Two birds with one stone. This is how a management of crop called totora could be described. Not only is this plant a source of material to produce various products in South America, but it is also a medic of the environment. Scientists from the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences tested the potential of the production of totora boards.
Macrophytes from the Cyperaceae family have been used by Native Americans for centuries to make mats, huts, boats, and even floating islands. It is a fast-growing plant that is harvested twice a year and can produce up to 56 tons of dry matter per hectare per year. Mowing helps remove dead material from plants, reduces methane production and promotes the growth of new shoots. The plant is productive for up to 25 years. The stands act as filters of phosphorus, nitrogen and solids. Totora wetlands have advantages such as improving water quality, low operating costs, a source of bioenergy and CO2 capture.
Scientists from our faculty were interested in the mechanical and physical properties of boards made from this crop (for production, see the picture below). Totora has a self-adhesive ability, thanks to which there is no need to use additional adhesives in the production of boards. Unfortunately, due to the high water absorption capacity, the boards swell significantly. Nevertheless, we are not "throwing boards into the totora" yet (altered Czech idiom "throw a flint into rye", which means giving up, translator 's note). Study of preliminary and additional modifications of the material and finding a suitable after-treatment could increase the water resistance of these boards and thus expand their market application.
Just imagine wetlands acting as a protection of water resources or even an industrial wastewater treatment plant and moreover as a source of biomass to produce products suitable for sustainable management. At the time of the call for unconventional sources of building materials, exploring similar alternatives is very beneficial.
Technical word for this article: phytoremediation – treatment of the environment with plants
Petra Hyskova, Milan Gaff, Juan Fernando Hidalgo-Cordero, Stepan Hysek. Composite materials from totora (Schoenoplectus californicus. C.A. Mey, Sojak): Is it worth it? Composite Structures, Volume 232, 2020, 111572, ISSN 0263-8223, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compstruct.2019.111572
Mgr. Petra Hýsková
Ms. Petra Hýsková works at the Department of Forestry and Wood Economics. In his work, she focuses on selected aspects of the use of natural materials that could replace wood in the future. To make this possible, information on product properties needs to be obtained from alternative sources.
Prepared by Lucie Hambálková