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FIBRES

JUTE

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Jute is one of the most important fibre used for industrial applications. It is mostly used in making ‘sack cloth’ and carpet-backing fabric. Jute is primarily grown in India, Bangladesh, and to a certain extent in China. It is a bast fibre and is extracted from the inner bark of plants of the genus Chochorus. Jute is extracted by a retting process facilitating to ferment the non-cellulosic material binding of fibres and remove it by washing in water. Jute is graded on the basis of its colour, length, fineness, luster, strength, cleanness, freedom from defects and the amount of root end. Its colour varies from yellow to brown to dirty grey and it is lustrous in appearance. Jute fibre generally has a rough feel; however, the best quality fibres are smooth and soft. A single jute fibre cell (ultimate) has an average length of 2.5 mm and a mean diameter of 12 ?. There are usually between 6 to 20 ultimates in each cross-section of a fibre. The strand length varies approximately from 1.5 to 3.5 m. The average weight per unit length of individual fibres varies from 1.9 to 2.2 tex. The average length of single fibre is 0.5 to 80 cm. The individual fibre shows nodes and cross markings in the longitudinal view, and polygonal shapes in the cross section. Jute fibre varies greatly in strength (30 –50 g/tex). It has an elongation at break of approximately 1.7%. Jute is highly hygroscopic in nature (moisture regain at 65% R.H. is 12.8%). The specific gravity of jute fibre is 1.48. The fibres in the strand are organized in a meshy structure. During processing, this meshy structure is opened to form fibres. Besides having many industrial applications, finer quality jute fibres are utilized in furnishing and curtain fabrics.
jute plant    jute fibre
 


RAMIE
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Ramie (Boehmeria nivea L.) is a vegetable fibre obtained from a plant and belonging to the group of bast fibre crops. It grows well in the areas having good rainfall and warm climate. The soil best suited for ramie is sandy loam or loamy. Soil must be well drained. Annual rainfall requirement is not less than 1000 mm. Rainfall should be spread throughout the year and prolonged flooding is harmful to the rootstocks.

The stalks with a diameter of 12 to 20 mm grow up to a length of about 1500 to 2000 mm depending upon the growing conditions. Normally four cuttings can be obtained per year following the year of planting at a sequence of 50-45-45-50 days of crop age. In this way a total of nearly 1200 to 1800 kg / ha of fibre can be obtained. The yields, however, depend much 00 the type of soil, climate, and variety, management of plantation and pests and diseases. A plantation remains commercially productive for 7 to 8 years; thereafter the plot is replaced with fresh plantation. Cutting the canes sufficiently close to the ground using sickle is done during harvesting. From harvested green stalk after defoliation, fibre is extracted with the help of decorticating machine. The extracted fibre retains nearly 25% to 30% gum. On drying, the crude fibre turns brown.

Before using the fibre as raw material for various textile products the gum must be removed completely or partially as the case may be. The de-gummed fibre is white and lustrous. It is highly versatile and eco-friendly with excellent properties. It can play a very vital role as a textile material as it has excellent tenacity, lustre and microbial resistivity. Ramie absorbs and liberates moisture quickly, with virtually no shrinkage or stretching. It is also more resistant to the action of chemicals than most fibres.

The importance of ramie fibre has been increasingly felt in the textile industry due to its durability, high tenacity, good lustre and long staple length as compared to other textile fibres. The degummed ramie fibre can be used in blending with synthetic fibre to produce fine and durable suiting and shirting fabrics. Ramie fibre, after minor processing, can be spun into yarn in jute machinery. It can also be blended with jute to prepare fine fabrics. Ramie is also processed in woollen system in blends with wool and polyester. In the spun silk system, ramie can be processed alone or in blend.

 


SUN- HEMP
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Sun-hemp, a natural cellulosic bast fibre, is obtained from a plant. Crotalaria juncea, which is grown in India and neighbouring countries. It is coarse, brown-yellow coloured but strong fibre. It is extracted from plant after retting. This crop is grown for fibre, green manure and fodder. Being a leguminous crop, nodule formation depends on calcium, phosphate and molybdenum contents of soil; soil with very low pH does not support a good crop.

Sun-hemp can be grown both in Kharif and Rabi season, i.e., in both rainy and winter season. The growth and yield during Kharif are better than during Ravi. Harvesting of the crop at proper time i.e., at early pod stage is very important for ensuring not only better quality of fibre. However, the practice harvesting at dead ripe pod stage prevails in view of the seed yield in addition, but with low quality of fibre. The plants after harvesting are spread on the field for 2 to 3 days for shedding of leaves. Small bundles are weighed down in water with logs and covered with non-staining materials. Slow moving water is ideal for retting. Retting is a biological process in which the fibre in the bark is separated from woody portion by the action of micro-organisms present in the water. The process involves steeping and keeping the stem submerged in water for certain periods.

Retting is done in water at 28 - 30°C in 5 to 9 days. After retting, the .fibre from the stick is manually separated and washed in water and dried in sun. Twisting the fibres and making bundles of convenient sizes are primary requirements before sending to market.

 


SISAL FIBRE
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Sisal fibre (Agave sisalana) is a species of the genius Agava. Agava is a large genus including up to three hundred species of unusual looking plants, all of which are native and grow in sub-tropical North and South America. Sisal produces rhizomes from buds, which are located on the plant below surface of the ground. Rhizomes vary in thickness from 1.5 to 3 cm and also in length. They extend horizontally, mostly at depths of 5 to 15 cm in the soil, before growing upwards to give rise to a new plant known as sucker at the surface.

Suckers are frequently used as planting material. The agave consists of a short thick stem or bole from which arises a close rosette of leaves. The leaves are long, straight, dark green, pointed and often covered a waxy bloom. They can reach a length of 2 m and width of 10-15 cm .The fibre, embedded longitudinally in the leaves, are mostly abundant near leaf surface. The leaves contain 90% moisture and 3 to 5 percent of fibre. Sisal plant, though essentially tropical, is sensitive to frost and is fairly hardy. It can successfully withstand dry spell of some duration and does not require very fertile soil. However, on richer soils and where rainfall is heavier plant grows more rapidly.

As a general rule, plantation should be carried out well in advance of the seasonal rains, when the land is dry. The modern practice is to use bulbils for propagation.

The harvesting period depends to some extent on the conditions under which it is grown. Generally, the first cut should be taken when leaves are 60cm more in length and begin to touch the ground. At least 25 leaves should left after the first cut and 20 leaves at subsequent cuts. Once cutting has begun in a sisal field, it is necessary to repeat the operation at cyclic intervals in order to avoid wastage of leaves. The fibre is removed by scraping away pulpy material by a mechanical decorticating process. The fibre strands washed and air - dried. Sisal fibre is graded according to colour, cleanliness length.

To meet the rope industries demand, sisal and manila hemp are imported involving foreign exchange. This can be easily saved by proper development of sisal within the country. Many utility and fancy materials are produced from sisal, which have a good demand in the foreign market.

 


PINEAPPLE LEAF FIBRE
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Pineapple fibre (Ananas cosmosus) is obtained from the leaves of the pineapple plant, which belongs to the Bromeliaceae family. The name is derived from the Spanish word 'Pina' meaning cone shaped. The plant is widely cultivated for its fruit in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. It is a biennial plant with a rather short life.

The important pineapple growing countries of the world are the Hawaiian Islands, Philippines, Spain, China, Bangaladesh, West Indies, Kenia, Maxico, Taiwan, South Africa, Australia and India. Philippines and Taiwan are the chief producers of pineapple fibres.

More than eighty varieties of the plant are cultivated throughout the world. Besides a few local types, three exotic varieties, viz., 'Kew', Queen, and 'Mauritius' of which 'Kew' is the leading commercial variety are cultivated in India. Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are the principal states of India where pineapple is grown abundantly. Fibre obtained from Pineapple leaf is an important raw material for viable industrial utilization.

The leaves of the pineapple plant produce a strong, white, fine, silky fibre, which is about 0.5 to 1 meter in length according to the variety of the plant. It is not possible to obtain the best fibre and fruits from the same plant.

The pineapple plant grows in a wide range of soils from laterite to sandy loam in a mild and humid tropical climate. Heavy clay soil and high water level are not conducive for growth. The optimum soil pH range for pineapple cultivation is between 5.5 and 6.0 for successful cultivation and it requires a porous well-drained soil.

Fibre from the pineapple leaves can be extracted by hand as well as by mechanical means like rasper. It can be extracted from the leaves by microbial retting in water for about 5 to 10 days. The common method, in practice, is a combination of water retting and scraping. It is then thoroughly washed and dried.
 
In India, area under pineapple cultivation is about 90,000 hectare and is gradually increasing. In West Bengal alone the area under pineapple cultivation is about 12,500 hectares.
The yield of fibres depends on various factors, such as type of soil, variety grown, care of the crop, stage of harvesting, incidence of diseases and pests and fibre content of the leaves. The yield of fibre is about 2.5 to 3.5% of the weight of green leaves. The leaves of the plants are capable of yielding nearly 1.32 lakh tonnes of fibre annually.

 


FLAX / LINSEED FIBRE
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The common flax plant is a member of the small family, the Linaceae, which includes about a dozen genera and some species, widely distributed in the temperate and subtropical regions of the world. Linum usitatissinum is the only member of the family that is important for the production of fibre. The seed of the flax plant is known as linseed, from which linseed oil is obtained. It is still one of the most important oils used in paint and varnish industries.

The flax plant (Unum usitatissinum L.) can adopt itself to varying conditions of soil and temperature. It is cultivated all over the world either for use as fibre or seed. Fibre extracted from it is known as flax / linseed fibre from which linen cloth is manufactured. The linseed fibre extracted from the straw after harvesting is suitable for producing coarser quality textile items. Flax may grow to a height of 1200 mm but linseed is shorter (600 - 980 mm) in height and maturity. The degree of branching depends upon plant type and density.

Linseed is grown all over the country except in Kerala, Tamilnadu, Manipur, Tripura and Andaman and Nicober Island. The variety grown for fibre has excellent textile properties but quality and yield of seed is very poor. On the other hand, variety grown for seed yields good quality seed but the fibre extracted from it is inferior in quality like length, fineness, softness etc. But other qualities like strength, density, lustre, moisture, absorbency etc. are very good. Advent of double purpose linseed variety has now raised the potentiality of linseed fibre as textile fibre as well as raw material for paper and composite industry.

 


BANANA FIBRE
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Banana fibre is obtained from the leaf sheath or pseudo stem of banana plant. It belongs to the monocotyledon family. It is cultivated in a wet tropical climate, but unable to withstand water logging. There are different varieties of banana. The fibre from the different varieties also differs to some extent. Since the varieties differ with different soil and climatic conditions, soil should be loose, rich in humus, and properly drained. The banana plant does not grow well under swampy condition.

After harvesting of the fruit, the pseudo- stem has no regular use. The sheath of the stem is generally scraped by a blunt knife or decorticated to obtain the fibre, the fibre is later washed with water or a chemical to prevent it from brittleness. Fresh pseudo-stem yields about 2 to 2.25% of fibre. India has about 5 lakh acres under banana plantation, which might yield 1 lakh-2 lakh tonne of fibre. Only a small quantity of fibre is manually extracted and this is used in Indian Cottage Industry for making handbags, ropes, twines, fancy articles, cushioning material, packing etc. Industrial utilisation of the fibre would boost the economy of banana planters.

Banana plant may be propagated commercially in two ways. The planting material may be either sucker, which rises at the base of the parent plant or root heads or root cutting. The plant may be propagated from seed also.

Banana fibre is obtained from the leaf-sheath of the plant. Fibre varies according to the particular sheath from which it is taken, for the fibre from the outer sheaths being coarser than that from the inner sheaths. To obtain the best fibre, the plant should be cut almost at the flowering stage before any fruit has formed. Decorticating followed by retting in water extract the fibre. Fibre has to be washed thoroughly as soon as it is extracted for removing chemicals, which cause browning of the fibre due to direct sunlight drying.

 


OKRA FIBRE (BHINDI)
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The plant Hibiscus esculentus is cultivated extensively throughout India for its pod known as Okra. The plant is considered to be West African in origin and is valued for its edible pods. It is grown not only in India but also throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.

It can be grown in any type of soil but it prefers well manured loamy soil. It is cultivated throughout India up to an altitude of about 1300 m. It is seldom cultivated as a field crop. In India, two crops are usually raised in a year, first sown in the beginning of summer (February / March) and second in June.

The stalk of Hibiscus esculentus or other Hibiscus species yield a fibre, which has not been commercially exploited.  After harvesting the fruits, stalks are generally allowed to go as waste or used as a fuel. If, however, they are collected in green condition and subjected to retting a useful fibre can be obtained as a by-product from okra pod cultivation. Fibre yield is 4% of the weight of green plant. Conventional retting requires 7 to 15 days. An average yield of fibre per ha is 240 kg.

The stem of the plant is generally 90cm to 200cm high. Fibre is white, light cream or yellow in colour, silky, strong but somewhat coarse and stiff.
 


ABACA OR MANILA HEMP
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Abaca or Manila hemp (Musa textilis, Musaceae) is native to south East Asia. The fibers come mostly from the leaf bases. The plant is now grown in many parts of the tropics. It is used to make things such as "Manila" envelopes as well as cloth. The fibers are isolated in much the same way as those of sisal and henequen.
 


Coconut Fiber
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The outside part of coconut fruits serves as a source of fiber for many purposes. The fibers are longer than cotton. Immature coconuts are retted in sea water for 8-10 months. The fibers are usually used to make ropes and matting. The fibers of mature husks (from copra production) are removed in much the same way. The fibers are often decorticated. These are used for mattresses and for brushes.