NETFIB’s overall aim is to develop the capacity for farmers and other land managers to recover nettle as a fibre crop from marginal land, which would otherwise remain under-used. The project started to test the hypothesis that the yield of nettle biomass in agro-forestry systems on marginal land can be enhanced by manipulations of soil and microbes.
On-going experiments demonstrated the positive effect of organic amendments such as digestates. NETFIB produced a collection of nettle associated microorganisms from field sites. To test the quality of nettle fibers, the researchers developed mechanical extraction techniques for decortication and separation in lab-scale. They further developed specific tests to characterise the mechanical properties of single fibres and fibre bundles of nettles. Concerning the sustainability assessment of the overall value chain, the nettle management option was found to be superior across most environmental and economic aspects of sustainability.