Silk Production | Sericulture

Production of Silk

Silk has been considered as one of the most elegant and luxurious of fibers. It is popularly known as the Queen of fabrics. The method of raising silk worms and removing the silk filaments from the cocoons, and of using the silk in weaving for garments was discovered by Hsi-Ling-Chi, a little Empress of China. Commercial silk is produced by the cultivated silkworm, Bombyx mori, a caterpillar, that feeds on mulberry leaves. The eggs laid by the moth are stored in winter and spread out on trays to hatch in a warm shed. Mulberry leaves are placed as soon as the worms appear, for them to eat.

What is Sericulture | Sericulture Definition

Sericulture is the cultivation of silk through rearing of silkworm. Sericulture is an agro-based industry. It involves rearing of silkworms for the production of raw silk, which is the yarn obtained out of cocoons spun by certain species of insects. The major activities of sericulture comprises of food-plant cultivation to feed the silkworms which spin silk cocoons and reeling the cocoons for unwinding the silk filament for value added benefits such as processing and weaving.
Sericulture or silk production is the breeding and management of silk worms for the commercial production of silk. In other words, sericulture deals with a series of events that include the rearing of the silkworms on mulberry plants, collection and processing of silkworm cocoons to extract raw silk fibers from them and the production of commercial silk.

Sericulture Silkworm

The silkworm is the larva or caterpillar of the domesticated silk moth, Bombyx mori. It is an economically important insect, being a primary producer of Silk. Domestic silk moths are closely dependent on humans for reproduction, as a result of millennia of selective breeding. Wild silk moths are different (having not been selectively bred) from their domestic cousins; they are not as commercially viable in the production of silk.
There are 5 major types of silk worms:
1. Mulberry: The bulk of the commercial silk produced in the world comes from this variety and often silk generally refers to mulberry silk. Mulberry silk comes from the silkworm, Bombyx mori L. which solely feeds on the leaves of mulberry plant. These silkworms are completely domesticated and reared indoors.
2. Tasar: Tasar (Tussah) is copperish colour, coarse silk mainly used for furnishings and interiors. It is less lustrous than mulberry silk, but has its own feel and appeal. Tasar silk is generated by the silkworm, Antheraea mylitta which mainly thrive on the food plants Asan and Arjun.
3. Oak Tasar: -It is a finer variety of tasar generated by the silkworm, Antheraea proyeli J. in India which feed on natural food plants of oak, found in abundance in the sub-Himalayan belt of India. Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya and Jammu & Kashmir. China is the major producer of oak tasar in the world.
4. Eri: -Also known as Endi or Errandi, Eri is a multivoltine silk spun from open-ended cocoons, unlike other varieties of silk. Eri silk is the product of the domesticated silkworm, Philosamia ricini that feeds mainly on castor leaves.
5. Muga: This golden yellow colour silk is prerogative of India and the pride of Assam state. It is obtained from semi-domesticated multivoltine silkworm, Antheraea assamensis. These silkworms feed on the aromatic leaves of Som and Soalu plants and are reared on trees similar to that of tasar. The muga silk, an high value product is used in products like sarees, mekhalas, chaddars, etc.

Process of Sericulture | What is Process of Sericulture | Post cocoon Processing in Sericulture

Commercial silk is produced by the cultivated silkworm, Bombyx mori, a caterpillar, that feeds on mulberry leaves. The eggs laid by the moth are stored in winter and spread out on trays to hatch in a warm shed. Mulberry leaves are placed as soon as the worms appear, for them to eat.
When the worm is fully grown, it starts spinning its cocoon on straw placed on the trays. The silk fluid from special glands issues from two holes, one on either side of the head, called spinnerets. The fluid hardens as it comes in contact with the air and two long fibers which are stuck together with silk gum are formed. The cocoons are heated to kill the pupa inside, otherwise the moths would destroy some of the silk. Some are allowed to become moths to provide eggs.

The manufacturing process involves Reeling, Throwing, Degumming, Weaving, Dyeing and sometimes Weighting.
1. Reeling: This is a process of unwinding the silk filament from the cocoon. The cocoons are boiled in water to soften the gum so as to unwind the filaments
2. Throwing: Throwing is a process of combining several reeled strands to make a yarn. The number of strands are twisted together to form a strong yarn.
3. Degumming: The gum left on the fibers to protect them are now removed by boiling in soap and water. Sometimes degumming is left until the fabric is woven. Weaving is carried out the same way as for other fibers.
4. Weighting: Weighting is the process of treating silk with certain metallic salts to give weight and body to the product.

Uses of Silk

Silk fabrics are noted for their soft, luxurious handle, rich luster, warmth, resilience, and crease resistance, strength and excellent draping quality. A wide range of fabrics are made ranging from sheer chiffon to firmer dress and suiting material, to heavy brocades to the rich pile velvet. Silk serves best for ceremonial occasions, evening or day wear and lingerie.

Is Sericulture Eco-friendly ?

Sericulture is eco-friendly activity, which helps the nature in return. One acre of mulberry cultivation generates employment for 5 people throughout the year. Wastes generated out of one hectare mulberry cultivation and silkworm rearing produces 5,000 kg of vermi-compost per year. As a perennial crop with good foliage and root-spread, mulberry provides green cover and contributes to soil conservation. Waste from silkworm rearing can be recycled as inputs to the mulberry garden. Being a labour intensive and predominantly agro-based activity, smoke-emitting machinery is not involved. Developmental programmes initiated for mulberry plantation are mainly in upland areas, vacant lands, hill slopes where un-used cultivable land is made productive and also in watershed areas due to its deep-rooted perennial nature.

Sericulture Industry in India

Though sericulture is ideally suited for improving the rural economy of the country, as it is practiced as a subsidiary industry to agriculture, it is hindered by various factors like imports of cheap and alternative textiles from other Asian neighbors, use of outdated manufacturing technology, primitive and unscientific “reeling” and “weaving” techniques, use of poor quality seeds, low production of bivoltine seeds, use of non-graded and diseased seeds, poor knowledge of farm disease amongst farmers, poor supply chain management ,huge unorganized and decentralized sector, high production cost, recurring droughts and increased import of silk from China and accompanied with the following problems like:
1. Price fluctuation
2. Absence of proper market
3. Long distance to market
4. Lack of transport facilities
5. Absence of storage facilities
6. Poor information on market trend
7. Lack of finance

Sericulture in Tamilnadu

Tamil Nadu is one of the leading States in bivoltine silk production in India. The weaving sector of Tamil Nadu comprises mostly of handlooms. Kancheepuram, Arani, Kumbakonam, Salem, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tirunelveli are important weaving centres in the State. The handloom silk sarees including Kancheepuram silk sarees produced in Tamil Nadu are world famous because of their enchanting craftsmanship. Silk sarees produced in Kancheepuram, Arani & Thirubuvanam and Venpattu dhoties produced in Salem are very unique and have got authorization to use geoindex number.

Importance of Silk Industry
  1. High Employment Potential
    2. Important Agro-based Enterprise Adding Value in Villages
    3. Low Gestation, Low Investment and High Returns
    4. Women Friendly Occupation
    5. Ideal Programme for Weaker Sections of the Society
    6. Eco-friendly Activity
Central Sericulture Research and Training Institute, Berhampore

CSR&TI, Berhampore is a premier research station established during early 1943 to provide the research and development support for promotion of silk industry in the Eastern and Northeastern region. Presently, it functions under the administrative control of Central Silk Board, a statutory body under the ministry of textiles, Govt. of India. The institute conducts research in all aspects of sericulture from soil to silk. Vested with the mandate to conduct research, it has made remarkable research break through and outstanding contributions for the overall development of silk industry in the region.
Visit CSRTI Website

Central Silk Board, Banglore

Central Silk Board works for
* Make continuous efforts in Research and Development and Technology Transfer
* To create greater opportunities for gainful employment and improved levels of income in sericulture
* through spread of scientific sericulture practices
* To improve productivity in all stages of silk production
* Strengthen levels of efficiency through a commitment to quality.
Visit CSB Website