SISAL HEMP, Agave fourcroyoides and sisalana. Thegrowing plants resemble the century plant, though the leaves are more slender and spear-like; they measure three and one-half to five feet long, and four to five inches wide, the general average being four to four and one-half inches. The prod uct is a structural fibre derived from the older leaves, the first cuttings for fibre being made when the plants are five years old from the date of setting out in the field. The filament is yellowish white, straight, smooth and clean, sisal ranking second to manilla in value as a cordage fibre. It is a native of Yucatan, which furnishes the bulk of the world's supply, and the Bahamas, and very recently Hawaii has contributed a little. It is found (introduced) in many parts of Mexico proper, throughout the West Indies and in Central and South America. It was introduced into Florida by Perrine, 'in 1836, and into the Bahamas by Nesbit, in 1845, Yucatan plants being used, and into Hawaii, from Florida, in 1893. The growth of the plant, experimental or other wise, has been extended to many parts of the world, commercial cultivation having been at tempted in India and on the west coast of Africa.
The commercial supply of the United States is derived mainly from Yucatan. In Florida the plants are found growing semi-wild in small tracts, both on the keys and the east and west coasts of the mainland. Small attempts have been
made from time to time to establish an indus try, but it is doubtful if the culture could be made to pay in Florida, especially in competi tion with the vast sisal hemp farms of Yuca tan. The Yucatan industry is centred at Merida, 20 miles south of Progreso, the port of shipment. On the larger farms systems of miniature railways are laid down for the trans portation of the bundles of cut leaves from the fields to the central factories, where the clean ing or scraping process is effected by power ful machines. The operation consists merely of removing the epidermis and soft cellular tissue, which leaves the fibre clean and white; it is then dried in the sun and baled for market, Sisal hemp and manila hemp make up the bulk of the hard fibre used for cordage in the United States, the larger portion of the sisal going into binder twine for binding the grain crop, though considerable rope is made from it for inland use.
Consult Special Reports (Nos. 1 and 5) ; Fi bre Investigations, Department of Agriculture; American Supplement) (No. 1,837, 2 Aug. 1902) ; Bulletins Royal Gardens, Kew; Bulletin (No. 4) Hawaiian Agricultural Ex periment Station, Honolulu; and James M. Rae, (Report on the Fibre Industry of the Ba hamas) (Nassau 1891). See BAHAMAS; COR DAGE; FIBRE; HEMP; YUCATAN.