Research on to get silkworms to produce coloured silk

Hyderabad, July 31 | Updated: Aug 1 2005, 06:15am hrs
Synthetic dyeing of silk is passe. The recent trend is the use of vegetable and eco-friendly colours. Further, coloured cotton is a new venture.

Natural silk in different hues will be the next eye-catching trend and the textile mills are waiting.

The Central Sericultural Research and Training Institute (CSR&TI), Mysore, is conducting pilot studies to get the silkworms to produce coloured silk.

In the latest report on Indian Silk, it says that all-out efforts are being made in the post-cocoon sector for getting new colours and hence efforts are being initiated to get pre-cocoon experts for coloured silk.

Although researchers say that commercial silkworm strains are available which can produce greenish-yellow, yellow and golden-yellow silk but, after degumming, the colours are lost.

It is learnt that studies are being conducted in Japan, France, and Korea to introduce bio-technological methods to produce a genetically-altered green fluorescent silk fibre.

However, the work is still on and certain hurdles are yet to be overcome, adds the report. It further says that the cocoon colours are because of the presence of carotenoids, carotenes and xanthophylls derived from mulberry leaves besides the genetic constitution of silk glands.

The good news is that CSR&TI scientists have developed a method to alter the pigment in the silk gland which induces the silkworm to spin coloured silk using the principles of genetics, physiology, molecular biology and bio-chemistry.

While the initial results are promising, however, many obstacles are yet to be crossed, the report added.

The technology will help produce a natural organic fibre and permanent pigmentation which will not fade after washing or exposure to light and thus retaining original colours. The quality and price could be better than conventional silk. Efforts are also on to produce coloured cotton.

A few farms across Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh tried to produce coloured cotton.

The result was a mixed hybrid. Even while there is demand for pure white cotton, the industry is still looking at a change in favour of coloured varieties.