Nettle, a Long-Known Fiber Plant with New Perspectives
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The stinging nettle Urtica dioica L. is a perennial crop with low fertilizer and pesticide requirements, well adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions. It has been successfully grown in most European climatic zones while also promoting local flora and fauna diversity. The cultivation of nettle could help meet the strong increase in demand for raw materials based on plant fibers as a substitute for artificial fibers in sectors as diverse as the textile and automotive industries.
In the present review, we present a historical perspective of selection, harvest, and fiber processing features where the state of the art of nettle varietal selection is detailed. A synthesis of the general knowledge about its biology, adaptability, and genetics constituents, highlighting gaps in our current knowledge on interactions with other organisms, is provided. We further addressed cultivation and processing features, putting a special emphasis on harvesting systems and fiber extraction processes to improve fiber yield and quality. Various uses in industrial processes and notably for the restoration of marginal lands and avenues of future research on this high-value multi-use plant for the global fiber market are described.