Termite response to Agricultural Fiber Composites: Bagasse

IRG/WP 05-10549

J K Grace

Bagasse, or sugarcane rind, is a fibrous by-product of sugar extraction from sugarcane, Saccharum officinarum L. Bagasse fiber performs similarly to hardwood fiber in composite board products. In laboratory studies, Formosan subterranean termites survived as well on a diet of Bagasse as on Douglas-fir wood. Field tests with a compressed Bagasse panel (produced by heat extrusion) indicated that termites readily penetrated the acrylic/vinyl latex coating on the panel, and tunnelled throughout the interior Bagasse fibers. Treatment of the fibers with disodium octaborate tetrahydrate did not prevent the termite penetration of the panel exterior. Subsequent moisture sorption by the fibers led to rapid swelling and deformation of the panels. A dimensionally stable, high density Bagasse particleboard was also evaluated in laboratory tests. No swelling was noted, although the particleboard was readily penetrated and consumed by Formosan subterranean termites, and mold growth was also noted on the test wafers. In recent years, high-profile Bagasse board production facilities were opened in both Louisiana and Hawaii, only to close shortly thereafter. Bagasse may have more market potential in a value-added, preservative treated product than as a low-end commodity competing with comparable wood products.


Keywords: Coptotermes formosanus, Formosan subterranean termite, Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane

Conference: 05-04-24/28 Bangalore, India


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