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KAU identifies 12 natural dyes for textiles usage

The Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) University has identified 12 indigenous plants for manufacturing natural textile dyes. A study by the College of Agriculture (CoA), Vellayani, as a part of the Western Ghat Development Programme (WGDP), identified 12 indigenous plants capable of giving colour to cotton and silk textiles. This will provide an organic option for dyeing.

KAU has been looking at industrial production of natural dyes for textile industry. The technology for using these plants for commercial textile industry has been standardised under another research project sponsored by the RKVY (Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana). The technology will be of great value in the development of eco-friendly and safe clothing, especially for newborns and people allergic to synthetic dyes.

The KAU has not revealed the names of the plants owing to patent issues. Plant dyes were used for garment dyeing and wall paintings till the advent of synthetic dyes in the 16th century.

The biochemical properties of these natural dye compounds had also been deciphered, which would help identify the biomolecules in them. Going back to the safer, cheaper, and durable natural plant dyes would also help the ecosystem and the lives of workers in dye manufacturing industry, he added.

Kerala, especially the Western Ghats region, is gifted with a wide array of plants for manufacturing natural textile dyes. There is also a treasure of traditional knowledge on temple wall paintings and in colouring traditional mats, among the rural and tribal people, says P. Indira Devi, Director of Research.

The 12 natural dyes with five different mordants, of which three are natural, have been screened. All silk and cotton materials dyed with these pigments have been tested in SITRA (South Indian Textile Research Laboratory) for colour fastness to light and stability to washing. Through this analysis, combinations of natural dye and natural mordant with good stability have been identified, says V G Jayalakshmi, Principal Investigator.