What is Ramie?

Cotton is essentially  a crop—an agricultural commodity. Planted typically in April or May, the first few weeks of growth are crucial for cotton plants. In order to thrive, the cotton crop requires plenty of sunshine, moderate rainfall (24 to 48 inches) and heavy, fertile soil. These conditions are naturally found in the tropics and subtropical regions of the world, both in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Cotton is the single most important textile fiber in the world, accounting for about 35 percent of all fibers produced. The United States remains a major producer of cotton for the international market, ranking third behind China and India. The United States also remains the leading cotton exporter in the world. Six countries--Brazil, China, India, Pakistan, Turkey and the United States--are the top consumers of the world’s cotton. (ERS)

Primary Uses

Virginia Status

What Farmers Need to Know:

A flowering plant in the nettle family Urticaceae, native to eastern Asia. It is a herbaceous perennial growing to 1–2.5 m tall; the leaves are heart-shaped, 7–15 cm long and 6–12 cm broad, and white on the underside with dense small hairs—this gives it a silvery appearance; unlike stinging nettles, the hairs do not sting. The true ramie or China grass, is also called Chinese plant or white ramie..

Industries that will Benefit the Most.

Apparel | Home | Furnishing | Military | Paper

Near & Longterm Outlook:

What VA Farmers Need to Know:A perennial crop with a life of 6 to 20 years. It is capable of producing high yields of biomass and if the harvesting system involves total removal of this biomass, there would be a rapid decline in soil fertility and ramie is subject to a number pests and diseases, including nematodes.
Member of the Urticaria or nettle family and is a hardy perennial which produces a large number of unbranched stems from underground rhizomes. The crop is generally propagated vegetatively, using rhizome or stem cuttings. Production begins to decline once roots become overcrowded. VA's Near & Long Term Outlook:Fiber, the only product of traditional industry in ramie, is harvested from the bast, which accounts for approximately 20% of above ground biomass. But the rest are discarded.

Ramie is processed into powder, plugs, and pellet for the convenience of storage and transportation.

National Status

Primary Regions

In the United States experiments have been conducted along the South Atlantic coast, the Gulf of Mexico coast, and in California by individuals, by State agricultural experiment stations, and by the United States Department of Agriculture. These experiments have proved the adaptability of the crop to certain regions and also have shown the soil relations necessary for successful culture. The most extensive plantings have been made by companies interested in testing new machines and methods of preparation.

Many of the southern State experiment stations have maintained small plots of ramie for many years for observational purposes and as a source of propagating stock for people interested in testing the plant on a larger scale.

Crop History

Although ramie seems to have been known in the Orient during earliest recorded times, it apparently was not known in Europe, Africa, or America until much later. No authentic rec- ords have been found of the occurrence or utilization of this fiber in ancient Egypt, although statements mention its use by the early Egyptians, but these were apparently made as the result of confusing ramie with flax. It was first described by Linnaeus, an eminent European botanist, in 1737 from specimens obtained from China, but apparently it was not known as a fiber plant west of central Asia until a century later.

Current Economics

Despite its strength, ramie has had limited acceptance for textile use. The fiber's extraction and cleaning are expensive, chiefly because of the several steps—involving scraping, pounding, heating, washing, or exposure to chemicals.The greater utilization of ramie depends upon the development of improved processing methods.

In experiments in the United States, ramie has yielded from less than 1 ton to a reported 45 tons of green stalks and leaves per acre in 1 year. The high yield represents ramie under very favorable conditions that allowed four cuttings, whereas the low yields were from ramie grown on sandy, infertile soils yielding only one cutting.

Worldwide Status

Primary Regions

The main producers of ramie today are China, Brazil, Philippines, India, South Korea and Thailand.

Crop History

Rammie is one of the oldest textile fibers. It was used in mummy cloths in Egypt during the period 5000 - 3000 BC and has been growth in China for many centuries. Brazil began production in the late 1930s with production peaking in the late 1930s with production peaking in 1971 with about 30,000 t. Since then, production has declined as a result of competition with alternative crops, such as soybeans and the importation of synthetic fibers. Production in the Philippines began in the early 1950s, peaking in the mid 5,500 t. Since then, production has declined steadily.

Current Economics

Only a small percentage of ramie produced is available for international trade. Primary importers are Japan, Germany, France and the UK. For the 2010

Prius, Toyota began using a new range of plant-derived ecological bioplastics made from the cellulose in wood or grass instead of petroleum. One of the two principal crops used is ramie

Important Fiber Terms