Flax for centuries has provided important industrial products such as textiles, oilseed, and paper/pulp. Fibers are obtained from flax stems by the process of retting. Two methods employed for retting flax at commercial levels using pectinolytic microorganisms are water- and dew-retting. Water-retting traditionally depends upon anaerobic bacteria, such as Clostridium spp., that live in lakes, rivers, ponds, and vats to produce pectinases and other enzymes to ret flax. The stench from anaerobic fermentation of the plants, extensive pollution of waterways, high drying costs, and putrid odor of resulting fibers resulted in a move away from anaerobic water-retting in the mid-twentieth century to dew-retting. Dew-retting is the result of colonization and partial plant degradation by plant-degrading, aerobic fungi of flax stems, which are harvested and laid out in swaths in fields. The highest quality linen fibers are produced using dew-retting but concern exists within this industry about low and inconsistent quality. Enzymes have the potential to provide an improved method to ret flax for textile fibers. Enzymatic-retting produces high and consistent quality fibers of staple length for blending with cotton and other fibers. Enzymatic-retting is faster and more reproducible than traditional methods and may provide the spinners with a better quality product.


Flax Retting Enzymes Pectinolytic microorganisms Dew-retting Water-retting Anaerobic bacteria 


  1. Adamsen AP, Akin DE, Rigsby LL (2002a) Chelating agents and enzyme retting of flax. Text Res J 72:296–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adamsen AP, Akin DE, Rigsby LL (2002b) Chemical retting of flax straw under alkaline conditions. Text Res J 72:789–794CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Akin D (1998) Enzyme retting of flax for linen fibers: recent developments. In: Book of Papers American Association Textile Chemists and Colorists. American Association Textile Chemists and Colorists, Research Triangle Park, NC, pp 273–280Google Scholar
  4. Akin DE (2013) Linen most useful: perspective on structure, chemistry and enzyme for the retting flax. ISRN Biotechnol 1–23. Article ID 186534.
  5. Akin D, Hardin I (2003) The current state of the applications of biotechnology. In: Proceedings of the annual international conference & exhibition, American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists, Research Triangle Park, NC, 10–12 Sept, pp 189–195Google Scholar
  6. Akin D, Morrison W, Gamble G, Rigsby L (1997) Effect of retting enzymes on the structure and composition of flax cell walls. Text Res J 67(4):279–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Akin DE, Rigsby LL, Perkins W (1999) Quality properties of flax fibers retted with enzymes. Text Res J 69:747–753CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Akin D, Dodd R, Perkins W, Henriksson G, Eriksson K (2000) Spray enzymatic retting: a new method for processing flax fibers. Text Res J 70(6):486–494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Akin D, Foulk J, Dodd R, McAlister D (2001a) Enzyme-retting of flax and characterization of processed fibers. J Biotechnol 89(2–3):193–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Akin DE, Slomczynski D, Rigsby LL, Eriksson KEL (2001b) Retting of flax by endopolygalacturonase from Rhizopus oryzae. Text Res J 72:27–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Akin D, Foulk J, Dodd R (2002) Influence on flax fibers of components in enzyme retting formulations. Text Res J 72(6):510–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Akin D, Henriksson G, Evans J, Adamsen A, Foulk J, Dodd R (2004) Progress in enzyme-retting of flax. J Nat Fibers 1(1):21–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Akin DE, Condon B, Sohna M, Foulk JA, Dodd RB, Rigsby LL (2007) Optimization for enzyme-retting of flax with pectate lyase. Ind Crops Prod 25:136–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Antonov V, Maixner V, Vicenec R, Fishcer H (2005) How do enzymes Contribute to bast fibres industry? In: Proceedings of the 11th conference for renewable resources and plant biotechnology, Institute of Natural Fibres, Poznan, PolandGoogle Scholar
  15. Antonov V, Marek J, Bjelkova M, Smirous P, Fischer H (2007) Easily available enzymes as natural retting agents. Biotechnol J 2(3):342–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bajpai P (1997) Enzymes in pulp and paper processing. Miller Freeman, San Francisco, California, USA, p 137Google Scholar
  17. Bajpai P (1999) Application of enzymes in pulp & paper industry. Biotechnol Prog 15(2):147–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Bajpai P (2009) In: Schaechter M, Lederberg J (eds) “Xylanases” in “Encyclopedia of microbiology, 3rd edn., vol 4. Academic Press, San Diegopp, pp 600–612Google Scholar
  19. Bajpai P (2013) “Pulp and paper bioprocessing” encyclopedia of biotechnology. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. Brown AE (1984) Epicoccirm nigrum, a primary saprophyte involved in the retting of flax. Transcripts Br Mycol Soc 83:29–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Brown AE, Sharma HSS (1984) Production of polysaccharide-degrading enzymes by saprophytic fungi from glyphosate-treated flax and their involvement in retting. Ann Appl Biol 105:65–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Brown AE, Sharma HSS, Black DLR (1986) Relationship between pectin content of stems of flax. cultivars, fungal cell wall degrading enzymes and pre-harvest retting. Ann Appl Biol 109:345–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Bruhlmann F, Kim KS, Zimmerman W, Fiechter A (1994) Pectinolytic enzymes from actinomycetes for the degumming of ramie bast fibers. Appl Environ Microbiol 60:2107–2112Google Scholar
  24. Brühlmann F, Leupin M, Erismann K, Fiechter A (2000) Enzymatic degumming of ramie bast fibers. J Biotechnol 76(1):43–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Chiliveri SR, Koti S, Linga VR (2016) Retting and degumming of natural fibers by pectinolytic enzymes produced from Bacillus tequilensis SV11-UV37 using solid state fermentation. SpringerPlus.
  26. Daenekindt A (2004) Flax, hemp and allied fibres in the world. Euroflax Newslett 21(1):6–9Google Scholar
  27. Domier KW (1997) The current status of the field crop fibre industry in Canada. Euroflax Newslett 8:8–10Google Scholar
  28. Durden DK, Etters JN, Sarkar AK, Henderson LA, Hill JE (2001) Advances in commercial biopreparation of cotton with alkaline pectinase. AATCC Rev 1(8):28–31Google Scholar
  29. Ebbelaar M, van der Valk H, van Dam J, de Jong E (2001) Highly efficient enzymes for the production of natural fibres. In: Vahala P, Lantto R (eds) 8th international conference on biotechnology in the pulp and paper industry, Helsinki, Finland, 4–8 June 2001, p 240Google Scholar
  30. Etters JN, Sarkar AK, Henderson LA, Liu J (2001) The influence of biopreparation of cotton with alkaline pectinase on dyeing properties. AATCC Rev 1(5):22–24Google Scholar
  31. Evans JD, Akin DE, Foulk JA (2002) Flax-retting by polygalacturonase-containing enzyme mixtures and effects on fiber properties. J Biotechnol 97:223–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Foulk J, Dodd R, Akin D (2000) New low cost flax fibers for composites. Paper No. 2000-01-1133. Society of Automobile EngineersGoogle Scholar
  33. Foulk JA, Akin DE, Dodd RB (2007) Influence of pectinolytic enzymes on retting effectiveness and resultant fiber properties. BioResources 3(1):155–169Google Scholar
  34. Foulk JA, Akin DE, Dodd BR (2008) Pectinolytic enzymes and retting. BioResources 3(1):155–169Google Scholar
  35. Gillespie AM, Keane D, Griffm TO, Thohy MG, Donaghy J, Haylock RW, Coughan MP (1990) In: Kirk TK, Chang HM (eds) Biotechnology in pulp and paper Manzifacture. Butterworth-Heinmann, Boston, MASS, pp 211–219Google Scholar
  36. Gűbitz G, Cavaco-Paulo A (2001) Biotechnology in the textile industry—perspectives for the new millenium. J Biotechnol 89(2,3):89–312Google Scholar
  37. Hamilton IT (1986) Linen. Textiles 15:30–34Google Scholar
  38. Hardin I, Akin D, Wilson S (eds) (2002) Advances in biotechnology for textile processing. Department of Textiles, Mechandising and Interiors, University of Georgia, Athens, GAGoogle Scholar
  39. Henriksson G, Akin DE, Rigsby LL, Patel N, Eriksson K-EL (1997) Influence of chelating agents and mechanical pretreatment on enzymatic retting of flax. Text Res J 67:829–836CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Henriksson G, Eriksson KEL, Kimmel L, Akin DE (1998) Chemical physical retting of flax using detergent and oxalic acid at high pH. Text Res J 68:942–947CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Henriksson G, Akin DE, Slomczynski D, Eriksson KEL (1999) Production of highly efficient enzymes for flax retting by Rhizomucor pusillus. J Biotechnol 68:115_/123Google Scholar
  42. Hoondal GS, Tiwari RP, Tewari R, Dahiya N, Beg QK (2002) Microbial alkaline pectinases and their industrial applications: a review. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 59(4–5):409–418Google Scholar
  43. Jayani RS, Saxena S, Gupta R (2005) Microbial pectinolytic enzymes: a review. Process Biochem 40:2931–2944CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kawahara Y, Tsuda T, Minami H, Nishiuchi S, Endo R (2007) Enzymatic retting of Kudzu fibers. J Appl Polym Sci 106(4):2759–2762CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kenealy WR, Jeffries TW (2003) Enzyme processes for pulp and paper: a review of recent developments, Wood deterioration and preservation: advances in our changing world. In: Goodell B, Nicholas DD, Schultz TB (eds) Chapter 12, pp 210–239 ACS symposium series 845 American Chemical Society, Washington, DC, USA, 465 ppGoogle Scholar
  46. Kessler RW, Becker U, Kohler R, Goth B (1998) Steam explosion of flax—a superior technique for upgrading fibre value. Biomass Bioenerg 14:237–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kozlowski R, Batog J, Konczewicz W, Mackiewicz-Talarczyk M, Muzyczek M, Sedelnik N, Tanska B (2005) Latest state-of-art in bast fibers bioprocessing. In: Proceedings of the 11th conference for renewable resources and plant biotechnology, Institute of Natural Fibres, Poznan, PolandGoogle Scholar
  48. Lepsch D, Horal JW (1998) Development of an integrated modular plastic electrical carrier and flax/polypropylene shelf panel for a vehicle rear shelf system. In: Proceedings of the 1998 Society for Automotive Engineering International Congress and Exposition, Paper No. 980727, pp 87-/94Google Scholar
  49. Newsletter Euroflax (2001) Institute of natural fibres. Poznan, PolandGoogle Scholar
  50. Paridah MT, Amel BA, Syeed OASA, Zakiah A (2011) Retting process of some bast plant fibres and its effect on fibre quality. BioResources 6:5260–5281Google Scholar
  51. Sakai T, Sakamoto T, Hallaert J, Vandamme EJ (1993) Pectin, pectinase, and protopectinase: production, properties, and applications. In: Neidleman S, Laskin AI (eds) Advances in applied microbiology, vol 39. Academic Press, San Diego, pp 213–294Google Scholar
  52. Saleem Z, Rennebaum H, Pudel F, Grimm E (2008) Treating bast fibres with pectinase improves mechanical characteristics of reinforced thermoplastic composites. Compos Sci Technol 68:471–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sharma HSS (1986) An alternative method of flax retting during dry weather. Ann Appl Biol 109:605–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sharma H (1987a) Screening of polysaccharide-degrading enzymes for retting flax stem. Int Biodeterior 23(3):181–186Google Scholar
  55. Sharma H (1987b) Studies on chemical and enzyme retting of flax on a semi-industrial scale and analysis of the effluents for their physico-chemical components. Int Biodeterior 23(6):329–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sharma H (1987c) Enzymatic degradation of residual non-cellulosic polysaccharides present on dew-retted flax fibres. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 26:358–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sharma H (1988) Chemical retting of flax using chelating agents. Appl Biol 113:159–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sharma HSS, Faughey GJ (1999) Comparison of subjective and objective methods to assess flax straw cultivars and fibre quality after dew-retting. Ann Appl Biol 135:495–501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sharma HSS, Robinson K (1983) Technical report No. 2281, p llGoogle Scholar
  60. Sharma DC, Satyanarayana T (2012) Biotechnological potential of agro-residues for economical production of thermoalkali-stable pectinase by Bacillus pumilus dcsr1 by solid-state fermentation and its efficacy in the treatment of ramie fibres. Enzyme Res 2012:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sharma H, Van Sumere C (1992) Enzyme treatment of flax. Genet Eng Biotechnol 12:19–23Google Scholar
  62. Sotton M, Ferrari M (1989) Le lin ultra-affine par le traitement hydrolyse flash. L’lndustrie Text 1197:58–60Google Scholar
  63. Tubach M, Kessler RW (1994) Interdisciplinary approach for new flax products: examples of applied research at the IAF. In: Proceedings world fibre flax symposium, vol 7. Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven, pp 1–86Google Scholar
  64. Van den Oever MJA, Bos HL, Molenveld K (1999) Flax fibre physical structure and its effect on composite properties: impact strength and thermo-mechanical properties. Die Angew Makromol Chem 272:71–76Google Scholar
  65. Van Sumere CF (1992) Retting of flax with special reference to enzyme-retting. In: Sharma HSS, Van Sumere CF (eds) The biology and processing of flax. M Publications, Belfast, Northern Ireland, pp 157–198Google Scholar
  66. Van Sumere CF, Sharma HSS (1991) Analyses of fine flax fibre produced by enzymatic retting. Aspects Appl Biol 28:15–20Google Scholar
  67. Westcott ND, Muir AD (2000) Medicinal lignans from flaxseed: isolation and purification. In: Shahidi F, Ho CT (eds) Phytochemicals and phytopharmaceuticals. AOCS Press, Champaign, pp 122–131Google Scholar
  68. Zhang J, Henriksson G, Johansson G (2000) Polygalacturonase is the key component in enzymatic retting of flax. J Biorechnol 81:85–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Zhang J, Johansson G, Pettersson B, Akin DE, Foulk JA, Khalili S, Henriksson G (2003) Effects of acidic media preincubation on flax enzyme retting efficiency. Text Res J 73:263–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pulp and Paper ConsultantKanpurIndia

Personalised recommendations