June 23, 2024


Marketing Needs Experts

KENAF – An Alternative Crop For Tropical and Temperate Agriculture

Introduction To The Plant That Can Stop The Cutting Of Old Growth Forests

Hibiscus cannabinus L., kenaf is a warm season annual closely related to cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) and okra (Abelmoschus esculentus L.).

Kenaf can be used as a domestic supply of cordage fiber in the manufacture of rope, twine, carpet backing and burlap. Research, in the early 1940s, focused on the development of high-yielding anthracnose-resistant varieties, cultural practices and harvesting machinery.

Kenaf Fiber is an ideal PLANT BASED and renewable source of fiber that has many characteristics of both wood fiber and plant fiber. Kenaf has many uses including textile fiber and woodfiber characteristics. The resultant fibers are extremely strong and very durable. Kenaf has many uses including:.

Pulp, paper and cardboard (from wet way process).

Standard newsprint containing between 90% and 100% chemi-thermo-mechanical pulp.

Standard newsprint from mixes of KTMP pulp and de-inked pulp from retted paper.

Newsprint from mixes of kenaf thermo-mechanical pulp (KTMP) and wood pulp from Southern Pine.

Super-calendered writing and printing paper from mixtures containing KTMP pulp.

Various types of writing and printing paper containing KTMP.

Fine coated paper from mixtures containing KTMP.

Various types of tissue paper containing KTMP pulp.

Sulphate pulp (Kraft) from the whole kenaf stem and from separated fibres.

Chemical pulp from the whole kenaf stem or from separated fibres obtained using processes other than Kraft.

Linerboard, corrugated board made from kenaf pulp (from mechanical or chemical processes using both the whole kenaf stem or separated fibres).

Lining for roofs in feltpaper.

Hardboard panels made from whole stems or separated fibres.

Cellulose for chemical uses.

Handmade art paper from whole kenaf stems or just from separated fibres.

Panels (dry processes using moldable fibre mattresses).

Moldable fibre mattresses for industrial uses from Kenaf bast fibre.

Natural molded fibres for interior panels for cars and planes.

Rigid molded products: boxes, trays, drums, pallets etc. for the packing, stowage and shipment of industrial products.

Pressed board and other materials for use in the furniture and construction industries.

Compressed insulating panels.

Decorative wall panels.

Linings in compressed fibre for doors and other decorative applications (architectural).

Traditional cordage uses

Padding material (to substitute jute and kenaf imported from Asia).

String, rope and cord to substitute imported cordage.

Material for mattresses and furniture.

Bast fibre mattresses impregnated with grass seeds and absorbent agents for “instant lawns”.

Bast fibre mattresses combined with spray mulching products to control terrain erosion.

Mass uses as absorbent agent.

Animal litter.

Horticulture and flower-growing products.

Cleaning up of liquid leakages from plants in industrial areas.

Cleaning of industrial flooring.

Additive for drilling muds in oil wells.

Filtering products.


Packing materials.

Inert, natural and biodegradable filler, used instead of polystyrene foam.

Wrapping for gifts and handicraft products.

Natural fuels.

Biomass for burning in various forms (powder, core fibre and waste in general).

Right now all over the world about 1,700,000 acres of kenaf are being grown. That is usually grown by a small holder and backyard growers. China has over 250,000 acres but is planning to grow millions of acres of kenaf. For millennia kenaf has been used for rope, food, twine and sackcloth. Kenaf combines environmentalism with the vast need for the most important component of civilized society, paper. At the same time it can help mitigate climate change being driven by deforestation. It’s a win-win plant.

Kenaf continues to be used in Africa and Asia as a cordage crop, processed in the same way for over 4000 years. However, in 2008, kenaf has come of age in the developed world because of a juxtaposition of many factors including global warming, extensive planetary deforestation, high energy prices and extreme weather developing throughout our planet. As a result of these factors the need for an environmentally sound alternative to the use of wood based fibers has grown and will continue to accelerate in the indefinite future.

For many years, kenaf was considered just an environmental novelty, mostly used by so called ecofanatics. They purchased kenaf as an ecopaper, because they did not want to buy paper made from chips from Old Growth Forest. Many people did not really believe in the possibility of global warming and the contributing factors of excessive deforestation to drive global climate change. But as the Arctic ice continued to melt, and more and more wild weather continues, oil prices accelerate and the global forest diminishes, kenaf is at the forefront of the coming environmental business and sustainable development sea change.

Kenaf Is The Fiber That Can Change The World! Join The Corporate Leaders Who Are Moving Toward Sustainability

During the 1950s, kenaf was identified as a promising fiber source for paper pulp. Kenaf fibers have been processed into high quality newsprint and bond paper.

Although kenaf is usually considered a fiber crop, research indicates that it has high protein content and, therefore, is a potential livestock feed. Crude protein in kenaf leaves ranged from 21 to 34 percent, stalk crude protein ranged from 10 to 12 percent, and whole-plant crude protein ranged from 16 to 23 percent.

Kenaf can be ensilaged effectively, and it has satisfactory digestibility with a high percentage of digestible protein. Digestibility of dry matter and crude proteins in kenaf feeds ranged from 53 to 58 percent, and 59 to 71 percent, respectively Kenaf meal, used as a supplement in a rice ration for sheep, compared favorably with a ration containing alfalfa meal.

In addition to the use of kenaf for cordage, paper pulp and livestock feed researchers have investigated its use as poultry litter and animal bedding, bulking agent for sewage sludge composting and as a potting soil amendment. Additional products include automobile dashboards, carpet padding, corrugated medium, as a “substitute for fiberglass and other synthetic fibers,” building materials (particle boards of various densities, thicknesses, and fire and insect resistances), absorbents, textiles and as fibers in extraction molded plastics.

Photosensitivity and Seed Production

Kenaf varieties can be divided into two major groups based on their photosensitivity – photosensitive and photoinsensitive. Typically, photosensitive varieties are preferred for the production of fiber in the United States. Two of these varieties, Everglades 41 and Everglades 71, were developed by USDA researchers to extend the vegetative growing season before the plants initiate flowering. Photosensitive cultivars initiate flowering when daylengths decrease to approximately 12.5 h; mid September in southern states. In photosensitive varieties, the initiation of flowering causes a reduction in vegetative growth. Because of late floral initiation and inability to produce mature seed prior to a killing frost, seed production in the United States for these varieties is limited to southern Florida, the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and southernmost Arizona and California.

Photoinsensitive (often referred to as day neutral) varieties can initiate flowering and produce mature seed before a killing frost north of latitude 300. Photoinsensitive varieties, such as Guatemala 4, Guatemala 45, Guatemala 48, Guatemala 51 and Cuba 2032, can initiate flowering 100 days after planting (DAP), and before the daylength decreases to 12.5 h. Photoinsensitive varieties can, therefore, be planted during May or early June in central United States and still have ample time to produce mature seed. The earlier production of mature seed for photoinsensitive varieties greatly expands the potential seed production areas.

As a livestock feed, kenaf is usually harvested at an earlier growth stage than as a fiber crop; 60 to 90 DAP compared with 120 to 150 DAP. During a shorter growing season, photoinsensitive varieties can produce dry matter yields equivalent to photosensitive varieties, while using seed that can be produced further north and in a larger geographic area.

Harvesting and Pelletizing

The evaluation of field equipment for harvesting kenaf continues to be an important aspect of commercialization. It has been demonstrated that standard forage cutting, chopping and baling equipment can be used for harvesting kenaf as either a forage or fiber crop. Kenaf can be baled into small square or large round bales. Sugar cane harvesters, with and without modification, have also been successfully used to harvest kenaf. In cotton growing regions, cotton modules have been used for field-side storage of chopped kenaf. Kenaf can also be pelleted for use as a fiber or forage crop.

Pelletizing kenaf increased its density by at least 390 percent, therefore, reducing both transportation and storage costs. It may be economically advantageous to use available commercial harvesting and processing equipment rather than investing in the development and production of kenaf specific equipment. Appropriate harvesting and pelletizing equipment is readily available throughout the United States. Mobile in the field harvester/separators are being developed, which will cut and then separate the bast and core fibers in the field.

When harvesting kenaf for fiber use, the moisture content and the equipment availability are important considerations. Kenaf can be harvested for fiber when it is dead, due to a killing frost or herbicides, or when it is still growing. The dry standing kenaf can be cut and then chopped, baled or transported as full length stalks. If the kenaf drying and defoliation process is dependent on a killing frost, the harvesting date will vary on the area of the state where the crop is growing and the time required for the kenaf to dry unless artificial drying is used. Much of the land which could be planted to kenaf does not lend itself to late harvest because of weather conditions and soil type.

Actively growing kenaf can be cut and then allowed to dry in the field. 0nce dried, the kenaf can then be chopped, baled or transported as full length stalks. The availability of in the field harvester/separators will add to the harvesting options.

Kenaf is a crop which is normally harvested in late fall or winter, and only once during the year. This presents some unique situations as far as supply and storage are concerned.


Additional markets for kenaf as a fiber crop and as a finished product need to be developed. The development of kenaf as a fiber crop depends on several conditions. What happens in the forest industry in the wood and pulp product areas will be a major factor in the development of kenaf into a major industry The development of large stable markets for the raw and finished products must occur before farmers and industry will be willing to invest time and capital on a large scale.

The development of any new industry takes time, capital, scientific research, product research and development, and eventually stable markets. In the kenaf industry part of this development has already happened, but much is yet to be done.


The United States acceptance of kenaf as a major commercial crop will be strengthened as additional uses for kenaf are established. The increased production, processing and product development work being conducted within private industry state universities and USDA laboratories is encouraging and suggests a bright future for the establishment of kenaf as a commercial crop. However, for kenaf to become a viable alternative agricultural crop, stable markets must be established which will provide farmers with an economic return equal to or surpassing what they now receive for a given crop.

For kenaf to effectively replace products now on the market, it will have to be of equal or better quality than those to be replaced, be readily available to the industry and end users, be easily harvested and h have potential to be economically produced.

Additional agricultural research for tropical countries should include disease control and variety adaptation, along with the evaluation of harvesting systems and the economics appropriate for their country’s production areas and products.

Kenaf is now being used in automobile interiors and other similar products.