A combined (enzymatic and chemical) process using a Bacillus pumilus strain (DKS1), isolated from the soil, was used to degum ramie bast fibres. After 24 h of incubation with the isolated pectinolytic strain using a low-cost medium, the weight loss of the ramie fibre was found to be 25% under small scale. High activity of pectate lyase was detected in the culture supernatants; 400 kg of ramie fibres was degummed with 24% weight loss in large-scale degumming under field conditions. No cellulase activity was found. Microbial intervention followed by mild (0.1%) alkali treatment showed high percentage of weight loss from the ramie fibre. Bacterial degumming followed by chemical treatment resulted in an increase of single fibre tenacity (cN/tex) by more than 20.81% as compared to non-degummed (decorticated) fibre samples. Scanning electron micrographs (SEM) and fluorescence microscope showed that after Bacillus pumilus DKS1 treatment the surface of the decorticated ramie fibre becomes very smooth. These results indicate the process provides an economical and eco-friendly method for the small scale as well as large-scale degumming of decorticated ramie fibre. This study has great relevance to the textile as well as paper industry. © Society for Industrial Microbiology 2008.