Sisal

Sisal or Agave sisalana, is a species of Agave that yields a stiff fibre used in making various products. The term sisal may refer either to the plant’s common name or the fibre, depending on the context. Sisal plants consist of a rosette of sword-shaped leaves about 1.5–2 metres (4.9–6.6 ft) tall. Young leaves may have a few minute teeth along their margins, but lose them as they mature.

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 fibres. The fibres 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.

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 fibres remain. The fibre is then dried, brushed and baled for export. Proper drying is important as fibre quality depends largely on moisture content.

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 Macramé. Sisal has been utilized as an environmentally friendly strengthening agent to replace asbestos and fibre glass in composite materials in various uses including the automobile industry. The medium-grade fibre is used in the cordage industry for making ropes, baler and binder twine. Ropes and twines are widely employed for marine, agricultural, and general industrial use. The higher-grade fibre after treatment is converted into yarns and used by the carpet industry. Other products developed from sisal fibre include spa products, cat scratching posts, lumbar support belts, rugs, slippers, cloths, and disc buffers.

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