Determination of Triumfetta tomentosa B. Growth Parameters and Fibre Properties in Kenya
Triumfetta tomentosa B. (Fam. Tiliaceae) is an indigenous perennial shrub growing naturally in moist habitats. It is a multipurpose plant traditionally used by many communities in Kenya as a source of fodder, fiber for baskets and ropes and wood for winnowing trays. However, as population increases, the suitable habitat for the shrub is being converted into agricultural and settlement sites making T. tomentosa an endangered species. Kenya needs a cheap source of vegetable fiber in order to revive its textile industries and make industrialization a reality by the year 2030. Currently Kenya spends about Ksh 20M in imported vegetable fibres. The aim of this study was to investigate methods of cultivating T. tomentosa and processing its fibres. Seeds and cuttings were collected from Mt. Kenya and Karura forests. These were raised in nurseries at Muguga (Kenya Forestry Research Institute - KEFRI). The seedlings were transplanted after attaining about 25-40 cm in height. Three experimental sites including Embu, Meru and Muguga were used for cultivation of T. tomentosa. Random Block Design method was used at spacing of 30 cm X 30 cm and 45 cm X 45 cm in 3 replicates for each plant material. Growth in height and diameter at breath (dbh) was measured after every month until about 50% of all the plants had formed flowers. Others were subjected to retting at Egerton University to release fibres. Fiber properties were tested at Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) in Nairobi, Kenya. Descriptive statistics, Chi-square test of independence and Mann-Whitney U test of significance models were used. Cuttings from Karura had a higher shooting percentage (70%) than those from Mt. Kenya forest (40%). Plants from Embu plot gave the highest fiber yield among the three plots, while tenacity tests showed significant difference between fibres from cuttings and those from seeds. The results showed that it was easier to cultivate T. tomentosa from cuttings. Its fibres were close to those of Jute in tenacity and therefore good for making sacks, ropes and mats.