SFI Tanzania Ltd cultivates the sisal hybrid 11648. Sisal is a plant of the Agave family (Agave sisalana) and consists of a rosette of sword-shaped leaves about 1.5 to 2 metres tall. The leaves contain valuable fibres, which account for only 2 - 4% of the plant weight. After a period of eight to ten years the mature plant sends up a central flower stalk, also referred to as a pole, reaching about 6 metres in height. Flowers form dense clusters at the ends of branches growing from the flower stalk. As the flowers begin to wither, buds develop into small plants, also called bulbils, that fall to the ground and take root. The old plant dies when flowering is completed. Able to sustain quite extended periods of drought, sisal is a hardy plant that can prosper in areas of limited rainfall.
Propagation of sisal is generally by using bulbils produced from buds in the flower stalk or by suckers growing around the base of the plant, with bulbils being the preferred method for nursery establishment by SFI Tanzania Ltd. After twelve to eighteen months in nursery conditions, young plants are planted out in the field, usually at a density of approximately 3000 plants per hectare. A first “cut” or harvest is taken 24 to 36 months after field planting and harvesting then continues every six to nine months thereafter throughout the plants’ remaining life.