«Previous    Next»
Milking profits from milkweeds
Most farmers fight milkweed but a small group of entrepreneurs in Nebraska is trying to turn it into a cash crop. They've discovered that the silky, parachute-like fibers that float in the wind have a lot of commercial potential.
Natural Fibers Corporation, Ogalla, Neb., was founded by Herb Knudsen to develop products from milkweed floss. He says the floss acutally consists of tiny hollow tubes which are superior to goose and duck down as an insulation. They're coated with a natural wax that makes them water-repellant. The company is already marketing comforters filled with a mixture of milk-weed floss and goose down and is working to develop yams, disposable diapers, facial tissue, paper pulp, and other products. Reseachers are also taking a look at using the fibers to make fabric and at the food value of oil pressed from milkweed seed.
The biggest challenge facing milkweed promoters is figuring out how to grow the crop. The company had 250 acres under contract last year with 8 growers. Insects, bacterial blight, and weeds have all caused major problems. Weeds, in particular, are tricky to kill because milkweeds themselves are susceptible to nearly every broadleaf herbicide and some of the grass herbicides ordinarily used on major field crops.
Milkweed itself is not expected to be-come a weed problem because only a small percentage of seed is viable and seedlings are poor competitors. Most milkweed that's spread on farms comes from rhizomes that get caught on cultivators.
Because of growing interest in milkweeds, the USDA recently made a quarter of a million dollar grant for research, part of which has already been used at the University of Nebraska's ag engineering department to modify a corn picker for harvesting milkweed pods. (The Furrow Magazine)


  Click here to download page story appeared in.



  Click here to read entire issue




To read the rest of this story, download this issue below or click here to register with your account number.
Order the Issue Containing This Story
1991 - Volume #15, Issue #3