Fiber CropsJanuary 31, 2022
Many different kinds of plants are grown as fibre crops. The fibres themselves vary in their consistency. Some fibres may be rough and are used for making mats, baskets, string, rope, etc., while others may be fine and are used for making clothing, etc.
Some of the more common fibre crops are:
- linseed (tisi, mosne, chikaná)
- jute (pát). The varieties include:
- miit́há pát́
- tiitá pát́ (Mestá pát́ is not actually jute.) pineapple. Varieties by leaf type include: West Indies East Indies okra agave banana (kalá). The varieties include: cáṋpá kalá kátáli kalá martamán kalá
The fibre from these crops is collected from the stem of the plant. In the case of pineapple, the fibre is processed from the leaves. As a general rule, only jute should be soaked in water to extract the fibre. Other fibre crops should be buried under the ground to seperate the fibre from the plant.
Linseed (Tisi, Mosne, Chikaná)
Linseed is utilized by extracting oil from the seed and fibres from the stalk. The Irish discovered the process of extracting the fibres from the stalk, and called the smooth cloth that was produced “linen.” It was discovered that if the stalk was allowed to rot a bit, the fibres could be separated and made into a fine thread. The straw is also used as cattle fodder.
In Ráŕhi Bangla, linseed is known as “mosne,” and in Magahi, it is known as “chikaná.” Linseed is a four month crop and is grown only in winter. It requires much manure, and can be grown as a mixed crop with soybean.
Both linseed and soybean take a lot out of the soil, so it is mandatory to use oil cake manure when growing these crops. After growing linseed, dhaiṋca (Sesbania bispinosa) must be grown for two months and then ploughed into the field to help the soil recover.
Jute requires a lot of rainfall, but it cannot tolerate waterlogging. For this reason, it does well on the slopes of Assam. In this respect it is similar to tea.
In the month of Vaeshákha, the soil is tilled and the jute seeds are sown in a seed bed. In the month of Aśádha, the áus variety of paddy is sown, and along with it the transplanted jute seedlings should be grown. In the month of Shravańa, both jute and áus paddy are harvested.
The harvested jute is soaked in water for a few days to make it ready for processing. When fully processed, the fibres are separated from the stalk and sent for marketing.
After the jute has been harvested, the land can be used for autumn maize, a 60 day crop. Along with this, radish and soybean may also be sown. After harvesting the maize and soybean, radish is harvested and the land utilized for winter crops such as wheat, winter vegetables, etc. At the end of winter, linseed can be harvested for fibre and the seeds used for oil. Radish seeds can also be used to produce oil.
After this, dhaiṋca should be sown to restore the fertility of the soil, because linseed depletes the soil. Dhaiṋca should be ploughed into the land, and in the month of Vaeshákha, jute and áus paddy should again be sown. This is the rotation for a one year fibre crop.
There are 2 main varieties of jute:
- miit́ha pát
- tiitá pát
Tiitá pát is better for fibre production, but the leaves of miit́ha pát are also useful as a leafy vegetable (miit́ha pát shák).
The seasonal period of jute of inferior quality (mestá pát) is the same as that for hemp and flax. The fruit of mestá pát, kudrum, is a red colour, and the bark is yellow. Mestá pát is not actually jute, but it is often called jute.
Pineapple is another tropical fruit crop known more for its juicy sweet fruit than for its fibre. The fibre is processed from the leaves of the pineapple. In the Philippines, pineapple cloth is used to make many products including tablecloths and clothing. Medicines can also be prepared from its leaves.
There are two varieties according to leaf type:
- West Indies, which has thorns and green leaves, and
- East Indies, which has no thorns and golden leaves.
However, there are three varieties of pineapple according to the season:
- rainy season
- winter season
- all season
The West Indies variety comes from the West Indies, and the East Indies variety comes from the area of Singapore, Malaysia, and Oceania. Both varieties provide fibre for commercial use, but the East Indies variety produces better fibre.
Where the land is alkaline, nothing will grow except pineapple. If all the conditions for growing pineapple have been properly met, but the plants will still not produce fruit, they should be surrounded by sawdust smoke for half an hour at a time for three days.
Okra (Bhińd́i, Dhenŕash)
Lady’s finger or okra is a popular all-season vegetable, originating from Africa.
It was first introduced into India in the Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, so it is also called “bhindi.”
Okra should not be fried because frying destroys its food value.
To separate the fibre from the plant, cover the green stalk with soil for 3 weeks. Fine dhutis or traditional Indian men’s garments and other clothing can be made from the fibres.
The mature plant is about 4 feet tall. The seeds contain 5% oil. If this proportion can be increased to 10% through research, okra can be used to produce commercial edible oil.
Lady’s finger is already known as a vegetable, but if it can be developed as a fibre crop and oil seed as well, it will become extremely useful.
There are two varieties of lady’s finger:
- the green Varanasi variety, and
- the indigenous variety.
To prepare okra seeds for sprouting, put the seeds in warm water. After the water temperature has returned to normal, soak the seeds for 2 hours.
The seeds should then be sown.
Agave (Sisal, Agave americana)
Agave requires only 20 inches of annual rainfall, which makes it very useful in dry climates.
It originated in East Africa. In Bengal the plants can be acquired from Birbhum district.
Agave is a succulent, similar to cactus. A thick stalk grows from the ground and on this stalk the flowers appear. The fibre is removed from the stalk and is used for making rope. The best soil for growing agave in Bengal is in the Mámud Bazaar Thanar block of Birbhum district. There it has been grown successfully. Agave makes a good roadside plant and is the prescribed plant for filling the gaps between other roadside and riverside plants in Ánanda Nagar.
It has the capacity to help check soil erosion. So, it should be planted in areas where there is the danger of soil loss through erosion, especially along the banks of rivers.
Banana trees are known more for their fruits than for their fibre. Both the fruit and the flower can be eaten, and when the tree is young the inner trunk can be taken as a vegetable as well. The leaves are used for plates or for wrapping food.
Sodium carbonate may be obtained from the banana tree by:
- burning the trunk into ash
- boiling the ash until the water evaporates.
There are numerous products which can be made from the banana tree.
The fibre is obtained from the trunk of the tree. The greater the size of a tree, the greater the quantity of fibre, but the same rule does not necessarily apply for the quantity of fruit produced by the banana tree. Not more than two offshoot saplings should be allowed to grow from one banana tree. The extra shoots should be cut. There are many varieties of banana.
Other Fibre Crops
Hemp (ganja, Cannabis indica) is still grown for fibre although there is some restriction on its production due to its use as a narcotic.
Previously, the West Bengal government grew Cannabis indica in Nogong. But now it is grown in Bankura.
We do not need to grow narcotic plants for research. Rather, this should be done by the government.
Mat stick is a grass of the paddy group which is used for making mats. It is called “mádur” in Bengali. Mat making using mat stick is a large cottage industry in Midnapur. Mat stick is grown in Midnapur and Lontai. Bichali, especially the Patna variety, is used for making ropes, and the seeds are used as animal fodder.
Safia grass is used for making baskets and paper, notably in Saheb Ganj.
Paper crops are related to fibre crops.
There are many plants which can be used to produce paper, such as eucalyptus, bamboo, bamboo leaves and sugar cane waste. Bamboo can be used to make everything from paper and furniture to fences and even houses. Paper, pitchboard and cardboard can also be made from bamboo, and oil paper can be made from both bamboo and maize.