Sisal is a hardy plant of the agave family .
It has leaves about one meter long originating
from a rozette. Those leaves have dents or spikes.
The stem with flowers can be more then 5 meters high.
The Sisalplant is used to produce long and very
strong fibers. These fibers are coarse and hard
unsuitable for textiles or fabrics, but good for ropes and twining.
Sisal or Agave sisalana
The sisal agave is very hardy and has very
little parasites or pests. Sisal tolerates
temperatures above 45 degrees of celsius.
It grows on very poor, marginal lands in arid area´s,
unsuitable for other agricultural use.
For its cultivation no pesticides or fertilizer is needed,
making it very suitable for third world countries
like Tanzania. Sisal is grown throughout the year,
and there is no specific harvest period. The first
leaf cut is when this plant is 3 years old
or about 1.5m tall and bearing about 100 leaves.
The average yield of dried fibres is about 1 tonnes
per hectare, although yields in East Africa reach 2.5 tonnes.
Exept for it fibers, the sisal agave is used
as a fence to protect the farms from stray cattle .
reproduction of sisal
Sisal uses bubils to spread itself, but also runners
produced. Both can be used for new Sisal plants.
The runners are most widely used. The bubils or
runners are placed in a nursery that provides
water and weed control.
Planting of these seedlings in rows is done one
the start of the rainy season.
the history of sisal until 2011
Is was originally grown in Mexico and derives its
name from the port of Sisal, in the Yukatan peninsula.
Sisal was brought in 1893 tot Tanzania, at that time a
german colony, called Tanganyika. At independence time
in 1961 Tanzania was the world most important sisal
But sisal production shrank due to the upcome of newly
developted synthetic fibers. Those fibers were use to
produce polypropylene textiles and twine,
and were replacing the sisal fibres.
But prices for sisal fibres have gone up sharply,
at this moment the price for 1 ton of sisal agave is
more then 1500 dollar, compared to 600 dollar in 2007
Also these waste products of the sisal fibre production
attract attention. Tanzania has just (2011) started to
build a 300MWatt electricity powerplant that burns
sisal, manilla and hemp rope
Sisal rope is a natural fibre rope very similar to
manilla and hemp rope, but less strong. Both Sisal,
hemp and manilla need to be stored dry to avoid mildew.
Sisal and Manila and Hemp rope are general-purpose rope
best suited for jobs where economy, avarage strength,
and avarage durability are required. Sisal withstands
exposure to sea water very well and is often used for
Nylon and polyester rope are much stronger and
have a high resistance against abrasion.
tarred Hemp 80
the future of sisal
The future of sisal is promosing, as new fields are
waiting for the sisal fibers to conquer. Most
importantly the production is been more efficiently
done, lowering the prices of sisal fibers.
The yield of Sisal has increased from 1 tonper hectare
Sisal is integrated in the production of strong plastics
that are used in pipeline production.
Promising is it use as reinforcement in plastic
composite materials in automotive components,
The fiberglas that was used for the same purpose
has been partly replaced by sisal fibres in
Bricks can be inforced by using sisal fibers.
Other interresting products are
Industrial Alcohol (Ethanol)
Pharmaceutical products (Inulin)
Pulp and Paper (specialty paper, reinforcement)
Energy (Biogas, Electricity)
sisal producing countries 2011
Brazil is by far the most important sisal
producing countries, followed by tanzania, and Kenia
others are South Africa, India, and Mexico.
China and India are on there way to become
a important producers.
sisal in India
India is a small producer of sisal fibres. But it has
many uses for the sisal plant. Sisal covers the ground,
preventing erosion and improviong soil quality.
It also used as a fence, protecting the cattles
against predators. The railwaytracks are protected
by agave to prevent cattle from crossing.
The offspring of the production of the fibers are
biogas and vermicompost. The biogas is gas produced
by the biological breakdown of leaves of agave
in the absence of oxygen. There is much interest
in scaling up the production of sisal agave.
sisal and inulin
The leaves of sisal consist for 2 to 4% fibres,
the bole that is left over after fibre removal
consists about 24 to 34% inulin. It is relativly
easy to purify that inulin, and use it as a
fodder or for ethanol production.
Dry method for preparation of inulin biomass as a feedstock for ethanol fermentation
E Elisante, V Msemwa