Culture, fertilizer requirements and fiber yields of ramie in the Florida Everglades

Material Information

Culture, fertilizer requirements and fiber yields of ramie in the Florida Everglades
Series Title:
Bulletin University of Florida. Agricultural Experiment Station
Neller, J. R ( Joseph Robert ), 1891-
Place of Publication:
Gainesville Fla
University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
40 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Ramie -- Field experiments ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references.
General Note:
Cover title.
Bulletin (University of Florida. Agricultural Experiment Station)
Statement of Responsibility:
by J.R. Neller.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
027118993 ( ALEPH )
18237037 ( OCLC )
AEN5870 ( NOTIS )


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Bulletin 412

Contribution from Everglades Station




Fig. 1.-Ramie on Everglades peat; planted in November 1937, photo-
graphed May 10, 1938. Cuttings were removed May 19, August 3, October
4 and December 13, 1938.

July, 1945


N. B. Jordan, Acting Chairman, Quincy
Thos. W. Bryant, Lakeland
M. L. Mershon, Miami
J. Henson Markham, Jacksonville
J. Thos. Gurney, Orlando
J. T. Diamond, Secretary, Tallahassee


John J. Tigert, M.A., LL.D., President of the
H. Harold Hume, D.Sc., Provost for Agricul-
Harold Mowry, M.S.A., Director
L. O. Gratz, Ph.D., Asst. Dir., Research
W. M. Fifleld, M.S., Asst. Dir., Admin.4
J. Francis Cooper, M.S.A., Editors
Clyde Beale, A.B.J., Associate Editor3
Jefferson Thomas, Assistant Editors
Ida Keeling Cresap, Librarian
Ruby Newhall, Administrative Managers
K. H. Graham, LL.D., Business Managers
Claranelle Alderman, Accountants



W. E. Stokes, M.S., Agronomist'
Fred H. Hull, Ph.D., Agronomist
G. E. Ritchey, M.S., Agronomist2
G. B. Killinger, Ph.D., Agronomist
W. A. Carver, Ph.D., Associate
Roy E. Blaser, M.S., Associate
H. C. Harris, Ph.D., Associate
R. W. Bledsoe, Ph.D., Agronomist
Fred A. Clark, B.S., Assistant

A. L. Shealy, D.V.M., An. Industrialist' 3
R. B. Becker, Ph.D., Dairy Husbandman3
E. L. Fouts, Ph.D., Dairy Technologists
D. A. Sanders, D.V.M., Veterinarian
M. W. Emmel, D.V.M., Veterinarians
L. E. Swanson, D.V.M., Parasitologist'
N. R. Mehrhof, M.Agr., Poultry Husb.3
G. K. Davis, Ph.D., Animal Nutritionist
T. R. Freeman, Ph.D., Asso. in Dairy Mfg.
R. S. Glasscock, Ph.D., An. Husbandman
D. J. Smith, B.S.A., Asst. An. Husb.'
P. T. Dix Arnold, M.S.A., Asst. Dairy Husb.3
C. L. Comar, Ph.D., Asso. Biochemist
L. E. Mull, M.S., Asst. in Dairy Tech.4
J. E. Pace, B.S., Asst. An. Husbandman *
S. P. Marshall, M.S., Asst. in An. Nutrition4
Ruth Taylor, A.B., Asst. Biochem.
Katherine Boney, B.S., Asst. Chem.
Peggy R. Lockwood, B.S., Asst. in Dairy Mfs.


C. V. Noble, Ph.D., Agr. Economist' s
Zach Savage, M.S.A., Associates
A. H. Spurloek, M.S.A., Associate
Max E. Brunk, M.S., Associate


Ouida D. Abbott, Ph.D., Home Econ.1
R. B. French, Ph.D., Biochemist


J. R. Watson, A.M., Entomologist'
A. N. Tissot, Ph.D., Associates
H. E. Bratley, M.S.A., Assistant


G. H. Blackmon, M.S.A., Horticulturist'
A. L. Stahl, Ph.D., Asso. Horticulturist
F. S. Jamison, Ph.D., Truck Hort.
R. J. Wilmot, M.S.A., Asst. Hort.
R. D. Dickey, M.S.A., Asst. Hort.
J. Carlton Cain, B.S.A., Asst. Hort.4
Victor F. Nettles, M.S.A., Asst. Hort.'
Byron E. Janes, Ph.D., Asst. Hort.
F. S. Lagasse, Ph.D., Asso. Hort.2


W. B. Tisdale, Ph.D., Plant Pathologist' a
Phares Decker, Ph.D., Asso. Plant Path.
Erdman West, M.S., Mycologist
Lillian E. Arnold, M.S., Asst. Botanist


F. B. Smith, Ph.D., Microbiologist' 3
Gaylord M. Volk, M.S., Chemist"
J. R. Henderson, M.S.A., Soil Technologist
J. R. Neller, Ph.D., Soils Chemist
C. E. Bell, Ph.D., Associate Chemist
L. H. Rogers, Ph.D., Associate Biochemist'
R. A. Carrigan, B.S., Asso. Biochemist
G. T. Sims, M.S.A., Associate Chemist
T. C. Erwin, Assistant Chemist
H. W. Winsor, B.S.A., Assistant Chemist
Geo. D. Thornton, M.S., Asst. Microbiologist6
R. E. Caldwell, M.S.A., Asst. Soil Surveyor'
Olaf C. Olson, B.S., Asst. Soil Surveyor4

1 Head of Department.
2 In cooperation with U. S.
3 Cooperative, other divisions, U. of F.
In Military Service.
5 On leave.



J. D. Warner, M.S., Vice-Director in Charge
R. R. Kincaid, Ph.D., Plant Pathologist
V. E. Whitehurst, Jr., B.S.A., Asst. An.
Jesse Reeves, Asst. Agron., Tobacco
W. H. Chapman, M.S., Asst. Agron.'
R. C. Bond, M.S.A., Asst. Agronomist

Mobile Unit, Monticello

R. W. Wallace, B.S., Associate Agronomist

Mobile Unit, Milton

Ralph L. Smith, M.S., Associate Agronomist

Mobile Unit, Marianna

R. W. Lipscomb, M.S., Associate Agronomist

Mobile Unit, Wewahitchka

J. B. White, B.S.A., Asso. Agronomist


A. F. Camp, Ph.D., Vice-Director in Charge
V. C. Jamison, Ph.D., Soils Chemist
B. R. Fudge, Ph.D., Associate Chemist
W. L. Thompson, B.S., Entomologist
W. W. Lawless, B.S., Asst. Horticulturist
C. R. Steams, Jr., B.S.A., Asso. Chemist
H. O. Sterling, B.S., Asst. Horticulturist
T. W. Young, Ph.D., Asso. Horticulturist
J. W. Sites, M.S.A., Asso. Horticulturist5
J. B. Redd, Ph.D., Insecticide Chemist


R. V. Allison, Ph.D., Vice-Director in Charge
J. W. Wilson, Sc.D., Entomologist'
F. D. Stevens, B.S., Sugarcane Agron.
Thomas Bregger, Ph.D., Sugarcane
G. R. Townsend, Ph.D., Plant Pathologist
R. W. Kidder, M.S., Asst. An. Hush.
W. T. Forsee, Jr., Ph.D., Asso. Chemist
B. S. Clayton, B.S.C.E., Drainage Eng.2
F. S. Andrews, Ph.D., Asso. Truck Hort.4
R. A. Bair, Ph.D., Asst. Agronomist
E. L. Felix, B.S.A., Asst. Plant Path.


Geo. D. Ruehle, Ph.D., Vice-Director in
P. J. Westgate, Ph.D., Asso. Horticulturist
H. I. Borders, M.S., Asso. Plant Path.


Clement D. Gordon, Ph.D., Asso. Poultry
Geneticist in Charge2


W. G. Kirk, Ph.D., Vice-Director in Charge
E. M. Hodges, Ph.D., Asso. Agron.
Gilbert A. Tucker, B.S.A., Asst. An. Hush.'


G. K. Parris, Ph.D., Plant Path. in Charge

Plant City

A. N. Brooks, Ph.D., Plant Pathologist


A. H. Eddins, Ph.D., Plant Pathologist
E. N. McCubbin, Ph.D., Truck Horticulturist


S. O. Hill, B.S., Asst. Entomologist2 4
A. M. Phillips, B.S., Asst. Entomologist'


J. R. Beckenbach, Ph.D., Horticulturist in
E. G. Kelsheimer, Ph.D., Entomologist
A. L. Harrison, Ph.D., Plant Pathologist
David G. Kelbert, Asst. Plant Pathologist
E. L. Spencer, Ph.D., Soils Chemist


R. W. Ruprecht, Ph.D., Chemist in Charge
J. C. Russell, M.S., Asst. Entomologist6


E. S. Ellison, Meteorologist 2
Warren O. Johnson, Meteorologist2

1 Head of Department.
2 In cooperation with U. S.
8 Cooperative, other divisions, U. of F.
In Military Service.
5 On leave.


When a farmer produces more than 1 crop he is less subject
to the risks of a changing market and of variable weather con-
ditions. Moreover, diversification of crops generally makes
possible a more efficient and continuous utilization of machinery
and equipment throughout the year. In the same way, labor
peaks may be reduced with improved results since the laborer
is assured of more continuous employment.
These advantages of diversification are sought in the research
program of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations,
particularly in a region like the Everglades where agriculture
is highly seasonal. Among the many types of plants that have
been tested by Experiment Station workers in the Everglades,
ramie was found to be 1 that grows well and that is harvested
during the summer months when the vegetable crops of the
region need least attention in farm equipment and labor. Ac-
cordingly, rather detailed cultural experiments have been con-
ducted with ramie for several years in anticipation that it may
become a crop of commercial importance.
The present bulletin contains a record of these cultural and
fertilizer experiments that have extended over more than a
decade. The experiments have not included methods for large
scale harvesting and processing of ramie but they do point out
the fundamental requirements for such methods and these are
in process of development by private and corporate groups. As
may be seen in the section on "Acknowledgments", this work
was aided in an excellent way by these groups and the State
Department of Agriculture.



Characteristics of the Plant ........................... .............................................................. 5
Experim ental Procedure ...................................... .................................... .... 8
Selection of Type of Plant ................................................................................ 8
Fertilizer Treatments ...................... ................... ........................ 8
M ethod of Planting .................................................. ..... ....................... 9
Method of Harvesting and Obtaining Yield Data ........................................ 10
E xperim ental R results .......................................................................................................... 10
R ate of Grow th ...........................................----- .............................. ......................... 10
Fresh W eight Yields of Cuttings ....................................................................... 15
Fiber Y ields and Quality .......................................... ...........-..... ..................... ... 19
Fertilizer Requirem ents .............................................................................................. 22
M ethod of A application ................................................................. .... ........ ........... 25
Comparison of Annual Yields ....................................................... ................... 25
Improvement of Growth of Old Dense Stands .................................................. 26
Rate of Increase of Rootstock Planting Material ....................................... 27
Comparison of Selections and Methods of Planting ................................. 28
Composition of Leaves and -Stems .................................................................... 29
Comparative Growth on Everglades Peat and Okeechobee Muck ........... 30
Effect of Various Factors on Fiber Yield .......................................................... 32
Precautions Relative to Handling and Planting the Rootstock Material....... 34
Problem s Relative to H harvesting .................................................................................... 35
Suitability in a Diversified Farming Program for the Everglades ................... 36
Sum m ary and Conclusions ................................................................... .......................... 38


In China and other parts of the Orient ramie, Boehmeria
nivea (L) Gaud., has been grown for centuries to obtain the
fiber which is found in the inner bark of the stems of the plant.
It is one of the soft or bast fibers such as are produced by hemp,
H. canabinus L., and flax, Linum usitatissimum L., as contrasted
with those of sisal, Agave sisalana (Englm.) Perrine, Sansie-
veria sp. and others of the hard fiber group. As pointed out
by Robinson,' ramie fiber has the highest tensile strength of
the vegetable fibers, absorbs water more readily than flax fiber,
from which linen is made, and dries out more readily. It is
resistant to decay and when well degummed has a soft, lustrous
property equal to or exceeding that of silk. It does not have
as much elasticity as silk nor does it withstand torsion as well,
but it excels flax and hemp in those qualities and blends satis-
factorily with other fibers such as wool, cotton, silk and rayon.
The ramie plant produces rootstocks or roots from which
new plants sprout both before and after the mother stalk has
been cut off or killed by frosts. The stems grow rapidly during
periods of sufficient warmth and when supplied with enough
moisture and plant nutrients produce 3 to 4 cuttings per year.

SRobinson, B. B. Ramie Fiber Production. U. S. Dept. of Agric. Circ.
585. 1940

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

In the Everglades these cuttings are made during the summer
months, which is an important characteristic of the crop diversi-
fication needs of the region. The stems are slender and attain
a length of from 6 to 8 feet (Fig. 1) before becoming mature
enough for best fiber yields. Large heart-shaped leaves, green
on the upper and white on the under side, are produced along
the upper part of the stems (Fig. 2). The best stage of growth
for fiber is considered to be when the stems begin to turn brown
and before the bark becomes too hard.
The leaves and stems are quite sensitive to frost but the
roots survive even if the surface soil is frozen an inch or 2 in
depth. In the spring of each year the roots send up a new
growth of stems (Fig. 3) more numerous than in the preceding
year. As the plant matures, clusters of male and female flowers
are produced along the upper end of the stems (Fig. 2). Seeds
are numerous but very small.
These seeds are viable and can be used to propagate the plant
but growth of the seedlings is slow and subject to loss; inferior
types of plants are also likely to be produced. To avoid these

Fig. 2.-Close-up of upper portions of ramie plants in Fig. 1. Seed clusters
as well as leaves are attached directly to the main stem.

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

difficulties the best method is to use small pieces of root, each
of which should carry 1 or more eyes or buds from which new
stems grow. The green stem itself will sprout and grow if
thrust into the soil, providing conditions for growth are satis-
The fiber of ramie is separated from the stem by a process
known as decortication with or without a period of controlled
decomposition designated as retting. Gibb 2 states that the
retting process, only, should be employed, otherwise the quality
of the fiber is much impaired. Decortication without retting is
known, however, to produce fiber that retains many of its ex-
cellent properties, particularly if it is decorticated in the fresh
or green state. Following decortication or retting the fiber is
treated chemically to remove gums, after which it is ready to
be used in the spinning processes.
Harvesting and decortication of ramie are done mostly by

2 Personal communication from D. Buchan Gibb, Fiber Technologist, 508
Sylvan Avenue, Glendolden, Penn.

Fig. 3.-Lower part of plants shown in Figs. 1 and 2. Several stems have
grown from each planted piece or root.
- m ~ S~rc

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

hand in the Orient. In the United States, where labor costs
are higher, these operations would necessarily have to be done
largely by machinery. Several companies are attempting to
develop machines for these purposes and in anticipation of ramie
thereby becoming a crop of commercial importance in Florida,
experiments were conducted at the Everglades Station relative
to the growth and fiber yield of the plant.

Selection of Type of Plant.-Ramie was 1 of several fiber
plants that Allison planted in 1929 3 in the plant introduction
field of the Everglades Station. This is in an area of Everglades
peat that is kept under water control by means of pumps for
the production of cultivated crops. Of the various fiber plants
that were introduced, Daane4 found that ramie appeared to be
well adapted from the standpoint of satisfactory growth and
quality of fiber.
In July, 1935, 2 new selections of ramie numbered P.I. 70791
and P.I. 87521 were obtained from Dewey of the United States
Department of Agriculture. They are similar in branch and
leaf characteristics but differ in that the latter produces some-
what larger stems. It was observed also that P.I. 87521 appears
to be better adapted to periods of cold and frosty weather. For
these reasons it was selected for the experimental work with
fertilizers and fiber yields.
Fertilizer Treatments.-Preliminary fertilizer tests indicated
that ramie growing on Everglades peat responds to potash to
a considerable degree. A series of plots was established on this
type of peat at the Everglades Station for a more complete study
of yields and fertilizer requirements. Nine treatments (Table 1)
were applied on plots each 20 x 30 feet in size. Fertilizer for
a given plot was added to the center of the 31/-foot border
around each plot. Each of the treatments was replicated 4
times, making 36 plots in a randomized block arrangement con-
sisting of a rectangle 2 blocks in depth and 2 in width. The
source materials were ammonium sulfate, superphosphate (44
percent P205), muriate of potash (60 percent K20), borax and
the sulfates of copper, manganese and zinc.

SAllison, R. V. Fruit and forest tree trials arid other introductory
plantings. Fla. Agr. Exp. Sta. Annual Rpt., 121. 1930.
SDaane, A. Fiber crop investigations. Fla. Agr. Exp. Sta. Annual
Rpt., 206. 1934.

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

Method of Planting.-Pieces of roots from 3 to 5 inches long
were planted 15 to 18 inches apart in 4-foot rows. The roots
were placed in shallow furrows which were made with a shovel
plow and were then almost completely covered. Before plant-
ing, the fertilizer mixtures were scattered in the furrows and
mixed with the peat by going through them a second time with
the shovel plow. The roots planted November 16, 1937, were
obtained from 56 pieces of roots which had been planted in a
nearby field in July, 1935. These 56 plants furnished 9,525
pieces of rootstock planting material.
The water table of the field in which these plots were located
was kept about 2 feet below the surface by means of moles, field
ditches and pumps characteristic of the cultivated area of Ever-
glades peat.5 The surface layers of the peat were not as fibrous
as in the raw state because the field had been plowed 2 years
before and planted to corn the previous year.

ment Formulas Notes*
Number 1938-40 1 1941-42 _

1 0-0-0 0-0-0 None used except copper sulfate at 50 pounds
per acre when ramie was planted.
2 0-0-18 0-0-18 Potash only.
3 0-0-18 0-0-18 Potash only (No. 2 twice a year in March
and August).
4 0-6-18 0-6-18 Phosphate and potash.
5 0-6-18 0-6-18 Phosphate and potash (No. 4 twice a year).
6 2-6-18 2-6-18 Nitrogen, phosphate and potash.
7 0-6-36 0-6-36 Phosphate and double potash.
8 0-6-18 0-6-36 Same as 7 plus zinc sulfate.
9 0-6-18 0-6-36 Same as 8 plus manganese sulfate and borax.

*Copper sulfate was added to all plots when the ramie was planted. Applications of
fertilizer were made at the rate of 600 pounds per acre in 1938 and at 1,000 pounds per acre
in 1939 and 1940. Because of tendency of stems to break over on the double potash plots
the rate of application was cut to 500 pounds per acre for 1941 and 1942; and potash was
doubled for treatments 8 and 9 to make sure that it should not be a limiting factor over the
possible beneficial effects of the sulfates of manganese and zinc and of borax which were
applied at the rates of 25. 15 and 8 pounds per acre, respectively.

SClayton, B. S., J. R. Neller and R. V. Allison. Water control in the
peat and muck soils of the Everglades. Fla. Agr. Exp. Sta. Bul. 378:
38-60. 1942.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

Method of Harvesting and Obtaining Yield Data.-Growth of
ramie on 31-foot borders around the plots was cut and removed
before the growth on the plots was cut and weighed. The field
was well covered, as may be seen in Fig. 1, and there were,
therefore, no border effects such as occur in isolated plots.
The ramie was cut with a sickle power-driven mower (Fig. 5 A)
with a 31/2-foot blade installed in front of the machine. In cut-
ting the borders the operator was guided by walking directly
beneath a wire that had been stretched above him over the
center of the 31-foot border between plots. Cutting and weigh-
ing operations are illustrated in B and C of Fig. 5.
Fresh weights of samples of stems with leaves attached were
obtained per plot and these weights were converted to air-dry
weight of stems per acre. The conversion was based upon
weighed samples of fresh, undefoliated ramie. After the leaves
were removed the stems were air-dried in an open shed. Stems
and leaves of each cutting were removed from the plots to
insure the best possible comparison of the fertilizer mixtures.
Rate of Growth.-Warm weather prevailed following the plant-
ing of the roots in November and by December 7 stem growth
extended several inches above ground. On that date a frost
killed the leaves, after which the stems were cut off with a sickle
mower and left upon the ground. During the cool weather and
Fig. 4.-Growth of ramie on June 8, 1938, 19 days after the first cutting.

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

short days of December to March growth was slow; it was
progressively faster thereafter. By April 7 the plants averaged
59.8 inches in height. Table 2 records the rate of growth from
measurements taken about once a week until May 18, when
the stems were judged to be at the right stage of maturity
for cutting. Just preceding this first cutting the photograph
of Fig. 3 was made and it shows that several stems had grown
from each of the rootstock pieces. The 2 clumps in the center
are apparently from 1 piece of root, growth from which was
divided into 2 parts by hoeing to remove weeds. The field was
cultivated and hoed a few times, after which the luxuriant
growth of the ramie smothered out the weeds and practically no
weeding or cultivating was necessary at any time following the
first cutting. Fig. 2 shows the upper parts of these plants and
Fig. 1 is a general view of entire plants.
Table 2 shows that the rate of growth or elongation of the
stem was very rapid at first, especially if the cutting just pre-
Fig. 5.-Harvesting on fertilizer plots. A, Power sickle mower used
to cut ramie; the sickle, in front of the machine, is 3% feet wide. B, Mower
in operation, cutting growth from the plots after borders had been cut and
removed. C, Spring balance to weigh the ramie stems with leaves attached.


Rate of Growth
Date of Measured Height of Plants in Inches, Each an Average of 8 Plants per Day
Cutting (One from each of Treatments 2-9, Inclusive*) First Last
Measure- Measure-
ment ment

In 1938

May 19

Aug. 3

Oct. 4

Dec. 13

In 1939

May 9

Aug. 7

Oct. 10

Dec. 7

Apr. 7

June 16

Sept. 15

Oct. 18

Mar. 14

May 23

Aug. 29

Nov. 1

Apr. 17

June 23

Sept. 22

Oct. 25

Mar. 21

May 30

Sept. 20

Nov. 8

Apr. 21

June 30

Sept. 29

Nov. 1

Mar. 28

June 6

Oct. 4

Nov. 15

*Measurements of plants of Treatment 1
lack of potash.

Apr. 28

July 7

Nov. 8

Apr. 4

June 13

Oct. 10

Nov. 22

May 5

July 14

Nov. 15

Apr. 12

June 21

Nov. 29

May 12

July 21

Nov. 22

Apr. 19

June 27

Dec. 6

May 18

July 28

Nov. 29

Apr. 25

July 5

May 2

July 11

May 8

Aug. 1















are not included as they progressively became extremely stunted (Table 3) because of

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

ceding occurred during early summer. Thus the daily rate of
growth from June 16 to June 23 for the second cutting of 1938
was 1.29 inches for plants already 55.3 inches tall. Fig. 4 is a
photograph of the field taken on June 8, 1938, which was 19
days after the ramie was cut and removed from the field on
May 19. Measurements from May 23 to May 30, 1939, showed
a daily rate of growth of 2.3 inches, but these were of younger
plants averaging 22.7 inches tall on May 23. Rate of growth
was considerably less in the period just preceding the cutting
date for all of the 8 cuttings except the first for each year. Data
for the cutting of October 4, 1938, should be omitted from this
comparison, as measurement was obtained only for a 2-weeks'
period preceding that date. Except for the first cutting of each
season, therefore, one of the criteria for determining time to
harvest ramie is that of decrease in rate of growth. Table 2
also shows that rate of growth becomes progressively less as
a season advances and the days shorten.
Table 3 records the effect of fertilizer treatment (Table 1)
upon height of the plants. The average height given in Table
Fig. 6.-Response to extra potash. Right, fertilized with potash only
in November (Treatment 2, Table 1); left, fertilized with the same amount
of potash only in November and an equal amount in August (Treatment
3). Photographed October 4, at time of third cutting in 1938.



Cuttings in 1938

Cuttings in 1939

_ I _ _____



1 0-0-0 ..............................

2 0-0-18 ...........- ..-....

3 No. 2 twice a year...........

4 0-6-18 .............................

5 No. 4 twice a year...........

6 2-6-18 ............................

7 0-6-36 ......................... ...

8 No. 7 plus zinc sulfate ....

9 No. 8 plus manganese
sulfate and borax ............

Number of measurements
per cutting ........................

May 19





Aug. 3

Oct. 4

58.3 43.7

73.9 52.7

74.5 67.3

78.1 55.0

75.8 74.0

81.2 65.3

80.5 72.8

73.1 53.2

78.0 56.7

8 3

Dec. 13








May 9

Aug. 7











Oct. 10

*Each of these is the average of 57 measurements made preceding the 8 cuttings.


Dec. 7


36.4 G




57.9 .


53.6 S.



Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

3 shows that the plants were short and stunted on plots of Treat-
ment 1 to which no fertilizer was added; that potash alone
(Treatment 2) caused a marked increase in height of plant;
that doubling the potash caused another increase (Treatment
3) ; and that phosphate with double potash (Treatment 7) caused
a moderate increase attributable to phosphorus; that doubling
the phosphate and the potash (Treatment 5) was no better than
phosphate and double potash (Treatment 7).
Fresh Weight Yields of Cuttings.-The photographs of Figs. 6,
7 and 8 were taken on October 4, at the time of the third cut-
ting in 1938. Growth on the right of the 31/2-foot border that
has been cut and removed (Fig. 6) is on a plot fertilized with
potash only at the time of planting in November of 1937. There
is much more growth on the plot at the left that received the
same amount of potash in November and an equal amount
August 5, following the cutting of August 3. Response to phos-
phate is lacking, as shown by comparison of growth on the
plot at the right of Fig. 7 that received potash only in Novem-
Fig. 7.-Lack of response to phosphate. Right, fertilized with potash
only in November and August (Treatment 2, Table 1); left, fertilized with
phosphate and potash in November (Treatment 4). Photographed October
4, 1938.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

ber and August, and on the plot at the left that received phos-
phate and potash in November. Fig. 8 shows the effect of
withholding fertilizer on growth of the first year. Response to
potash was still more marked the next year, as shown in Fig. 9
of which A is a plot without any fertilizer and B is a plot that
received potash only, twice a year.
Table 4 records the average fresh weight yield as tons per
acre from the 4 replicated plots for each treatment for 5 years.
It may be noted that 4 cuttings were made in each of the years
1938, 1939 and 1940, and 3 in 1941 and 1942. An analysis of
variance for a perennial experiment 6 shows that differences
between treatments as well as between seasons were both sig-
nificant at the 1 percent level (odds of 99 to 1). Data of Treat-
ment 1 were omitted in this analysis because of the very stunted
amount of growth in these check plots that received no fertilizer.
The first application was at the rate of 600 pounds per acre for
the various combinations which was increased to 1,000 pounds
per acre for 1939 and 1940, when it became apparent that un-

6 Love, H. H. Experimental Methods in Agricultural Research. 229
pp. Published by the U. of Puerto Rico Agr. Exp. Sta., Rio Piedras, Puerto
Rico. 1943.
Fig. 8.-Effect of withholding fertilizer on first year's growth. Plot on
right was unfertilized (Treatment 1, Table 1), that on left received phos-
phate and potash (Treatment 4). Photographed October 4, 1938.

i ,

(In tons per acre from the average of 4 duplicate plots per treatment.)

Date Cut _Fertilizer Treatments as per Table 1
1 2 3 4 56 6 7 8 9
May 19 ................................ 13.002 14.330 14.865 15.146 14.700 14.556 15.371 14.796 15.259
Aug. 3 .................................. 9.988 12.819 13.022 12.867 13.431 13.850 14.588 13.058 13.227
Oct. 4 .................................. 6.570 8.415 11.380 8.232 11.514 8.522 9.735 8.363 8.589
Dec. 13 ................................. 4.307 6.279 8.450 6.222 8.849 6.558 7.418 6.428 6.639
Totals .................................. 33.867 41.843 47.717 42.467 48.494 43.486 47.112 42.645 43.714
May 9 .................................. 4.859 11.205 11.019 11.487 11.892 12.234 12.221 11.880 12.169
Aug. 7 ............................... 5.398 11.843 11.705 11.806 13.071 12.215 14.811 12.056 12.815
Oct. 11 ................................ 3.252 6.987 9.225 7.008 9.429 7.229 8.853 7.554 7.439
Dec. 7 .................................... 1.335 4.571 6.120 4.596 6.440 4.844 5.064 4.959 5.223
Totals .................................... 14.844 34.606 38.069 34.897 40.832 36.522 40.949 36.449 37.646
May 7 ................................. 3.313 7.975 7.942 8.081 7.726 8.289 8.406 8.701 8.286
June 28 .............................. 3.945 8.478 8.949 8.681 9.406 9.736 9.475 9.499 10.409
Sept. 24 .............................. 2.958 7.811 8.979 9.102 11.624 10.117 11.132 9.594 11.747
Nov. 27 ......................:........... 1.202 4.613 4.776 5.012 6.027 4.797 6.335 5.289 4.920
Totals .................................... 11.418 28.877 30.646 30.876 34.783 32.939 35.348 33.083 35.362
June 2 ............................. 2.429 9.656 10.055 10.117 10.285 11.593 10.855 10.271 11.931
Aug. 18 ................................ 3.629 8.549 9.625 8.487 10.240 10.117 11.132 9.594 10.363
Nov. 17 ............................... 4.336 7.780 11.777 9.471 13.499 10.517 9.410 10.978 11.224
Totals ................................... 10.394 25.985 31.457 28.075 34.024 32.227 31.397 30.843 33.518
May 18 .............................. 3.998 12.546 12.761 13.223 13.469 13.450 13.284 13.315 14.257
Aug. 20 ........................... 4.274 9.440 9.533 11.039 12.362 11.808 11.378 11.870 12.608
Nov. 21 ................................ 3.413 10.732 11.470 8.948 9.532 9.471 9.563 8.518 9.348
Totals ..................................... 11.685 | 32.718 33.764 33.210 35.363 34.729 34.225 33.703 36.193

Average per year ......... 16.441 32.805 36.331 33.905 38.699 35.981 37.806 35.344 37.286

*The analysis of variance shows that differences between fertilizer treatments and between seasons (years) are both significant at the 1
percent level. The least significant difference is 1.763 tons per acre for treatments and 1.065 tons per acre for seasons at the 5 percent level
or odds of 19 to 1.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

usually heavy tonnages of growth would be removed from the
plots. Decision to make this increase in the rate of application
was induced also by observations that the leaves of plants on
plots of Treatments 2 and 4 exhibited characteristic potassium
deficiency symptoms. The broad, thin leaves of ramie show
nutrient deficiencies readily and those of potassium were very


Fig. 9.-Response to potash during second year of growth. Photo-
graphed at time of third cutting, October 11, 1939. A, unfertilized; B,
fertilized with potash only, twice a year.

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

marked in the leaves growing on the plots that received no
Preceding the second cutting of 1940 plants on the plots of
Treatments 3, 5 and 7 lodged badly, this being an actual break-
ing over of the stems in many cases. Since these plots were
receiving double-potash treatments the rate of fertilizer appli-
cation was reduced to 500 pounds per acre for 1941 and 1942;
and potash was doubled for Treatments 8 and 9 to make sure
that this element was not a limiting factor over the possible
positive effects of zinc, manganese or boron.
Fiber Yields and Quality.-Inasmuch as yields of fiber are
based upon data of air-dry weight of stems, Table 5 is presented
at this point. This shows that fresh, defoliated stems of samples
taken from various plots constitute about 59 percent of the total
fresh weight, while the air-dry stems average 11.5 percent of
the fresh, green weight of undefoliated plants, which are the
weights recorded in Table 4. The percentage of stems varies
somewhat from cutting to cutting. Samples from unfertilized
plots of Treatment 1 are not included in Table 5, as the leaves
made up a considerably higher percentage of the total weight
of stunted plants which are of little value for fiber.


Per Weight of Total
Date Cut .Fresh Sample Age of
Deleaved Air-dry Growth
Stems Stems
Percent Percent Days
May 9, 1939 --.................. 56.5 10.3 1st cutting
Aug. 4 ................................ 61.0 13.0 87
Oct. 7 .................. ..... ..... 54.9 10.9 64
Sept. 24, 1940 .................. 58.5 12.6 88
May 14, 1943 .................... 61.2 10.0 1st cutting
May 25, 1943 .................. 62.9 12.4 1st cutting
Average ............................ 59.2 11.5

Weighed portions of air-dried stems from all 36 plots of each
of the 4 cuttings of 1938 were shipped to a laboratory of
the Division of Fiber Investigations, Bureau of Plant Industry,

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

United States Department of Agriculture, where the fiber was
extracted in a manner similar to that being used for flax. Al-
though this was not considered a method commercially satisfac-
tory for ramie, it served to give a quantitative measure of the
fiber for experimental purposes.
The percentages of fiber obtained from these samples are
recorded in Table 6. Each percentage value is an average of 4
fiber determinations as obtained from a sample from each of
the quadruplicated plots. Averages of all cuttings (vertical
column) show no consistent variation with treatment but aver-
ages of treatments per cutting (horizontal column) demonstrate
that the fiber content was higher in the October 4 cutting than
in the preceding cutting, even though the age of growth (62
days) was less. It may be observed in Table 4 that growth was
less for the October 4 cutting and that the plants were shorter
(Table 2). These tables also show that the growth of the
December 13 cutting was still lighter and shorter.
All of the fiber samples of the May 19, August 3 and October
4 cuttings were of about the same quality, but those obtained


Fertilizers |
Treat- May 19 Aug. 3 Oct. 4 Dec. 13 Aver-
ment Formula age
Number _
1 0-0-0 ......................... 26.60 24.97 33.35 36.35 30.82
2 0-0-18 ....................... 27.43 26.92 35.02 29.01 29.59
3 No. 2 twice a year 28.02 28.88 25.89 21.49 26.07
4 | 0-6-18 ......--. ---.......... 24.00 20.59 28.92 21.90 23.85
5 No. 4 twice a year 26.99 25.76 31.53 27.19 27.87
6 2-6-18 ...................... 26.70 26.91 43.43 27.79 31.21
7 0-6-36 ...................... 27.09 27.67 38.52 22.19 28.87
8 No. 7 plus zinc
sulfate ................-..... 27.93 29.45 36.10 33.32 31.70
9 No. 8 plus manga-
nese sulfate and
borax ....................... 27.62 27.91 41.05 33.88 32.62
Average -......-- ........... 26.93 26.56 35.09 28.12 29.18

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

from the December 13 cutting were definitely poorer. These
growth and fiber data demonstrate that ramie is a warm weather
crop and that cuttings as late as December are likely to be of
little value.
During the summer of 1943 samples of ramie were cut
periodically and the stems were sent to a commercial company
for determinations of content of spinnable fiber. These data
are given in Table 7 in which it may be seen that the fiber
content of the early growth of April 7 was less than 1 percent
of the fresh, green weight of undefoliated stems and that it
increased to 2.69 percent in plants cut May 14. The bark of the
lower portions of the stems had turned brown by May 14 and
by May 25 the browning had extended almost to the growing
tip. This brown-colored bark clings tenaciously to the stem
and the fiber is more highly colored than in less mature stems.
As discussed under the section on "Rate of Growth," these
characteristics of overmaturity are accompanied by a decrease
in elongation of stem. There is need for more detailed study
of relation between maturity of growth, quality of fiber and
ease of decortication.

__Fresh Sample Data
Date of Height Moisture Spin-
Cutting Age of of Weight Leaves in nable
in 1943 Growth Plants _Stems Fiber
| Days Inches I Grams Percent | Percent Percent
April 7 1st cutting* 32.5 1,340 38.0 91.7 0.99
April 26 1st cutting 46.5 1,390 43.5 86.8 2.06
May 4 1st cutting 56.1 1,635 38.8 84.5 2.41
May 14 1st cutting 64.8 1,525 38.8 83.6 2.69
May 25 1st cutting 71.Q 1,456 37.1 80.3 3.46

Second Cutting

June 28 34 45.9 1,747 41.7 91.6 1.69
July 14 50 57.9 1,400 38.0 84.1 2.60
July 27 63 67.4 2,090 40.3 80.3 2.70

*These periods for the first cuttings include the slow growth that occurred during the
winter months following the frost of February 15th.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

By June 28 the new growth following the first cutting of May
25 had a fiber content of 1.69 percent (Table 7), which increased
to 2.70 percent by July 27, at which time the plants were con-
sidered mature enough to be cut for fiber. Experiments con-
ducted during the previous 5 years have indicated that the
first cutting of ramie should be made about the middle of May,
with cuttings every 60 to 75 days thereafter. On that basis the
cuttings of May 14 and July 27 of Table 7 gave a spinnable fiber
factor of 2.70 percent of the fresh weight of undefoliated plants.
The fiber percentages of Table 6 are of undegummed material
of the cuttings of 1938 and representative samples of these
fibers, sent to a spinning company, were found to contain 84.27
percent of spinnable fiber. Use of this factor gives 24.59 percent
as the average amount of spinnable fiber in air-dried stems, or
2.83 percent of the fresh undefoliated plants. This is about the
same as the factor of 2.70 percent obtained from samples grown
in 1943.
Table 8 records the yields of spinnable fiber per acre per year
for 5 years as obtained by multiplying the total fresh weight
yields recorded in Table 4 by this factor of 2.83 percent. From
an analysis of variance for a perennial experiment it was found
that differences in yields between fertilizer treatments as well
as between seasons (years, Table 4) were significant below the
1 percent point, even when the data of the stunted growth on
the unfertilized plots were omitted. At the 5 percent point or
odds 19 to 1, the least significant difference between treatments
was 1.763 tons per acre of total fresh growth containing 100
pounds of spinnable fiber and the least significant difference
between seasons was 1.065 tons per acre of fresh growth con-
taining 61 pounds of spinnable fiber.
An entirely mechanical method of harvesting and processing
ramie might not obtain the fiber from all of the shorter stems as
was done in cuttings taken from the fertilizer plots upon which
the fiber yields of Table 8 are based. There are not many short
stems the first year or 2 of growth but they are more numerous
in the thicker stands of the following years and in some cases
were found to comprise 20 to 25 percent of the total green weight.
Accordingly, the fiber yields that may be expected from large
scale mechanized operations would probably be about 80 percent
of those recorded in Table 8.
Fertilizer Requirements.-Based upon the significant differ-
ence of not less than 100 pounds of spinnable fiber per acre, the

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

fiber yields (Table 8) from the 1938 cuttings were highest where
the most potash had been used. In 1939 there was some re-
sponse to phosphates, as the 0-6-36 mixture gave highest yields.
In 1940 the 0-6-18 mixture containing minor elements was as
good as the 0-6-36 without minor elements. Yield data for 1941
show that the 0-6-36 mixture with minor elements was better
than that without and the 2-6-18 was better than the 0-6-18.
In 1942 the 0-6-18 mixture applied twice a year and the 0-6-36
with minor elements once a year were best, but the latter only
was better than potash alone (0-0-18) twice a year.


(Fiber in pounds per acre from the average of 4

duplicate plots per

Fertilizers Aver-
Treat- 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 age
ment Formula
Number ______ _____ ____ ___

1 0-0-0 .................... 1,917 840 646 588 661 930
2 0-0-18 .................. 2,368 1,959 1,634 1,471 1,852 I 1,857
3 No. 2 twice a year 2,701 2,155 1,735 1,780 1,911 2,056
4 0-6-18 .................... 2,404 1,975 1,747 1,589 1,880 1,919
5 No. 4 twice a year 2,745 2,311 1,969 1,926 2,002 2,191
6 2-6-18 ................... 2,461 2,067 1,864 1,824 1,966 2,036
7 0-6-36 .................. 2,667 2,318 2,001 1,777 1,937 2,140
8* No. 4 plus zinc
sulfate ................ 2,414 2,063 1,872 1,746 1,908 2,001
9* No. 8 plus manga-
nese sulfate and
borax .................. 2,474 2,131 2,001 1,897 2,049 2,110
ages** 2,529 2,122 1,853 1,751 1,938

*F'ormula for No. 8 and No. 9 was 0-6-36 in 1941 and 1942.
**Treatment 1 omitted from the average because of abnormal stunted growth.
Table 9 records the average yields for this period of 5 years and
in these it may be seen that Treatment 5 (0-6-18 twice a year)
was about equal to 0-6-36 once a year, either with (Treatment
9) or without (Treatment 7) minor elements. All 3 of these
treatments exceed Treatment 3 (potash only, twice a year) but

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

Treatment 5 is the only one where the increased yield is sig-
nificant. Treatment 9 with the minor elements zinc, manganese
and boron was significantly better than the same treatment
(No. 8) with zinc only. Treatment 6, which included nitrogen,
was significantly better than Treatment 4 with nitrogen omitted.
These comparisons of fertilizer treatments lead to the con-
clusion that a mixture approximating a 2-6-36 formula should
be used once a year at the rate of 500 pounds per acre for ramie
grown on Everglades peat and the other organic soils of the
region, such as Okeechobee muck and Okeelanta peaty muck.
Nitrogen might be left out of the mixture for the first year
or 2 but it should be included thereafter. On acid peats underlaid
with sand, in other parts of the state, lime would be needed also:
Pending more complete information relative to minor elements
it is advised that sulfates of manganese, copper and zinc should
be used annually at the rates of 25, 25 and 15 pounds per acre,
respectively, as well as borax at the rate of 7 pounds per acre.
Burned areas might require more manganese and zinc. If the


Fertilizers* Pounds Fiber Significantly
Treat- per Acre Better than
ment Formula per Year Treatment No.

5 No. 4 twice a year .............. 2,191 3 and below
7 0-6-36 ........- --.............--- ...... 2,140 6 and below
9** No. 8 plus manganese sul-
fate and borax** .................. 2,110 8 and below
3 No. 2 twice a year ................ 2,056 4 and below
6 2-6-18 ...................................... 2,036 4 and below
8** No. 4 plus zinc sulfate ........ 2,001 2 and below

4 0-6-18 .....----....................... ...... 1,919 1
2 0-0-18 ...................................... 1,857 1
1 0-0-0 ........................................ 930

*Copper sulfate was applied to all plots of all treatments when the ramie was planted
in November, 1937.
**Formula for No. 8 and No. 9 was 0-6-36 in 1941 and 1942.

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

peat has never' been fertilized before, copper sulfate should be
included at the rate of 75 pounds per acre with subsequent an-
nual treatments of 25 pounds per acre. Although response to
phosphorus was slight for the first few years of growth it be-
came significant by the fifth year and hence this element should
be included.
Method of Application.-The first application of fertilizer
preceded the planting 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 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 winter growth it should be mowed
before the fertilizer is broadcast. This was the method em-
ployed for the 5-year fertilizer experiment recorded in this
bulletin, in the course of which no attempt was made to mix
the fertilizer into the surface soil other than the drill or furrow
application preceding the planting of the rootstock material.
Comparison of Annual Yields.--The least significant difference
in successive annual yields of fiber from these plots for the
5-year period was found to be 61 pounds per acre. Based upon
this factor, Table 10 shows that yields in 1938, the first year
after planting in the fall of 1937, exceeded all others. Yields
in 1939 were higher than those of the following years and yields

Year Average* Fiber Yield, Significantly Better Than
Pounds per Acre
1938................ 2,529 All other years
1939.-----.......... 2,122 1940, 1942 and 1941
1940................ 1,853 1941
1942 ................ 1,838 1941
1941.......... .. 1,751

*These are of all fertilizer treatments except the non-treatment checks.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

of 1940 significantly exceeded those of 1941 but not of 1942.
The 1942 yields were significantly higher than those of 1941.
In 1942 the first cutting was made earlier and the amount of
growth was larger than that of the first cutting in 1941 (Table
4). 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 de-
cline thereafter. The time will come after several years of
growth, however, when a field of ramie should be dug for re-
planting of the roots elsewhere; or possibly the stand in the
old field may be improved by cultural methods as discussed in
the next section.
Improvement of Growth in Old Dense Stands.-Because the
plants produce new stems the stems become smaller in diam-
eter and the stand is thicker the longer ramie is grown in a
field. Thus by 1938, ramie planted in 1931 consisted of a dense
mass of roots from which grew numerous small, short stems
not nearly so suitable for fiber as those grown in earlier years.
The original planting was done by placing root pieces in rows
4 feet apart and the roots had gradually filled all of the inter-
row spaces from which a thick stand of stems was growing.
In April of 1939 a portion of this field was thoroughly disked
to break up the root masses and kill a large part of the sprout-
ing stem buds. A parallel strip was rototilled in addition to
the disking. The next strip was rototilled only, an operation
that pulverized the soil to a depth of about 10 inches. Another
treatment consisted of rototilling the field leaving rows or strips
of undisturbed roots about a foot wide every 4 feet. Occasional
rototilling kept the growth down between these rows. A portion
of the field was left undisturbed.
Results of these 5 types of treatment, including the untreated
portion, are tabulated in Table 11. The weight of cuttings ob-
tained August 7 and October 12 are the averages of 1-foot strips
for each of the cultural treatments. It may be observed that
the strips designated as rows in Table 11 produced by far the
most growth but when this weight is divided by 5, the actual
amount of area utilized per row, the resulting weight of 122
pounds is about the same as for 1-foot strips on the untreated
part of the field. Growth was very dissimilar, however, as the
stems from the rows were of good thickness and length with
less weight of leaves per, stem and in general suitable for the
extraction of fiber; whereas stems from the strips of the un-
disturbed portion of the field were more numerous but short

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

and slender with more leaves per stem and much less suitable
for the obtaining of fiber. Growth in the disked and rototilled
areas consisted of fewer stems but they were thicker, taller and
more suitable for fiber than those from the part of the field
that had not been disked or rototilled.
(Pounds total green plants per strip* per cutting.)
Cultural Basis of
Treatment in August 7 October 12 Total Equal Areas
April 1939 ____Utilized
Disked ............... 68.9 49.6 118.5 118.5
Disked and
rototilled ............ 66.0 65.1 131.1 131.1
Rototilled .............. 63.8 51.3 115.1 115.1
One-foot rows* .... 305.0 303.7 608.7 121.8
One-foot strips
untreated .......... 66.7 56.0 122.7 122.7

*See context for explanation and discussion of this term.
These cultural treatments show that the growth of ramie
can be temporarily improved or rejuvenated but the results were
not so good as from a replanting of the roots on another area.
Incidentally, a growth of ramie can be killed off by plowing and
by occasional disking for a few weeks to keep new growth from
producing many leaves.
Rate of Increase of Rootstock Planting Material.-In Novem-
ber of 1935, 56 pieces of roots of Selection P. I. 87521 were
planted 4 feet apart in rows 4 feet wide. The stem growth was
cut off whenever the stems were old enough for fiber tests. Two
years and 4 months later the roots of these plants furnished
9,525 pieces of roots suitable for planting. The 56 plants grew
through 3 growing seasons and on that basis each produced
rootstock for 170 new plants, or an increase of 57 to 1 per year.
These roots were used to plant the replicated fertility plots
discussed above. They were planted every 15 inches in rows 4
feet apart in November, 1937; and in August, 1941, strips 31/2
feet wide between rows between plots were dug and separated
for the planting of a field of ramie on Farm No. 2 of the State
Department of Agriculture. The area dug totaled 10,318 square
feet and the roots obtained were enough to plant 6.9 acres, plant-

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

ing the pieces every 15 inches in rows 4 feet apart, using 8,713
planting pieces per acre. This represents an increase of 28 to
1, or about 7 to 1 per year of growth on the area basis.
Several factors contributed to the wide variation of an annual
increase of 57 to 1 in one case and 7 to 1 in another. Probably
the most important of these was that more care was exercised
in digging and separating the root masses in the first case.
The original 56 plants were also spaced farther apart and were
dug at the end of 3 growing seasons in the first instance, as
compared with 5 growing seasons in the second. A greater rate
of increase can probably be obtained by digging and replanting
roots every 1 or 2 years, hence it is estimated that an increase
of at least 50 to 1 per year can be attained.
Comparison of Selections and Methods of Planting.-In the
spring of 1940 some additional plots were planted in Everglades
peat for a comparative study of growth of 3 selections of ramie.
One of these was of the original material introduced in 1929
and the other 2 were obtained in 1935. Some variations in
methods of planting also were included in these plots as listed
ment Variety Method of Planting
No. __
1 P.I. 87521 .......... 15 inches apart in rows every 4 feet
2 P. I. 87521 .......... As above but dropped in a furrow and
3 P. I. 87521 .......... 15 inches apart in rows every 2 feet
4 P. I. 70791.......... Same as in Treatment 1
5 Selection of 1929 Same as in Treatment 1

In Treatment 2 the roots were dropped in a shallow furrow
and lightly covered, whereas in the other plots the roots were
planted with a small portion extending above ground. Table
12 records the weights of cuttings obtained in 1940 and 1941 as
well as the first cutting of 1942. These data indicate that the
method of planting, as of Treatment 2 which lends itself to a
semi-mechanical operation and which is cheaper and quicker, is as
good as that employed in Treatment 1. Total growth from the
9 cuttings was about the same where the planted rows were 2
feet apart (Treatment 3) as where they were 4 feet apart
(Treatment 1). The comparisons are indicative only, as these
plots were not replicated.

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

Selection P. I. 87521 produced somewhat higher tonnages than
the other 2 selections but its outstanding characteristics were
a larger stem and more resistance to low temperatures. Thus
on February 6, 1941, selection P. I. 70791 and the introduction
of 1929 were killed practically to the ground by a frost while
the leaves only were damaged on plants of selection P. I. 87521
growing on adjacent plots. These superior characteristics of
P. I. 87521 were observed in 1935 and were the basis for using
that selection for the fertilizer plots discussed above.


Dates of Cutting Treatment Numbers__
I 1 2 3 4 5

July 1, 1940 ........................ 363 357 395 342 286
Sept. 24 ...................... 344 344 314 270 365
Nov. 27 ............................. 152 162 141 117 127
Total for 1940 .................... 859 863 850 729 778
June 2, 1941 ...................... 255 291 286 246 224
Aug. 18 ........... ..... 339 313 306 273 244
Oct. 25 ........-------- ..-....-- 249 206 208 235 271
Total for 1941 ... ............ 843 810 800 754 739
May 18, 1942 .................. 349 305 263 306 217
Total of all cuttings.......... 2,051 I 1,978 1,913 1,789 1,734

In July of 1942 the plants of the introduction of 1929 were
defoliated by grasshoppers and those of P. I. 70791 nearly so.
There was much less damage to the leaves of P. I. 87521. Oc-
casionally there was an infestation of leaf-rollers but this was
never severe enough to cause much retardation of growth. This
insect appeared to attack all of the types to an equal degree.
Composition of Leaves and Stems.-Because of the remark-
ably large amount of growth that was removed from the plots
that had been fertilized with potash but not with phosphate, a
series of leaf and stem samples from the third cutting of 1938
was analyzed for phosphorus. Table 13 records these analyses
from which are calculated the approximate amounts of phos-
phorus removed from the replicated plots for the period of 5

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

years. Where potash but no phosphate was used in Treatments
2 and 3, about 100 pounds per acre of phosphorus were removed
from the peat. Somewhat more phosphorus was contained in
the total growth of leaves and stems removed from the plots
that were fertilized with phosphate. Since there is only a total
of about 150 pounds of phosphorus per acre in the surface foot
of Everglades peat and since this becomes available at a slow
rate, it is evident that phosphorus was obtained from other
sources. To a minor extent this is from the new layers of peat
that come into the root zone by virtue of an annual subsidence
of the peat of about an inch a year. The probable source of
most of the phosphorus is from the soil waters which are known 7
to contain elements in solution from the lime rock lying im-
mediately below the peat.
Inasmuch as a large tonnage of ramie leaves and stems was
removed year after year without the use of any nitrogen fertil-
izer, it was of interest to ascertain the nitrogen content of the
growth. For leaves this was found to be about 3.834 percent
(23.96 percent protein) on the oven-dry basis. The stems con-
tained about 1/3 as much. The leaves are removed in the
process of obtaining the fiber of the stems and since the leaves
are edible and high in protein, they are being investigated as a
possible source of feed. When he included the upper parts of
the stems with the leaves, as is done in the defoliating operation,
Dempsey 8 found that this leaf-stem material averaged 24.06
percent protein, oven-dry basis. Leaves from plots that received
phosphorus in the fertilizer treatments contained over 0.3 per-
cent phosphorus (Table 13). These analyses point to the prob-
able value of the leaves and upper stems as a by-product feed,
high in protein and phosphorus. The content of calcium is high
also, as is true of all forage grown on these high calcium peats
and mucks.
Comparative Growth on Everglades Peat and Okeechobee
Muck.-Table 14 gives data obtained from the same type of
ramie grown during the same period on the 2 principal types
of Everglades organic soils. It may be noted that the plants
were of about equal heights and weights on Okeechobee muck

7 Neller, J. R. Effect of rainfall and of substrata upon composition and
reaction of soil waters of Everglades peat land. Transactions of the 6th
Comm. of International Soc. of Soil Science. Zurich, Vol. B: 388-393. 1937.
8 Personal communication from J. M. Dempsey, Newport Industries, Inc.,
Pensacola, Fla.

Oven-dry Phosphorus
Fertilizers Portion Phosphorus Weights of in Cuttings Total
of Plant in Plant Cuttings for Removed in Phosphorus
5 Years 5 Years Removed
ment Formula Percent Pounds Pounds Pounds
Number __ per Acre per Acre per Acre

1 0-0-0 ................ .................................... stem s 0.142 16,278 23
leaves 0.294 10,259 30 53
2 0-0-18 .............................. .............. stems 0.125 32,478 41
leaves 0.295 20,471 60 101
3 No. 2 twice a year ................................. stems 0.110 35,967 40
leaves 0.270 22,671 61 101
4 0-6-18 ................................... ........... ..... stem s 0.145 33,566 49
leaves 0.312 21,157 66 115

5 No. 4 twice a year ........... ........ stems 0.176 38,313 67
leaves 0.318 24,148 77 144

6 2-6-18 ................... ............. ............... stem s 0.151 35,620 54
leaves 0.311 22,452 70 124

7 0-6-36 ................ ............ ................. stems 0.135 37,429 51
leaves 0.305 23,590 72 123

8 No. 4 plus zinc sulfate ................. stems 0.146 34,991 51
leaves 0.338 22,055 75 126

9 No. 8 plus manganese sulfate and borax stems 0.145 36,914 54
S_____leaves 0.328 23,267 76 130

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

and on Everglades peat and that the amounts of fiber were about
the same. Furthermore, the percentage of fiber in these plants
grown in 1943 was close to that of the growth in 1938 as dis-
cussed above (Table 7). Gross tonnages were not determined
for growth on Okeechobee muck (Fig. 10) but they appeared to
be similar to those on the peat. However, since the area of
peat is the more extensive and since ramie makes its major
growth during the summer, it is probable that little of it will
be grown on the areas of muck lying next to Lake Okeechobee
where frosts are less prevalent during the winter cropping


Date of Total Fresh Samples of 10 Plants Each
Cutting Type Height Moisture Spin-
in 1943 of Soil of Weight Leaves in nable
Plants Stems Fiber
I Inches I Grams | Percent I Percent I Percent
First Cutting

May 4 ........ Okeechobee
muck .......... 54.2 1,600 41.2 83.3 2.42
May 4 ....... Everglades
peat ............ 56.1 1,635 38.8 84.5 2.41

Second Cutting

July 27 ...... Okeechobee
muck .......... 76.9 2,668 41.0 80.7 2.63
July 27 ...... Everglades
peat ............ 67.4 2,090 40.3 80.3 2.70

Effect of Various Factors on Fiber Yield.-Bundle No. 1 (Fig.
11) of air-dried ramie stems was cut May 19, 1938, from a field
planted in 1931 and was found to contain 24.3 percent of un-
degummed fiber. Bundles Nos. 2 and 3 of improved selections
P. I. 87521 and P. I. 70791 planted in 1935 and cut on the same
date as No. 1 contained 28.5 and 29.2 percent of undegummed
fiber, respectively. It may be observed that the stems of bundle
No. 1 are thinner.
From another field planted in 1937 to variety P. I. 87521,
bundle No. 4 cut April 20 contained 24.7 percent fiber, while
bundles Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8 were cut from replicated plots of this

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

field May 19 and were found to contain 27.3, 28.8 and 27.7 (record
of No. 8 was lost) percent of fiber, respectively, an average of
27.9 percent. Thus the fiber content of the stems was increased
by 3.2 percent during the growth period April 20 to May 19.
Other data on effect of age of growth on the percentage of fiber
have been given (Table 7) and Fig. 11 is presented here to
show that the increase in amount of growth and hence amount
of fiber was relatively greater than the increase in fiber content.
This points to the importance of cutting at the right stage of
growth. As mentioned under the sections on "Rate of Growth"
and on "Fiber Yields" the correct stage is when the stems begin
to turn brown and when their rate of elongation decreases.

Fig. 10.-Ramie growing on Okeechobee muck. This field was planted
August 21, 1941, with root pieces every 15 to 18 inches in rows 4 feet apart.
Growth about 4 feet tall when photographed October 17, 1941.

Fig. 11 also illustrates effect of fertilizer and of number of
years ramie has been growing in a field. Thus bundle No. 2 is
from a planting 3 years old, while bundles Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8 are
of the first cutting of the same variety planted in another field.
The new planting received about double the amount of fertilizer
annually applied to the old. Stems of growth from the 3-year
old field (bundle No. 2) are thinner and much shorter than those
of the first growth after planting (bundles Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8).

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

The thick, fleshy roots of ramie can be dug and prepared for
planting without much danger of loss from exposure provided
the root masses are not left in piles long enough for heating
to occur. Roots can safely be exposed to the air for several
days if they are not allowed to become heated either from piling
or from too long an exposure to the direct rays of the sun.

/ : 3, LJ6-7d% ...

Fig. 11.-Bundles of air-dried ramie stems, representative of those used
to determine fiber content.

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

The roots may be separated for planting by pulling apart and
by cutting up the more woody masses, taking care that there
are 2 or 3 eyes or buds on each piece. The larger the piece of
root or mass of roots, the greater the assurance of the establish-
ment of new growth, but usually pieces 4 to 6 inches long are
large enough.
Since the soil should be warm and moist at planting time,
ramie cannot be planted during the winter months with as much
assurance of growth as during other times of the year. As
may be noted in Fig. 1 (frontispiece), good results followed from
a planting made on Everglades peat in November and a satis-
factory stand was obtained in Okeechobee muck planted in
August (Fig. 10). The surface soil should be kept moist but
not saturated after the rootstock pieces have been planted,
particularly until new roots have become established. There-
fore, particular care should be exercised when roots are planted
in a fibrous peat the surface layers of which dry out more
quickly than those of a more finely divided peat or muck. A
loose, fibrous peat should be compacted by rolling before and
probably after planting and especial care should be taken to
maintain the water-table near enough to the surface to keep
the top layer of soil sufficiently moist. This helps to insure a
rapid sprouting of the roots and also protects them from possible
overheating from the sun's rays. The occurrence of rains often
enough to keep the surface soil moist is a desirable condition
and rains are most frequent in the Everglades during the sum-
mer months. Greatest danger of an excess of rainfall exists
then also; hence it is very essential that the water control sys-
tem of pumps, ditches and mole lines should be adequate, as
the roots will be weakened or killed in a waterlogged soil.

Experiments have shown that the field curing of ramie stems
cannot be depended upon, as most of the cuttings are made
during the humid period in the Everglades. Attempts were
made to air-dry or cure the stems by setting them upright in
shocks as well as by spreading them thinly on the ground and
turning occasionally. Almost always decay would set in suffi-
ciently to ruin the fiber in the stems. Removal of the leaves
was not helpful in these attempts to cure the stems in the field.
Success was attained by drying in thin layers in a covered shed
and by the use of a heated drier; because of the additional cost

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

of these drying operations, however, the extraction or decorti-
cation of the fiber from the freshly cut stems would be prefer-
able, and the fiber so obtained is as good and possibly better.
There should be less difficulty in the degumming of the fiber,
also, if the gums are removed before they are hardened by a
drying operation.
The green decorticated fiber is small in bulk and low in mois-
ture as compared with the original green stems and can be dried
without undue cost. Moreover, it was observed that the green
fiber does not spoil or decay nearly so soon as do the green stems.
This may be due to the liberation of substances in the decorticat-
ing process that check decay. The important fact is that green
fiber from fresh stems is of excellent quality and can be pre-
served with less expense than that of drying the entire mass of
green stems before extracting the fiber.
Culture of crops such as sugarcane and sugar beets requires
a processing plant for the utilization of the crop. It appears
that the successful culture of ramie will also require a process-
ing plant to decorticate the fresh green material. This should
be done in the proximity of the fields where the ramie is grown
because of early spoilage after cutting and because of the ton-
nages involved. The decorticator might be of a portable nature
as a part of or associated with the harvesting machinery.
It is probable that a cultural system could be set up whereby
the harvesting and decorticating equipment could be used con-
tinuously during most of the period from the first part of May
until the end of the cutting season in the fall. Since growth on
all of the acreage would progress and be ready for cutting at
about the same time in the spring, it might be advisable to
mow part of the area before the stems are mature enough for
fiber so that the new growth would be at the right stage for cut-
ting later. Intervals between cuttings average about 60 days
and the area cut the first part of May would be ready to be cut
again in July and again in September or October with possibly
a fourth cutting in November or December, depending upon
the date of the first frost.
Most of the growth of ramie occurs during the summer
months, from mid-May to mid-October. This is a period when
equipment and labor can be spared from use for the vegetable

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

and sugarcane crops and would be available for the harvesting
and decorticating operations. A considerable number of mach-
ines now in use in the region, such as caterpillar tractors, trailer
wagons and fertilizer distributors, would be suitable for the
growing of ramie. Thus a summer crop such as ramie would fit
admirably into the diversified crop program of which the region
is in need.
During the 15 years that the growth of ramie has been under
observation in the peat and muck soils of the Everglades, the
plant showed itself to be well adapted to the region in comparison
with other cultivated crops. All of these, including the peren-
nials such as sugarcane, pasture grasses and ramie that grow
throughout the year, require water control by means of pumps.
The truck crops need a rather rapid removal of excess water
to avoid serious damage and destruction. Ramie will not with-
stand flooding of the root zone for a much longer period than
some of these crops without loss of leaves and a temporary set-
back in growth. It has been grown without difficulty on the
experimental fields of the Everglades Station where pumping
facilities are available to remove excess water at the rate of
3 inches per 24 hours. During periods of unusually heavy rain-
fall the water table has been at or near the surface of the soil
for 36 to 48 hours without causing much retardation of growth.
Roots of ramie have been remarkably free from pests such
as wire-worms and nematodes that attack other crops. In fact,
no pest or disease has been observed on the roots and the aerial
parts of the plant have not been damaged except by leafrollers
and grasshoppers to a moderate degree. No pest control meas-
ures of any kind were used to obtain the growth tonnages re-
corded in this bulletin. Growth of new leaves rapidly replaced
those damaged. Grasshopper infestation appeared to be some-
what more severe as the number of years that ramie had grown
in a given place increased.
Ramie requires less cultivation than any other cultivated
crop in the Everglades. The young plants need 3 or 4 cultiva-
tions and some hoeing along the row until they are about 2 feet
high, after which they shade the ground sufficiently to keep
down competitive growth. Following the first cutting no cultiva-
tion was necessary even from year to year as the new stems
of ramie grew faster than the weeds and grasses and crowded
them out by shading. Ramie should be properly fertilized, how-
ever, and should be cut when elongation slows or ceases, not

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

only for best yield of fiber but also to prohibit foreign growth
After a drill or furrow placement of fertilizer at planting
time, a simple broadcast application of fertilizer without incor-
poration with the soil is all that is needed. The fertilizer should
be applied soon after the plants have been cut to avoid damage
to leaves and young stems.

Ramie, Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaud., was among the intro-
ductory plantings of fiber-bearing plants on Everglades peat
in 1929. The ramie plant grew unusually well, and a selection
of it was planted in replicated plots in a randomized block ar-
rangement to determine fertilizer requirements in relation to
fiber yields.
Fertilizer experiments extending over a period of 5 years,
1938-42, showed that a mixture approximating a 2-6-36 formula
at the rate of 500 pounds per acre per year plus minor elements
was needed for maintenance of vigorous growth. Plots thus
fertilized produced cuttings containing spinnable fiber in
amounts ranging from 2,667 to 1,777 and averaging 2,140 pounds
per acre per year for 5 consecutive years. In large scale
mechanized operations probably only about 80 percent of this
average, or 1,712 pounds of fiber per acre per year, should be
anticipated because it might not be possible to process all of
the short stems.
Four cuttings a year were removed unless there was an un-
usually early frost. The cutting period extended from early
May to November and December. Data are given on rate of
growth in relation to time of cutting.
Fiber quality was good and about the same for all cuttings
except the last of each season, in which it was inferior if the
growth was unusually slow and the stems short.
From the analysis of variance for a perennial experiment it
was found that phosphorus and nitrogen should be included in
the fertilizer mixture even though there was little or no response
to these during the first few years. The analysis also showed
that amount of growth and yield of fiber were significantly
higher the first 2 years; that they were maintained at a some
what lower level the next 3 years.
The fresh green weight tonnage ranged from 47 to 31 tons

Culture and Fiber Yields of Ramie

per year, of which about 1/2 consisted of leaves. Since these
leaves are edible and high in protein, averaging about 24 per-
cent on the dry basis, they offer possibilities as a by-product
feed suitable also as a carrier for the by-product molasses of
the sugarcane industry of the Everglades.
Cultural experiments, seeking to improve the growth of a
field of ramie 7 years old, that produced slender stems from
root-bound soil, resulted in some improvement but not that equal
to a replanting of the rootstock.
Growth of plants and quantity and quality of fiber were found
to be equally as good on Okeechobee muck as on Everglades peat.
Information is recorded relative to a suitable type of ramie;
methods of planting and applying fertilizer; rate of increase of
rootstock planting material; and the water control necessary
for successful culture on Everglades peat and muck soils.
The ramie plant has been found to be well adapted to the
Everglades region in that it is attacked by insects and diseases
to a minimum extent in comparison with other cultivated plants
and requires a minimum of cultivation. Fiber yields are high
and of good quality. The harvesting period is during the sum-
mer months when equipment and labor, largely idle from crops
harvested in the winter, might be used to good advantage.
Thus the growing of ramie would fit well into a diversified crop
program for which the Everglades region is in need.
However, it was found that there was no known reliable method
of field-curing the cuttings which necessarily have to be removed
and taken care of during the rainy, humid period of the year.
Since drying in sheds or artificially by means of heat would add
much to the expense of growing the crop, it would seem that
the extraction or decortication of the fiber from the fresh green
stems offers the most promise. Fiber thus obtained and de-
gummed is of excellent quality.
These cultural and fertilizer experiments have shown that
good yields of high quality ramie fiber can be produced on Ever-
glades peat and muck soils; and in the event that the mechani-
cal decortication of the green stems, at or near the ramie fields,
proves to be successful, ramie fiber so produced and by virtue
of its excellent qualities, should have a fair chance of becoming
a marketable product in competition with other fibers.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station


Grateful appreciation is extended to the many individuals and groups
who have maintained a helpful interest in these experiments of more than
a decade that have envisioned the possibility that ramie might become a
crop of commercial importance in the diversification program of Everglades
agriculture. B. B. Robinson and E. G. Nelson of the Division of Cotton
and Other Fiber Crops and Diseases of the United States Department of
Agriculture kindly made fiber determinations of the weighed samples of
stems sent to them from the replicated plots. These fiber determinations,
together with those by commercial companies, were used to obtain the data
on fiber yields per acre recorded in this bulletin.
By virtue of the cooperation of the Hon. Nathan Mayo, Commissioner
of the State Department of Agriculture, surplus roots from the experi-
mental plots of the Agricultural Experiment Station were used to plant a
7-acre field on State Farm No. 2. This furnishes material for the testing
of harvesting and decorticating machinery by the several individuals and
companies who are developing such machines. B. F. Granger, Superintend-
ent of State Farm No. 2, has enlarged the original planting and is encourag-
ing the development of harvesting and processing operations. Dr. Roy A.
Bair, agronomist at the Everglades Station, is participating in these experi-
ments with ramie as well as those with other fiber plants. Last but not
least, appreciation is extended to Mr. John Newhouse, who assisted carefully
with the planting, fertilizing and harvesting of the ramie.