Potential of totora and derivatives as sustainable lignocellulosic material
J F Hidalgo-Cordero, D Casado, J García, L Robertson, M T Troya
Totora (Schoenoplectus californicus C.A. Mey. Soják) is a macrophyte from the Cyperaceae family that grows in the Americas from California to Chile. This plant has long been used by several cultures such as the Ohlone in California, the Moche in Peru, or the Incas in Los Andes. Some communities have maintained its traditional use until the present, such as the communities living nearby Lake San Pablo in Ecuador, or those living nearby Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia. The most remarkable current example of totora use are in the Uros islands by Lake Titicaca. The Uros people have been using this plant for more than 500 years to build a wide range of objects from handicrafts to huts, and even the floating islands where they live. Some studies have shown the potential benefits of totora from a sustainability point of view. It is worth mentioning totora´s fast growing rate, which can be up to 56 t/ha/year of dry matter in rich substrates; that it can grow from the sea level to 4000 m.a.s.l.; and that it can grow in fresh water or estuaries; among other benefits.
Despite the long tradition about the use of this plant as well as the previously mentioned potential benefits, its use in the contemporary context is still limited. The aim of this study was to evaluate the durability of the raw material and its derivatives against common wood-decaying organisms in accordance with the respective European Standards.
Results have shown that although the raw material was not classified as durable, binderless fiberboards produced by using a hot-press forming process showed higher durability. These results may indicate the feasibility of using totora as a traditional material in contemporary applications with bio-economic and sustainable benefits.