in the Southeast, the using of this
ramie leaf meal'."-Florida Cattleman.
FIRST RAMIE PILOT PLANT TO BE ERECTED
"Ramie has taken a new spurt in Central Florida interest
this month with the announced plans of an expert in the
field to construct a 'pilot' plant at Zellwood next spring.
"That initial plant may lead to the building of a $200,000
ramie mill at Zellwood, which would hire 70 to 80 persons.
"The ramie 'prospector' is Johannes Verdouw of H-ol-
land who brought with him a patented process for ramie
which revolutionizes the industry. He has a system for de-
corticating and degumming ramie in a single process
through the use of chemicals.
"He claims that through his process he can put the fiber
ready for weaving, on the market in two hours after it is
brought from the field. And in so doing he says he is hold-
ing down the cost of the product as well as preserving its
strength and appearance. The process is done mostly
through air pressure and steam at a low temperature.
"Through the development of the new National Ramie
corporation in Lake county, Verdouw sees the possibilities
of 20,000 acres of the centuries-old fiber in the Zellwood
area. He plans on establishing his pilot plant at Zellwood
to handle 300 to 400 pounds of the ramie as an experiment
in developing the field there.
"Verdouw stopped in Mt. Dora while looking over the
field and searching for a site to join in the Florida ramie
industry. He and his associates in Holland have 18,000 acres
of farm land in Brazil, 2,000 of which are to be planted to
"Verdouw developed the chemical process for decortica-
ting and degumming ramie after nine years of experiment-
RAMIE IN FLORIDA 47
ing with a variety of fibers. The process was really
developed by a 72-year-old chemist in Holland as Verdouw,
then in Java, sent him samples of ramie and other tropical
plants. Though he had been a fiber grower in Java for 30
years, Verdouw said he found ramie the strongest of all he
had grown."-Kissin nee Gazette.