Crop Production :: Fibre Crops:: Agave



Among the under-exploited resources, ‘Agave’ - a fibre yielding drought tolerant plant is one which can prosper the life of the dry land farmers without any risk. Agave is a short stemmed plant bearing a rosette of long erect pointed fleshy leaves. Agave is noted for its strong, coarse fibre, superior too and more flexible than Manila hemp. It is widely used for making ropes, cordage, twine, fishing nets, door mats and rugs and the short fibres are used for making mops, brushes. The waste material left after decorticating the leaves is used for making craft paper and paper boards. The fibres also contain about 73-78% of lignified form of cellulose. Apart from these wax from agave wastes and Hecogenin acetate a steroid useful for the pharmaceutical industry in India is obtained from agave juice. The genus Agave has about 275 species of which A. sisalana, A.cantala and A.Americana commonly occur in India. Agave blossoms only once during its life time and then dies. Agave plants are grown along railway line, road sides, river banks and as a hedge plant in dryland areas throughout the country. Till date it is grown in patches and as border crop in a neglected condition. The crop comes up on dry soils unsuitable for crop cultivation but grow vigorously on dry, well drained sandy loam soils.

Nursery: Agaves are usually propagated from bulbils or suckers. Grown up suckers can be dug out and planted during rainy months. In case of bulbils they are first sown in mother beds at close spacing @ 5000 bulbils per bed of 1 x 20 M. After 6 months the seedlings are pulled out and planted in the transplanting bed of size 20 x 1 m @ 500 Plants. In the second stage it is kept for three months. After 9 months from the date of planting bulbils suckers weighing 1/4 to 1/2 kg and 9 to 12" height are ready for planting.

Main field planting: In the main field they are planted at a space of 2 x 2 m in pits of size 30 cm3. Planting is usually carried out during the rainy seasons for better establishment otherwise initial watering is quite essential for establishment.

Harvesting: The leaves are ready for harvesting from 3rd year onwards. The older leaves of length not less than a metre is harvested in the 3rd year. Each plant yields 40-50 leaves/year. The life cycle of the plant is upto 8 years. The content of fibre varies with variety from 2.5 to 4.5% and the highest is reported under A.sisalana as 4.5%. Agave sisalana produces a better quality fibre than Agave americana. From 3rd year onwards leaf yield of 30-40 tonnes/acre could be harvested and a net profit of not less than Rs.2000/acre could be obtained out of this crop. Even as border crop Agave could fetch revenue of not less than Rs.400/acre/year from 3rd year until 8th year. Instead of traditional hand scraping process now mechanical decorticators are available for the extraction of fibre. The extracted fibres are washed in water, cleaned and dried and packed in bales. As a precaution, fibre extraction is done on a bright sunny day and within 2 days of the harvesting of the leaves or else the quality of the fibre will be deteriorated. The fibre colour varies from milky white to golden yellow.

Updated on : 20.06.2013