Scientists find use for noxious Lantana weed as composite

World Environment Day today

Scientists find use for noxious Lantana weed as composite

Lantana, considered one of the world’s most invasive weed, has been plaguing many parts of the country, including animal reserves and sanctuaries, with the failure of extermination measures.

A group of City scientists has now found an economically viable way of weeding out the plants: By using them in composites which can be used to make doors and window frames and also for decking.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Ajay Karmarkar, scientist at the Institute of Wood Sciences and Technology (IWST), said: “This weed is found in many parts of India, including Karnataka. A study we have just concluded has shown that it can be used in developing a composite which, in turn, can be used to make doors and window frames and also used for decking in houses, pavements and walkways.”

He pointed out that the composite made by combining Lantana and polymer (plastic) had all the structural features that allows it to be used to make frames and for decking. Karmarkar said Lantana, in fact, had properties very similar to wood. Last year, the institute had developed a composite, mixing wood and plastic. S C Joshi, Director, IWST, says that the achievement is laudable as wood and plastic were considered to be like water and oil, impossible to combine.

The scientists had managed to develop the composite using nanotechnology. “Even with Lantana, we pulverised the stem and combined it with plastic, using the same technology,” Karmarkar said, adding that the composite, compared to traditional wood, is maintenance-free.

“There is no fixed price for this at the moment. It may not be as cheap as wood today, but maintenance is certainly cheaper. Once a market is created for this, the prices will come down,” Karmarkar said.

The project involving Lantana will take a conclusive shape in about six months, when a new facility will become operational in the institute in Malleswaram here, for which the governments of Tripura and Punjab have agreed to contribute Rs 50 lakh each.

“While the Government of Tripura is interested in the use of bamboo in making the composite, it was the government of Punjab that sent us samples of Lantana, which we used in our study. Punjab has been struggling to deal with Lantana and this will certainly help them, given that they can generate money and create employment while making products using this composite,” Karmarkar said.

In India, Lantana is spread widely over Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and the north-eastern states, while Karnataka has seen the spread of the weed in many areas, including Male Mahadeshwara Hills.

Interviews with Soligas in Karnataka have revealed that the weed has had negative effects on the ecosystem and their livelihood. The Gujarat government has, since 2011, been trying to weed out Lantana from the Gir Sanctuary as it has affected the growth of local plants, affecting the herbivorous population, which in turn had its effects on lions.

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