Is abaca the future fibers? Abacá binomial name Musa textilis, is a species of banana native to the Philippines

Is abaca the future fibers? Abacá binomial name Musa textilis, is a species of banana native to the Philippines, the plant, also known as Manila hemp, has great economic importance, being harvested for its fiber, extracted from the leaf-stems. The abacá plant is stoloniferous, meaning that the plant produces runners or shoots along the ground that then root at each segment. Cutting and transplanting rooted runners is the primary technique for creating new plants, since seed growth is substantially slower. Abacá has a “false trunk” or pseudostem about 6–15 inches (15–38 cm) in diameter. The leaf stalks (petioles) are expanded at the base to form sheaths that are tightly wrapped together to form the pseudostem. There are from 12 to 25 leaves, dark green on the top and pale green on the underside, sometimes with large brown patches. They are oblong in shape with a deltoid base. They grow in succession. The petioles grow to at least 1 foot (30 cm) in length.

When the plant is mature, the flower stalk grows up inside the pseudostem. The male flower has five petals, each about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) long. The leaf sheaths contain the valuable fiber. After harvesting, the coarse fibers range in length from 6–12 feet (180–370 cm) long. They are composed primarily of cellulose, lignin, and pectin. The fruit, which is inedible and is rarely seen as harvesting occurs before the plant fruits, grows to about 2–3 inches (5.1–7.6 cm) in length and 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. It has black turbinate seeds that are 0.167 inches (0.42 cm) in diameter. Uses of abaca Due to its strength, it is a sought after product and is the strongest of the natural fibers. It is used by the paper industry for such specialty uses such as tea bags, banknotes and decorative papers. It can be used to make handcrafts such as bags, carpets, clothing and furniture. Abacá rope is very durable, flexible and resistant to salt water damage, allowing its use in hawsers, ship’s lines and fishing nets. A 1 inch (2.5 cm) rope can require 4 metric tons (8,800 lb) to break. Abacá fiber was once used primarily for rope, but this application is now of minor significance. Lupis is the finest quality of abacá. Sinamay is woven chiefly from abacá. The inner fibers are used in the making of hats, including the “Manila hats,” hammocks, matting, cordage, ropes, coarse twines, and types of canvas. It is called Manila hemp in the market although it is unlike true hemp, and is also known as Cebu hemp and Davao hemp. Abacá cloth is found in museum collections around the world, like the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Textile Museum of Canada.

Philippine indigenous tribes still weave abaca-based textiles like t’nalak, made by the Tiboli tribe of South Cotabato, and dagmay, made by the Bagobo people. Cultibation of the plant is normally grown in well-drained loamy soil, using rhizomes planted at the start of the rainy season. In addition, new plants can be started by seeds. Growers harvest abacá fields every three to eight months after an initial growth period of 12–25 months. Harvesting is done by removing the leaf-stems after flowering but before fruit appears. The plant loses productivity between 15 and 40 years. The slopes of volcanoes provide a preferred growing environment. Harvesting generally includes several operations involving the leaf sheaths, tuxying (separation of primary and secondary sheath), stripping (getting the fibers) and drying (usually following the tradition of sun-drying).

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