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  Sisal is a natural fibre ( Scientific name Agave sisalana) of Agavaceae (Agave)  family yields  a stiff fiber traditionally used in making twine and rope. Sisal is native to Mexico.  In the 19th century, sisal cultivation spread to Florida, the Caribbean islands and Brazil, as well as to countries in Africa, notably Tanzania and Kenya, and Asia. The first commercial plantings in Brazil were made in the late 1930’s and the first sisal fiber exports from there were made in 1948. Now Brazil and China are the main source of Sisal.
  It is a member of the cactus family. Sisal is natural fibre fully biodegradable. It is highly renewable resource of energy. Sisal fibre is exceptionally durable and a low maintenance with minimal wear and tear. Its fibre is too tough for textiles and fabrics. It is not suitable for a smooth wall finish and also not recommended for wet areas. 
   The fine texture of Sisal takes dyes easily and offers the largest range of dyed colours of all natural fibres. Sisal fibre is exceptionally durable and fully biodegradable. Zero pesticides or chemical fertilisers used in sisal agriculture.

 Sisal plant
 Sisal plants consist of a rosette of sword-shaped leaves about 1.5 to 2 meters  tall.

 The Sisal Plant
  Sisal plants consist of a rosette of sword-shaped leaves about 1.5 to 2 meters  tall. Young leaves may have a few minute teeth along their margins, but lose them as they mature. Sisals are sterile hybrids of uncertain origin; although shipped from the port of Sisal in Yucatán (thus the name), they do not actually grow in Yucatán, the  plantations there cultivate henequen  instead. Evidence of an indigenous cottage industry in Chiapas suggests it as the original location, possibly as a cross of Agave angustifolia and Agave kewensis.
 Propagation of Sisal
 Propagation of sisal is generally by using bulbils produced from buds in the flower stalk or by suckers growing around the base of the plant. These methods offer no potential for genetic improvement. Invitro multiplication of selected genetic material using meristematic tissue culture (MST) offers considerable potential for the development of improved genetic material. 
 The sisal plant has a 7-10 year life-span and typically produces 200-250 commercially usable leaves. Each leaf contains an average of around 1000 fibers. The fibers account for only about 4% of the plant by weight. Sisal is considered a plant of the tropics and subtropics, since production benefits from temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius and sunshine.  

 Carpet from Sisal fibre
 The fine texture of Sisal takes dyes easily. 
         Twine from Sisal    
 Sisal a leading material for agricultural twine 

   Sisal fibres
   Sisal fibre made from the large spear shaped tropical leaves of the Agave Sisalana plant. Fine fibre available as plaid, herringbone and twill. Sisal fibre is extracted by a process known as decortication, where leaves are crushed and beaten by a rotating wheel set with blunt knives, so that only fibers remain. In East Africa, where production is typically on large estates, the leaves are transported to a central decortication plant, where water is used to wash away the waste parts of the leaf. The fiber is then dried, brushed and baled for export. Superior quality sisal is found in East Africa, once washed and decorticated. Proper drying is important as fiber quality depends largely on moisture content. Artificial drying has been found to result in generally better grades of fiber than sun drying, but is not feasible in the developing countries where sisal is produced. In the dryer climate of north-east Brazil, sisal is mainly grown by smallholders and the fiber is extracted by teams using portable raspadors which do not use water. Fibre is subsequently cleaned by brushing. Dry fibers are machine combed and sorted into various grades, largely on the basis of the previous in-field separation of leaves into size groups
  Uses of Sisal
  From ancient times  sisal has been the leading material for agricultural twine because of its strength, durability, ability to stretch, affinity for certain dyestuffs, and resistance to deterioration in saltwater.  Apart from ropes, twines and general cordage sisal is used in low-cost and specialty paper, dartboards, buffing cloth, filters, geotextiles, mattresses, carpets, handicrafts, wire rope cores and Macrame. Sisal fibers are great alternative to plastic. Woven floor covering, floor tiles, rugs, wall coverings, wainscoting and fabric panels, Handbags, shopping bags etc are now made from Sisal  fibre.
  Now  sisal has been utilized as an environmentally friendly strengthening agent to replace asbestos and fiberglass in composite materials in various uses including the automobile industry. The lower grade fiber is processed by the paper industry because of its high content of cellulose and hemicelluloses. The medium grade fiber is used in the cordage industry for making: ropes, baler and binders twine. Ropes and twines are widely employed for marine, agricultural, and general industrial use. The higher-grade fiber after treatment is converted into yarns and used by the carpet industry.  
 Other products developed from sisal fiber include spa products, cat scratching posts, lumbar support belts, rugs, slippers, cloths and disc buffers. Sisal wall covering meets the abrasion and tearing resistance standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials and of the National Fire Protection Association. 
  Despite the yarn durability sisal is known for, slight matting of sisal carpeting may occur in high traffic areas. Sisal carpet does not build up static nor does it trap dust. Spot and high spill areas can be removed by dry cleaning powder. Sisal is used by itself in carpets or in blends with wool and acrylic for a softer hand. A low level of energy used in manufacturing the fibre. 
Sisal Fibre is exceptionally durable with a low maintenance with minimal wear and tear and it is Recyclable.  Sisal fibres are obtained  from the outer leaf skin, removing the inner pulp. Fine fibre available as plaid, herringbone and twill. Sisal fibres are Anti static, does not attract or trap dust particles and does not absorb moisture or water easily. The fine texture takes dyes easily and offers the largest range of dyed colours of all natural fibres. It exhibits good sound and impact absorbing properties. Its leaves can be treated with natural borax for fire resistance properties. 
Sisal is not recommended for areas that receive wet spills, or rain or snow. Its fibre absorbs air humidity leading to a small amount of expanding and contracting (rugs and unsecured edges may curl). Sisal fibre is too tough for textiles and fabrics. Its fibre is not suitable for a smooth wall finish.It is reported that some plantations have destroyed natural forests to agricultural land.
As extraction of fibre uses only a small percentage of the plant, some attempts to improve economic viability have focussed on utilising the waste material for production of biogas, for stock feed, or by the extraction of pharmaceutical materials. Now a  new higher-valued sisal products have been developed. It is hardest wearing natural floor covering. It is highly renewable resource. 


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