2022 Seed Grant Recipients
Investigators: Dr. Sarah E. Eichler (College of Arts and Sciences)
Dr. Eichler’s project assesses the feasibility of growing flax and hemp textile fiber production in northeast Ohio in small study plots at the Kent State University Salem campus. Goals of the project are to develop agricultural recommendations and new collaborations with plant fiber end-users in the regional fashion industry. This multidisciplinary project combines sustainable, specialty agriculture opportunities with an emerging market for local, plant-based fashion and industrial fiber. Both hemp and flax offer multiple end-uses from multiple plant parts, but this research proposal focuses on bast fibers. It tests a novel approach to fiber production using United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) protocols for fertilization and pest control, including reduced tillage and winter cover cropping.
Flax (Linum usitatissimum var. Linore) is an annual herbaceous plant in the family Linaceae of the Rosids clade. Ohio and Kentucky produced most of the commercial flax in the U.S. circa 1850-1900 primarily for industrial linseed oil (Daugherty, 1903) where an even distribution of rainfall was advantageous to yields (Arny, Stoa, McKee, and Dillman, 1929). Currently, there is no significant production of fiber flax in Ohio or the United States. Virtually all flax for textiles is grown in western Europe. Hemp (Cannabis sativa, var. Hlukhivs’ki 51) is an herbaceous to semi-woody annual plant. Hemp has been grown in the U.S. from the earliest colonial settlements in the 1600s for its many uses from rope, sailcloth, and paper, to seed, oil, and medicine. Hemp production in Ohio was legalized in 2019 by Ohio Senate Bill 57 (Reese, 2022).
Fiber quantity and quality will be measured from plots planted at different seeding rates. The project will provide preliminary data on cultivation techniques and yields of flax and hemp fibers under different plant population densities. This production will be a first step in undertaking novel research on cover cropping, reduced tillage, and organic pest and nutrient management approaches to hemp and flax fiber production in the Great Lakes region. It will provide baseline information for an economic opportunity assessment for local products that could be readily incorporated into local farms’ crop rotation using common agricultural equipment.
- Arny, A.C., Stoa, T.E., McKee, C., and Dillman, A.C. (1929). Flax Cropping in Mixture with Wheat, Oats, and Barley (Vol. 133).
- Daughterty, C. (1903). Flaxseed Production, Commerce, and Manufacture in the United States. In Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture.
- Reese, M. (2022). Hemp update - Ohio Ag Net | Ohio's Country Journal. Ohio's Country Journal.