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Fiber crops and technologies

Salago (Wikstroemia species) is a slowgrowing native shrub in Eastern Asia. At present, it is classified as a forest crop based on its ability to become a very sturdy plant which can withstand long drought, rainy season Asia. At present, it is classified as a forest crop based on its ability to become a very sturdy plant which can withstand long drought, rainy season and typhoons. It grows to a height ranging from one to three meters. The leaves are opposite, leathery, widest near the middle, rounded at the tips and 1.5 to 7 cm. Iong. The best is light colored and has a silky appearance and long strong fibers.

Salago is mostly found in thickets as well as in primary and secondary forests at low and medium altitudes. Thus, it is a good agroforestry crop and a good material for hedgerow planting.

Salago is popularly known in the Visayas as Siapo. The fiber was discovered by the Japanese as an excellent material in the manufacture of money, bank notes, stencils, ad paper and documentary papers. It is also used for rope-making, fishing lines and nets, clotheslines, sacks, wallets, colorful hats and others.


FIG.1.SALAGO

Propagation

Salago is normally propagated through its seeds.

However, its seeds cannot be stored for a long time because it is a recalcitrant. Seed germination is done through the following steps:

1. Prepare two seedboxes four inches thick, two feet wide and eight feet long. Use a 50 percent limesoil and 50 percent sand mixture,

2. Sterilize the soil by pouring boiling water twice over it before sowing the seeds. Seeds usually germinate from 15-20 days after sowing.

3. Salago seeds could also be sown directly on the farm with comparable results to the above


Preparation

Care of seedlings and planting

To minimize the effect of transfer shock and root injury, seedlings should be planted in individual plastic bags when the first pair of leaves appear.

Seedlings could be transplanted to the field when they are between two to four months old. With a spacing of 1 x 1 meters, 10,000 plants can be accommodated in one hectare. The best time for planting salago is at the beginning of the rainy season.

Maintenance

FIDA (Fiber Industry Development Authority) recommends optional use of commercial fertilizer. In fact, areas recommended for salago planting are those which have fumed less productive (e.g., cogonal areas).

Do ring weeding and underbrushing twice a year, especially during the early stage of growth of the plant. Being relatively resistant to pests and diseases, salago may not need pesticide spraying.

Seed extraction

After six to eight months from planting, salago begins to bear fruits or berries. Thereafter, it will bear fruits once a year from October to November. Seed collection will start on December to early January, that is about 30-35 days from flowering. Berries are considered mature when it turns red or yellow.

To prepare viable seeds, put gathered berries in a basin and thoroughly squeeze them until the seeds are separated from the pulp. Rinse with water. Seeds that sink are viable ones while those that float are rejected by draining the water.

To store seeds without losing their viability, dry them properly by spreading them on any fat container under the sun for six to eight hours. If sowing is to be done in a day or two, two to four hours drying would suffice.

Fiber extraction

Fiber extraction is done either by "handcleaning" or "steaming" method.

"Handcleaning" is done by directly peeling off the bark as soon as the outermost epidermis (thin portion) is scraped out by using a knife. This method of fiber extraction produces white fiber. However, the fiber could not be stored for a longer period due to its susceptibility to mold attack.


FIG.1.Handcleaning method.

"Steaming" process is done by subjecting the whole stem of salago to steam for about two hours in a big container.

The stem must not touch the water, hence a support for the stem must be provided to avoid staining. The container has to be covered properly while the water level is maintained at three inches. To produce good quality fiber, the outermost dead bark or meristematic cells are removed thoroughly.

This literature aims only to guide agroforestry technicians in their search for appropriate materials to be planted in their project areas. For more information, please contact Fiber Industry Development Authority - Region Vll, S.L. Tanchan Building, Colon St., Cebu City or Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), College, Laguna 4031.


FIG.1.ABACA

Abaca (Muse textilis Nee) is the local name of a perennial plant which has been grown in the Philippines for centuries. The commercial significance of the plant then was not generally known by most of me natives, much less outside m-e Philippines It took more than 100 years for abaca to be known as a source of fiber for rope manufacture and, later, for fibercraft and specially pulp and paper.

Abaca, internationally known as Manila hemp, is a member of Musaceae family and has close resemblance to banana. Compared to banana, abaca has more slender stalk as well as smaller, narrower and more

pointed leaves. A distinguishing dark line on me right hand side of the upper surface of the leaf blade is pronounced in abaca. Its fruits are smaller, nonedible and contain many seeds.

Soil and climatic requirement

Abaca grows in virtually all types of soil in the Philippines but it is most productive in areas where the soil is:

· volcanic in origin;

· rich in organic matter;

· loose, friable and well-drained;

· of the clay loam type; and,

· less than 1,000 m from sea level.

Propagation

Abaca is propagated by bits of seedpieces. Seedpieces are obtained by separation or division of the rootstocks and corms. From a single seedpiece, a mat or clump of from 10 to 15 suckers develop in one year. About 20 plantable pieces can be obtained from this mat either by separating the small and medium-eke suckers and cutting the corms of larger stalks into bits or seedpieces. Each piece should contain one to three prominent eyes.

Planting

Staking. After preparing me land, mark the places (where abaca will be planted) with bamboo stakes or other suitable materials. The recommended distance of planting is 2 x 2 m.

Holing. The size of the hole depends upon the propagating materials used. Make the holes about 10 cm deep or large enough to accommodate me seedpiece.

Maintenance

Fertilizer application. Abaca requires large amounts of N and K but less of P. To improve the growth of abaca, apply annually 100-200 kg N and 150 to 200 kg. K20/ha in two to four-split applications. Apply the fertilizer around the hill about 15 cm from the base of the pseudostem, the region where the roots are most concentrated. There is no need to bury them since the roots of abaca are shallow.

Pests. Identified pests attacking abaca are brown aphids (Pentalonia nigronervosa), corm weevil (Cosmopolites sordidus) and slug caterpillar (Thosea sinensis). Control the pests with any suitable contact insecticide. Keep the abaca farm clean. Gather, chop and spray corms of harvested stalks.

Diseases. To date, some 17 diseases of abaca have been recorded. Two of these are caused by bacteria, nine by fungi, four by nematodes and two by viruses. The importance of one disease varies from one area to another but, in general, bunchy-top, mosaic and wilt are considered either important or potentially dangerous to abaca production in the Philippines.

Bunchy-top

Symptoms. Shortening of the pseudostem, crowding or bunching of the leafoleaths at the crown or top of the plant, accompanied by transparent streaks of the main and secondary veins at the leaf when viewed against the light.

Control measures. Roquing of infected plants in like manner as in bunchy-top is essential to maintain a low rate of disease spread.

Wilt

Symptoms. The most noticeable symptom of this disease is the wilting of the leaves, particularly the lower leaves. Eventually, the wiltted leaves turn pale yellow to yellow- brown. When cut open, corms of infected abaca exhibit reddish-violet color.

Control measures. Methods of controlling fusarial wilt are by quarantine and exclusion, or by planting resistant cultivars, if available.

Harvesting and handling

Commence harvesting before the flagleaf appears. Indications that the flagleaf is about to appear are the slowing down of growth of the plant and gradual shortening of the leaf blades. Also, the petiole bridge appears much shorter than the preceding ones.

Keep the surrounding area of the base of the stalk clear of grasses and other obstructions. Then, cut the leaves of the abaca plant with a topping knife attached to a pole. Topping not only facilitates harvesting put also minimizes the damage on follower stalks in the vicinity as well. Cut the stalk with a sharp tumbling bole at about 5 cm. from the corm. A clean, slightly slanted cut is desirable.

Pile the tumbled stalks (10 to 20 stalks per pile) with distal ends on one side. It is ideal to process the stalks immediately after harvesting to obtain fibers of superior quality.

Fiber Extraction. There are two common methods of fiber extraction in the Philippines: (1) hand-stripping and (2) spindle-stripping.

Hand-stripping is the process of extracting fiber in which a narrow strip of abaca leaf sheath (tuxy) is placed under the serrated knife with pressure. Fiber is then extracted by wiling the leafsheath by hand.

Spindle-stripping is a process wherein the tuxy is fed into the machine's stripping knife.

Tuxying - insert a tuxy knife between the outer and middle layers of the leaf sheath and then pull off the entire length to completely separate the layers. Each leaf sheath produces 2 to 4 tuxies of 5 to 10 cm wide.

Tuxies from different leaf sheaths produce fibers which vary in color, length, texture and tensile strength. Preclassify them as outer, middle and inner for easier classification of fibers after stripping.


FIG.1.Tuxying

Fiber Grades

Abaca fiber has 15 grades classified into: Excellent (AD, EF, S2, S3); Good (I, G, H); Fair (JK, Ml); Coarse (L); and, Residual (Y1, Y2, O. T. WS).

Costs and returns

Assuming that there is no intercropping, establishing a hectare of abaca costs P27,000. No income can be expected from an abaca farm during the first and second years of planting. However, during the first two years, abaca farmers are encouraged to plant cash crops like corn, rice or any root crops to provide food and income

for the family while waiting for the abaca to become productive. During this period. the direct costs incurred in a hectare of abaca plantation is about 8,000/yr. In the third year of operation, there is a gross income of P15,000. On the fourth year and onwards, profit may be expected with the highest gross income of P60,000 (at P28./kg.) against an annual expense of P8,000.

RAMIA


FIG.1.RAMIE

Ramie (Boehmeria nivea (V Gaud) is a best fiber plant which was introduced to the Philippines from Japan in 1911. Its commercial production started in 1930 in the Mindanao area. Today, the Philippines is one of the top three ramieproducing countries in the world.

Ramie belongs to Urticeae family. The plant produces a large number of erect and slender stems or stalks, usually non-branching and grows from four to seven feet at maturity. It has heart-shaped, lustrous green leaves which are silvery white underneath, 7.5 to 15 cm. Iong with clusters of small greenish flowers, ranging from 8 to 16 mm in diameter.

Propagation

Commercial propagation of ramie uses asexual plant material, the rhizomes. Rhizomes are underground stems from where the stalks grow. To collect rhizomes from existing plantations, dig the root masses with the aid of animal-drawn plow or tractor. Bring these masses immediately to shaded areas. Cut them into pieces of 25 to 30 cm long.

Climatic and soil requirements

The distribution and the total amount of rainfall are both important in the production of ramie. This crop is best suited in places with Type IV climate where distribution of rainfall is uniform throughout the year and where it is not less than 100 mm/month. Ramie will not thrive in areas frequently visited by typhoons or constatnly flooded since it cannot endure inundation for any length of time.

Ramie is best suited in light, but not sandy, to moderately heavy loam soils with high amount of organic matter, excellent drainage and a pH range of 4.8 to 6.4. It can also be planted in acidic soil provided the pH is corrected by liming. Ramie thrives well in soil with high organic matter that enriches the soil and improves its waterholding capacity.

Planting, spacing and plant density

Plant rhizome cuttings within two to three days after digging them out to insure high percentage of germination. If immediate planting is not possible, keep rhizomes moist by sprinkling with water, then cover with plant leaves while still in the shaded area. The recommended spacing for ramie is 75 by 20 cm which need 66,666 planting materials/hectare. The recommendation, however, may vary from place to place, say 100 x 40 cm.

Cutting of first growth

The first growth of stalks after planting is usually uneven in size and bushy or branched. Therefore, cut stalks and leave them in the field when they reach about 20 to 25 cm in height or higher.

Subsequent waste cutting promotes denser stalks of more uniform growth. The new growth that follows such cuttings will be more even with greater number of stalks and fewer or no branches at all. It usually turns out better quality fibers because it has low pectin content.

Harvesting and yield

The ramie plants are ready for harvesting when they display these characteristics:

a. The lower part of the stalk turns to light brown.

b. The stalks break easily and the bark can be separated readily from the woody central part.

c. The stalks stop growing in height, the top begins to sprout from the nodes along the length of the stalks.

d. The lower leaves turn yellow and begin to dry off

e. The petioles of the leaves, except those at the very top of the stalks, may easily detach at touch and running of the hand along the stalks.

f. Tips of new sprouts begin to appear just above the ground.

Harvest the crop with the use of a bolo or a scythe and cut the stems and new sprouts at ground level. Be careful not to damage the tips of the sprouting rhizome buds. Pile harvested stalks in bundles and bring to a nearby shed for decortication. Decorticate the stalks as soon as they are harvested for easy fiber extraction and quality fiber production.

With sufficient soil moisture and adequate sunlight, ramie matures earlier in 45 days, thereby allowing more harvest cycle per year. Ramie can yield as much as 2,000 kg if drybrushed fiber per hectare in the first year of planting. At the second to subsequent years, such yield can increase to almost 3,500 kg/ha.

Fiber Extraction and Fiber Grades

Processing of ramie fibers requires two operations, namely decortication and degumming:

Decortication means the removal of the fibrous layer of the ramie stem. The ramie stem comprises an inner woody layer and an outer layer, the bark. The fibers are located in the best layer beneath the bark.

In decortication, the operator feeds the stalks into the decorticator, starting with the upper tip. As the stalks are drawn into the machine, they are crushed between the beater plates and beater blades on the revolving beater drums. After 1/2 to 2/3 of the stalk's length has been fed into the machine, the operator pulls the whole length fed to the machine during which the woody parts, bark and parts of the gums and waxes are scraped from the fiber. Gripping the decorticated part, he feeds the butts stalks into the machine until the remaining length of the stalks are crushed. He then withdraws them from the machine and the decorticated fibers are placed on the rack situated on the left hand side of the machine prior to drying.


FIG.1.Decortication and degumming

Decorticated ramie has the following grades:

a. RD - A - ramie special

b. RD -1 - ramie good

c. RD - 2 - ramie fair

d. RD - 3 - ramie short

e. RD - 0 - (string)

f. RD - T - low

g. RD - W - waste

Degumming is the process of separating and softening the gums that bind the fibers together and of freeing the individual fibers from surrounding tissues while retaining the strength and other characteristics of the fiber.

Ramie fiber has to be degummed to attain high industrial value. Only a fraction of the gums, waxes, pectins and resins are removed from the fibers in the process of decortification and brushing. The presence of a high percentage of these components make the decorticated line fiber stiff and brittle The major objective in degumming is to separate the individual fibers and make them soft and clean without sacrificing fiber strength and other good characteristics. This process is done either by chemical methods or by bacterial action (biological process).

The biological process of degumming ramie makes use of water impregnated with bacteria in a large vat or big containers. Bacteria attack the gums and waxes of ramie but leave the cellulose fiber intact. This process is not commonly used because it is time-consuming, laborious and produces poor quality fiber.

Chemical degumming is becoming popular and each industrialist has his own degumming method which is kept a trade secret. The available technology at present is found only in Japan, Taiwan, U.S. and some European countries.

Degumming is usually accomplished by subjecting the fibers to dilute solutions of sodium hydroxide at elevated temperatures in the absence of air. Alkali, particularly sodium hydroxide, readily react with hemicellulose. In the presence of air, oxidation of the cellulose to oxycellulose rapidly occurs resulting in greatly weakened fibers. Alkali concentration, temperature, time and presence of antioxidants are factors to be considered in conducting degumming experiments.

The exact chemical changes occurring during the alkaline boil have not yet been verified; but in a somewhat oversimplified manner, the following changes could be deduced to happen: the hemicellulose which are largely made up of mixed polysaccharides are converted to their soluble simple sugars; saponifiable gums and waxes are saponified into soluble soaps; and, unsaponifiable oils are emulsified by these soaps and the wetting agent.

Seresinhe (1978) said that all degumming methods are based on common principles and differ only in small details. The general method is discussed below.

Steps

1. Cook decorticated ramie fibers for 1 hour at 6 kg/cm2 pressure and 160°C water to dry fiber ratio of 6:1 with 6 percent sodium hydroxide; 3 percent sodium sulphate; 3 percent sodium tripolyphosphate and 3 percent organic phosphate penetrant.

2. Blow off cooking liquor and discard. Wash fiber with water.

3. Same as first step.

4. Blow off cooking liquor, saving some for first step of next batch and wash the fiber with water.

5. Bleach for one hour with 1 percent hydrogen peroxide at 83°C and pH of 9.0.

6. Rinse fiber with diluted acetic and water.

7. Mix fiber with an oil emulsion such as sulphurated hydrocarbon using 34 percent of the weight of the dry fiber.

8. Centrifuge fiber, saving excess emulsion for the next batch.

Cost and return

The cost and return analysis of ramie production showed a negative income in the first year of operation. This can be attributed to the high initial expenses which totaled to P71,168.00. However, in the second and succeeding years, net income was P47, 898.00

Sources:

Fiber Industry Development Authority - unpublished brochures and reports.

The Philippines Recommends for Abaca. PCARRD Technical Bulletin.

Salago Production and Processing in Cebu. An undertaking by the Family and School Hillyland Development Project - Jampang, Argao, Cebu.

The Philippines Recommends for Ramle Production. PCARRD Technical Bulletin Series No. 62