Properties of decorticated agave americana “marginata” fibres of different leaf levels from Lanet and Tigoni, Kenya.
Mbugua, Gladwell W
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Natural fibres have intrinsic properties: mechanical strength, low weight and low cost. These properties have made natural fibres important especially to the automotive industry. The leaves of Agave plants are rich in textile fibres and the most common species include the agave sisalana, agave americana and agave anguistifolia. The agave americana “Marginata” is the most common variegated plant and is widely cultivated for its aesthetic appearance and has commercial and industrial potential. This study aimed at analysing the physical, mechanical and chemical properties of decorticated agave americana “Marginata” fibres from three plant leaf levels from Lanet and Tigoni areas. The results of this study could contribute to the development of new textile options in Kenya. The findings generated data that can be used as reference for future research. For the purpose of this study, the leaves were purposively harvested from each plant ensuring they were sampled from three levels in both locations. The leaves were then subjected to a decortication process to extract the fibres and randomly assigned to experimental tests. Descriptive statistics and Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) were utilized in analysis to establish whether there was any significant difference in fibre properties. Results in this study established that there was significant difference in fibre length across the three levels in Tigoni and Lanet at p < 0.05 (p=0.0015) and (p=0.0051) respectively. The mean lengths of fibres from both locations showed no statistical difference. The findings therefore confirmed that the fibre length is not dependent upon the location where the plant is grown but on the leaf position on the plant. It was further observed that the linear density of raw fibres from Tigoni was significantly different across the levels (p < 0.05, p=0.0073). However fibres from Lanet were not significantly different in linear density across the three levels (p=0.0945). There was significant difference in tenacity between fibres harvested from the three levels in Tigoni and Lanet at p < 0.05 (p=0.0177) and (p=0.0004) respectively. However comparing the mean tenacity from the two locations, it was found that it was not significantly different (p ≥ 0.05, p=0.5009). The average force required to break fibres from the three levels from Tigoni was significantly different while that for Lanet was not significantly different across the levels. The results also indicate that the fibres are hydrophilic. There was a minimum difference in pectin and lignin content in fibres within the levels and locations. Hemicellulose content reduced as leaf age increased in both locations. Application of dyes had minimal effect on mechanical properties, therefore statistically there was no significant difference between the raw and dyed fibres. Colourfastness to light, rubbing and washing was satisfactory in the case of most of the dyes used in this study. From the research findings, it can be concluded that the locations did not have much influence on the fibre properties, though both locations were ideal for healthy plant growth. However the fibre properties were influenced by the position of leaf on the plant. The fibres could be dyed effectively with most dyes because the dyed fibres performed well in most tests for colourfastness. This study recommends cultivation of the plant by farmers as a commercial crop for its economic potential and to reduce over-reliance on imports by textile industries. This study recommends further research focussing on properties of agave americana “Marginata” fibres extracted during two different seasons (dry and wet) and also at different stages of plant growth.