Palmyrah Leaf based Products – Palmyrah Development Board – Sri Lanka

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Leaf lamina

Leaves of all ages from the ivory coloured young leaves to the brown coloured dead leaves of palmyrah are used. In the past the thin whitish young leaves were used as paper for writing notes, memoirs, letters etc. The dead leaves with the lamina, petiole and the basal sheath are always used as domestic fuel in the villages. The lamina region is used to manure paddy fields in some regions.

The mature green leaves, cut down from the palm are used for thatching and for fencing. The leaves have to be dried and the lamina stretched and flattened out before they could be used for the above purposes.

Usually the cut leaves were allowed to air dry for a day or two. Then the leaves are trampled with the feet to stretch the frond and arranged in a line on the ground in two close rows, putting one over the other (partly overlapping). After about 2 days, the Fence constructed from palmyrah leaf leaves with the petiole can be used for fencing. If it is for thatching,

then they are usually arranged in a circle in several layers and finally heavy weights are kept over the heap of leaves to flatten the frond. It is usually kept in this position for about 2 weeks. Some cut the petioles when thatching and others thatching with the stalks. A more compact fence is made by closely arranging the leaf petioles vertically. ln the Island of Timor (Indonesia), the petioles are arranged horizontally fitting one into the other in the form of a woven fence. In Jaffna, the partly stretched leaves (after remaining on the ground for 2 days) are used straight away for fencing. During fencing one leaf is placed at an angle, the next one at spacing of 30 cm is placed vertically over it. This is repeated and the leaves are held in position by binding using petioles and tying with the ‘naar’ strips.

The first two tender unexpanded whitish leaves and the next 12 young green leaves are used for making various handicrafts. The whitish tender leaves are used for making soft fine handicrafts while the young green leaves are used for making stronger, but coarse textured utility items like mats, baskets, packaging material, inner lining of heavy duty fibre baskets etc. In India, the mature leaf strips are woven into packaging materials to store and transport, dried fish, fresh fish, fruits, processed tamarind, yams and even ice. Experiments conducted at the department of Botany University of jaffna have indicated that, more whitish leaves can be produced by covering some of the young leaves with a bag or cardboard material preventing light entering the leaves. Growing leaves covered in this manner for two or more months produced light coloured almost whitish (etiolated) leaves.

The usual practice is to remove only2 tender leaves per year, but it this method is applied, it will be possible to obtain more such leaves. The tender leaves after sun drying are wrapped in gunny bags and store in a warm room to prevent discolouration and development of moulds. In India, the leaf products are fumigated over night by burning turmeric powder to retain the natural white colour. One of the problems with the leaf products is that, they discolour with time and become more brittle. Brittleness seems to increase with time due to loss of moisture and this could be prevented by giving some protective coating on the surface of the leaves. Treating the leaves with 5% sodium pentachlorophenate  +0.1% Lissapol (wetting agent) for about 20 minutes followed by 5% Zinc Sulphate for 5 minutes gave satisfactory results in preventing fungal attack, discolouration and brittleness. Their studies also showed that basic dyes like Malachite green (green colour), Bismarck brown (brown colour), Methylene blue (blue colour), Chlorazol orange (orange colour), Congo red (red colour) are good for dying leaves.

The palmyrah leaf based handicrafts are well developed in India. They produce a wide range of articles and they maintain a high quality showing some of the products from India). This is observed at the Manapad handicraft centre, managed by the Manapad Women Workers Palm leaf Industrial Co-operative Society Limited. This society is assisted by the Church of the area and has been sending regular in export orders to “OXFAM" in England and to a few other establishments in (Nam- – Tam") Scotland. Leaf based handicrafts are not well developed in Indonesia except in East Nusa Tengara region where handicraft items, such as hats, baskets, boxes etc. are being made. A musical instrument somewhat like a harp is made from the mature leaf in Timor.

ln Sri Lanka, the traditional palmyrah leaf articles like mats, baskets, storage boxes of different sizes, strainers, winnow, trays to dry food material, are still popular and are used in most households particularly in the North and East. Quite a number of fishermen still transport fresh fish in large woven baskets made out of tender leaves. Dried fish and tobacco are still transported long distances in packages made out of palmyrah leaf. · Only recently the PDB has started training centres to popularize the production of other handicraft items like hats, handbags, fruit trays, bottle covers and other fancy items.

The average fresh weight of lamina of a single leaf is about 1.9kg. On an average a palm has 40 leaves and the total weight of green matter available for cattle feed from a palm is around 76kg. The mature leaf (lamina) is a good source of forage for cattle, especially in areas where there is scarcity of grass and other leafy materials. In some parts of Jaffna, the farmers depend solely on palmyrah to feed their cattle. About 4 leaves are enough to feed one cow per day. In this region palms are pruned regularly to obtain leaves for various purposes. Two methods of pruning are practiced on palmyrah; one is a hard pruning where most of the leaves are cut, leaving only 3-4 young leaves at the top of the crown. In other method, which is a moderate pruning where only about 12 of the oldest green leaves are cut. Hard pruning is done once in 2 or 3 years in regions where there is no tapping while moderate pruning is practiced in other places.

The leaf lamina, which is relished by cattle, provide a forage yield (6500 kg/ha), comparable to the finest forage legumes like alfalfa and Ipil-ipil. When feeding, the lamina of the fresh leaf is cut from the petiole and all the midribs are removed leaving the strips of leaf blade. These are again split into smaller strips and shredded. At present no attempts have been made to convert the leaf into an animal feed, which can be stored.

Leaf petiole

The petiole of the palmyrah leaf, which is about 90 to 120 cm in length, is a fibrous material. The entire petiole is used as fencing material or as domestic fuel. It is also a source of fibre (‘naar`) where the yellow shiny skin on the inner flat surface of the petiole, from freshly cut leaves is peeled off. The peel with some of the inner spongy fibres still attached is used as a crude tying material. Usually the peel is sized into long narrow strips before using.

In centres where the `naar’ is processed for other uses, number of peels is bundled together and air- dried for 2 days. If not bundled

they bend upon drying. If it is necessary to store the fibre peels for sometime, then they are covered with gunny bags to prevent discolouration and further drying. When the dried peels are used, they are soaked in water for 1/2 hour to 1 hour and the soft inner fibres are neatly removed using a sharp knife. Then the peel is sized to strips of long fibre of different width using sizing tools.. Wide strips of about 2 – 3 cm are used for making heavy duty loading and transporting baskets, while narrow strips of about 0.5 – 1 cm are used for weaving rattan, in making a number of utility items like shopping baskets, drivers seat rests, chairs, beds etc.

The average weight of 100 dried “naar" strips of about 5.0kg. The shiny rather stiff posterior region of the petiole is also stripped and sized to provide edges for various baskets. The fibre of the spongy centre core of the leaf stalk is again used as tying material, commonly used for various agricultural operations like tying of animals, bundling of hay grass etc.

Attempts were made to extract the fibres from the petiole with the view to use them like the fibres of the coconut husk. Yield of up to  15% after retting the petioles in water for nearly 2 months. The tensile strength of the fibre was found to be much lower than coconut fibre and he suggested that these fibres might be used only as filling material for cushions.

Leaf ribs ('Eekil')

then they are usually arranged in a circle in several layers and finally heavy weights are kept over the heap of leaves to flatten the frond. It is usually kept in this position for about 2 weeks. Some cut the petioles when thatching and others thatching with the stalks. A more compact fence is made by closely arranging the leaf petioles vertically. ln the Island of Timor (Indonesia), the petioles are arranged horizontally fitting one into the other in the form of a woven fence. In Jaffna, the partly stretched leaves (after remaining on the ground for 2 days) are used straight away for fencing. During fencing one leaf is placed at an angle, the next one at spacing of 30 cm is placed vertically over it. This is repeated and the leaves are held in position by binding using petioles and tying with the ‘naar’ strips.

The first two tender unexpanded whitish leaves and the next 12 young green leaves are used for making various handicrafts. The whitish tender leaves are used for making soft fine handicrafts while the young green leaves are used for making stronger, but coarse textured utility items like mats, baskets, packaging material, inner lining of heavy duty fibre baskets etc. In India, the mature leaf strips are woven into packaging materials to store and transport, dried fish, fresh fish, fruits, processed tamarind, yams and even ice. Experiments conducted at the department of Botany University of jaffna have indicated that, more whitish leaves can be produced by covering some of the young leaves with a bag or cardboard material preventing light entering the leaves. Growing leaves covered in this manner for two or more months produced light coloured almost whitish (etiolated) leaves.

The usual practice is to remove only2 tender leaves per year, but it this method is applied, it will be possible to obtain more such leaves. The tender leaves after sun drying are wrapped in gunny bags and store in a warm room to prevent discolouration and development of moulds. In India, the leaf products are fumigated over night by burning turmeric powder to retain the natural white colour. One of the problems with the leaf products is that, they discolour with time and become more brittle. Brittleness seems to increase with time due to loss of moisture and this could be prevented by giving some protective coating on the surface of the leaves. Treating the leaves with 5% sodium pentachlorophenate  +0.1% Lissapol (wetting agent) for about 20 minutes followed by 5% Zinc Sulphate for 5 minutes gave satisfactory results in preventing fungal attack, discolouration and brittleness. Their studies also showed that basic dyes like Malachite green (green colour), Bismarck brown (brown colour), Methylene blue (blue colour), Chlorazol orange (orange colour), Congo red (red colour) are good for dying leaves.

The palmyrah leaf based handicrafts are well developed in India. They produce a wide range of articles and they maintain a high quality showing some of the products from India). This is observed at the Manapad handicraft centre, managed by the Manapad Women Workers Palm leaf Industrial Co-operative Society Limited. This society is assisted by the Church of the area and has been sending regular in export orders to “OXFAM" in England and to a few other establishments in (Nam- – Tam") Scotland. Leaf based handicrafts are not well developed in Indonesia except in East Nusa Tengara region where handicraft items, such as hats, baskets, boxes etc. are being made. A musical instrument somewhat like a harp is made from the mature leaf in Timor.

ln Sri Lanka, the traditional palmyrah leaf articles like mats, baskets, storage boxes of different sizes, strainers, winnow, trays to dry food material, are still popular and are used in most households particularly in the North and East. Quite a number of fishermen still transport fresh fish in large woven baskets made out of tender leaves. Dried fish and tobacco are still transported long distances in packages made out of palmyrah leaf. · Only recently the PDB has started training centres to popularize the production of other handicraft items like hats, handbags, fruit trays, bottle covers and other fancy items.

The average fresh weight of lamina of a single leaf is about 1.9kg. On an average a palm has 40 leaves and the total weight of green matter available for cattle feed from a palm is around 76kg. The mature leaf (lamina) is a good source of forage for cattle, especially in areas where there is scarcity of grass and other leafy materials. In some parts of Jaffna, the farmers depend solely on palmyrah to feed their cattle. About 4 leaves are enough to feed one cow per day. In this region palms are pruned regularly to obtain leaves for various purposes. Two methods of pruning are practiced on palmyrah; one is a hard pruning where most of the leaves are cut, leaving only 3-4 young leaves at the top of the crown. In other method, which is a moderate pruning where only about 12 of the oldest green leaves are cut. Hard pruning is done once in 2 or 3 years in regions where there is no tapping while moderate pruning is practiced in other places.

The leaf lamina, which is relished by cattle, provide a forage yield (6500 kg/ha), comparable to the finest forage legumes like alfalfa and Ipil-ipil. When feeding, the lamina of the fresh leaf is cut from the petiole and all the midribs are removed leaving the strips of leaf blade. These are again split into smaller strips and shredded. At present no attempts have been made to convert the leaf into an animal feed, which can be stored.

Leaf petiole

The petiole of the palmyrah leaf, which is about 90 to 120 cm in length, is a fibrous material. The entire petiole is used as fencing material or as domestic fuel. It is also a source of fibre (‘naar`) where the yellow shiny skin on the inner flat surface of the petiole, from freshly cut leaves is peeled off. The peel with some of the inner spongy fibres still attached is used as a crude tying material. Usually the peel is sized into long narrow strips before using.

In centres where the `naar’ is processed for other uses, number of peels is bundled together and air- dried for 2 days. If not bundled

they bend upon drying. If it is necessary to store the fibre peels for sometime, then they are covered with gunny bags to prevent discolouration and further drying. When the dried peels are used, they are soaked in water for 1/2 hour to 1 hour and the soft inner fibres are neatly removed using a sharp knife. Then the peel is sized to strips of long fibre of different width using sizing tools.. Wide strips of about 2 – 3 cm are used for making heavy duty loading and transporting baskets, while narrow strips of about 0.5 – 1 cm are used for weaving rattan, in making a number of utility items like shopping baskets, drivers seat rests, chairs, beds etc.

The average weight of 100 dried “naar" strips of about 5.0kg. The shiny rather stiff posterior region of the petiole is also stripped and sized to provide edges for various baskets. The fibre of the spongy centre core of the leaf stalk is again used as tying material, commonly used for various agricultural operations like tying of animals, bundling of hay grass etc.

Attempts were made to extract the fibres from the petiole with the view to use them like the fibres of the coconut husk. Yield of up to  15% after retting the petioles in water for nearly 2 months. The tensile strength of the fibre was found to be much lower than coconut fibre and he suggested that these fibres might be used only as filling material for cushions.

Leaf ribs (‘Eekil’)

Eekil is actually the fibrous ribs of the palmate segments of the frond. The number of such eekils per leaf varies from 60 to 80 and the length varies for 50 — 100 cm. The small ones are found at the two ends of the fan shaped leaf and are usually discarded. The long eekil is about 3 mm wide and 1.5 mm thick and 100 such long dried eekils weigh about 290 g. Palmyrah eekil is tough but flexible and can be woven to make various handicrafts. They are used predominantly for making baskets, winnows, and trays. Shorter lengths of the eekil are also used in brush making. These are also dyed red, brown or black.

Palmyrah Leaf based production related video