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Research article2015Peer reviewed

Effect of harvest time and field retting duration on the chemical composition, morphology and mechanical properties of hemp fibers

Liu, Ming; Fernando, Dinesh; Daniel, Geoffrey; Madsen, Bo; Meyer, Anne S; Ale, Marcel Tutor; Thygesen, Anders


The large variability in the mechanical properties of hemp fibers creates difficulties for using them in high-grade composites. The objective of the present study was to determine the optimal growth stage for harvesting hemp fibers for use in composites and to evaluate the effect of field retting time on mechanical performance of the fibers. Reduction in bast content and thickness of the primary bast fiber layer in stems were found to be highly significant (P ˂ 0.01) with plant maturity. A significant increase in the secondary fiber fraction occurred with maturity, reaching a maximum value of 10% at seed maturity. A highly significant reduction in cellulose deposition in fiber cell walls was reflected by reduced fiber wall thickness with plant maturity and was related to the development and ripening of hemp seeds. A statistically significant increase in lignin deposition and slight decrease in pectins in hemp fiber cell walls was also noted with stem maturity. Microscopy observations and histochemical analyses corroborated results from chemical analyses and showed variations in morphological aspects and spatial micro-distributions of carbohydrates and lignin within the cell structure of the hemp stems between early- and late growth phases. Fibers harvested at the beginning of flowering exhibited high tensile strength and strain, which decreased with plant maturity. Reduction in strength was related to the increase in proportion of secondary fibers and decrease in cellulose deposition leading to inferior properties of the primary fibers. A negative effect of field retting occurred only after long term field retting (i.e. 70 days) which was presumably due to accelerated degradation of cellulose by the action of microorganisms.


Cannabis sativa L.; Hemp fiber; Fiber extraction; Field retting; Mechanical properties

Published in

Industrial Crops and Products
2015, Volume: 69, pages: 29-39

      SLU Authors

    • Fernando, Dinesh

      • Department of Forest Products, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • Daniel, Geoffrey

        • Department of Forest Products, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Wood Science
      Forest Science
      Agricultural Science

      Publication identifier


      Permanent link to this page (URI)