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Cantala Fiber Properties and Uses

Cantala Fiber Properties and Uses

Cantala, (Agave cantala), a plant of the family Asparagaceae, and its fiber, belonging to the leaf fiber group. We will discuss about Cantala Fiber Properties and Uses.

Origin and geographic distribution


Cantala almost certainly originated in Mexico, where it is now rare. It was brought by the Spanish from Mexico to the Philippines; Indonesia, and Malaysia, where it later evolved into a fiber crop. Cantala fiber industries developed in the 19th Century in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Cantala was introduced by European traders into southern Asia; specifically, India, where it was planted initially as a hedge and fence plant and to control erosion in some areas. Only later did it become a source of fiber.

It naturalized in tropical Asia centuries ago and is now common in South and South-East Asia from India to the Philippines. Cantala is also cultivated as a fiber plant in the Bahamas and grows in Pakistan; Iran (uncommonly), Tanzania, and Fernando Po.

Cantala Fiber-Properties


Cantala leaves, like those of other Agave species, contain 2 types of fibers: mechanical fibers; mainly concentrated in the peripheral zone beneath the epidermis; and ribbon fibers, associated with the vascular bundles and more strongly developed in the median line. The fiber bundles in the peripheral zone of the leaf are horseshoe-shaped in other Agave species; but more irregularly oval in A. cantala . Cantala leaves yield 3-6% of white fiber.

The fiber strands may be over 1 m long. The ultimate fiber cells are (1.0-)2.4(-5.0) mm long, with a diameter of (16-)20-30(-37) μm, a lumen width of (4-)11(-17) μm and a cell wall thickness of (6-)8(-10) μm.

The Runkel ratio is 1.15-)1.35(-2.87). The fiber contains approximately 64-71% α-cellulose, 7-17% lignin and 1-2% ash.

Cottonized fiber can be blended with acrylic or polyester fiber and spun into industrial yarns used in the production of, for example, wall-coverings, upholstery and bags. Cantala fiber can be pulped for the production of, for instance, wrapping paper, heavy-duty bags and wallboards.

Cantala leaves contain steroidal saponins (glycosides of sapogenins) based on sapogenins such as hecogenin, tigogenin, neotigogenin, β-sitosterol, gitogenin, chlorogenin and manogenin. Hecogenin can be used as a precursor in the partial synthesis of corticosteroids, but tigogenin is considered a contaminant of hecogenin. The hecogenin content of waste material after the fiber extraction of cantala leaves is 0.3-0.5%.

Uses of Cantala Fiber


Cantala leaves are a source of fiber, which is known as “cantala”, “kantala” or “cantula” fiber and locally as “Manila maguey”, “Manila aloe”, “Philippine maguey” (Philippines), “Java sisal” (Indonesia), “Indian sisal” and “Bombay aloe” (India).

It belongs to the “hard fibers” of commerce, together with e.g. abaca ( Musa textilis Née) and sisal ( A. sisalana Perrine). This fiber is made into baskets, hammocks, bags, sandals, carpets, rugs, doormats, sacks and cordage, of which binder twine is the most important. The fiber has also been used in fishing gear.

Cantala Fiber

In the Philippines, this fiber is usually blended with abaca fiber in the manufacture of ropes, carpets, binder twine, and fishing nets, and also of slippers, flowers, and other decorative items. It has been used for pulp manufacturing, but because of supply problems production was short-lived.

For centuries cantala has served in Java (Indonesia) as hedges to protect homesteads or fields from grazing animals. The shoot buds, cut into pieces, are eaten as a cooked vegetable in Java. In Mexico cantala is cultivated for the production of the alcoholic drink “pulque” and fleshy leaves are also used as fodder.


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