Collaborating with Chinese textile manufacturers

Kenyan researchers looking into textile fibre from wild fruit

Textile manufactures will soon have a new raw material to choose from alongside cotton, silk or wool; an ongoing study on Calotropis procera, a wild plant, has returned favourable results. The plant grows mainly in arid regions -like Baringo, Kajiado, Makueni, Tharaka Nithi and Turkana counties- and its fruits have been found to produce quality fibre.

The scientists are studying the ignored plant, which thrives naturally in dry climates, to explore the possibility of domesticating it for the production of fibre. Preliminary findings are that the fruits of Calotropis procera yields fibre with silk-like qualities.

“We are looking at a super fibre whose qualities fall between that of cotton and silk,” said lead researcher Dr Alice Muchugi. She heads the Genetics Resources Unit at the World Agroforestry Centre (Icraf), the agency coordinating the study. reports on the Kenyan scientists collaborating with Chinese textile manufacturers, who have already given the fibre a thumps up. “Our concern has shifted to ensuring that the supply of Calotropis procera fibre is guaranteed to meet the industrial demands and that is why we are exploring domestication of the plant,” said Dr Muchugi.

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