Kenaf - Food For People, Livestock Feed, Fiber, Fabric,
Paper, Biochar Organic Fertilizer & Carbon Sequestration
Kenaf Make Excellent Food For People, Livestock Feed,
Fiber, Fabric, Paper, Biochar Organic Fertilizer, Shade, Beautification,
Automobile Interiors, Building Materials & Carbon Sequestration
Hibiscus cannabinus L., kenaf is a warm season
annual closely related to cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) and okra (Abelmoschus
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
Go To Summary
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
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
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 deSPW Ecojustice Centerse 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
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
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
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.
Want to know more about growing kenaf or getting
kenaf seeds. Contact Dr. Cross
Bagby M.O., R.L. Cunningham, F.G. Touzinsky G.E.
Hamerstrand, E.L. Curtis, and B.T. Hofreiter. 1979. Kenaf thermomechanical pulp
in newsprint. ( TAPPI/NPFP Committee Progr. Rpt 10. Atlanta, GA.
Clark, T.K, R.L. Cunningham, and I.A. Wolff. 1971. A
search for new fiber crops. TAPPI 54:(1)63-65.
Clark, T.F. and I.A. Wolff. 1969. A search for new
fiber crops, XI. Compositional characteristics of Illinois kenaf at several
population densities and maturities. TAPPI 52:2606- 2116.
Dempsey J.M. 1975. Fiber Crops. The University
Presses of Florida, Gainesville, FL.
Dryer, J.F. 1967. Kenaf seed varieties. p. 44-46.
Proc. First Conference on Kenaf for Pulp. Gainesville, FL.
Fuller, M.J. and J.C. Dollar. 1994. An economic
analysis of kenaf separation. p. 21-22. In: CE. Goforth, M.J. Fuller, and H.
Remy (eds.). A summary of kenaf production and product development research,
Miss. State Univ. Bul. 1011.
Goforth, C.E. 1994. The evaluation of kenaf as an oil
sorbent. p. 25. In: C.E. Goforth, M.J. Fuller, and H. Remy (eds.). A summary of
kenaf production and product development research. Miss. State Univ. Bul.
Killinger, G.B. 1969. Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L. a
multi-use crop. Agron. J. 61:734-736.
Kugler, D.E. 1988. Non-wood fiber crops:
commercialization of kenaf for newsprint. p. 289-292. In: J. Janick and J.E.
Simon (eds.). Advances in new crops. Timber Press, Portland,0R.
Laiche, A.J. and S.E. Newman, 1994. Kenaf core as a
container media component for woody landscape plants and greenhouse bedding
plants. p. 30. In: C.E. Goforth, M.J. Fuller, and H. Remy (eds.). A summary of
kenaf production and product development research. Miss. State Univ. Bul.
Nieschlag, H.J., G.H. Nelson, I.A. Wolff, and R.E.
Perdue, Jr. 1960. A search for new fiber crops. TAPPI 43:193-201.
Ramaswamy, G.N. and C.R. Boyd. 1994. Kenaf as a
textile fiber: processing, fiber quality and product development. p. 31-33. In:
C.E. Goforth, M.J. Fuller, and H. Remy (eds.). A summary of kenaf production and product development research. Miss. State
Univ. Bul. 1011.
Scott, A. 1982. Kenaf seed production: 1981-82. p.
60-63. Rio Farms, Inc. Biennial Report for l980-1981 Monte Alto,
Scott, A.W. Jr. and C.S. Taylor. 1988. Economics of
kenaf production in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. p. 292-297. In: J.
Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.). Advances in new crops. Timber Press, Port land,
Suriyajantratong, W., R.E. Tucker, R.E. Sigafus and
G.E. Mitchell, Jr. 1973. Kenaf and rice straw for sheep. J. Anim. Sci.
Swingle, R.S., A.R. Urias, J.C.Doyle, and R.L. Voigt.
1978. Chemical composition of kenaf forage and its digestibility by lambs and in
vitro. J. Anim. Sci. 46:1346-1350.
Tilmon, H.D., R. Taylor, and G. Malone. 1988. Kenaf:
an alternative crop for Delaware. p. 301-302. In: Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.).
Advances in new crops. Timber Press, Portland, OR
Webber, C.L. III. 1990a. Kenaf production with sewage
sludge and fertilizer. p. 15. Proc. Second Annual International Kenaf Assoc.
Conf. Tulsa, OK. (abstr.)
Webber, C.L. III. 1990b. The effects of kenaf
cultivars and harvest dates on plant growth, protein content, and dry matter
yields. p. 147-152. Proc. First Annual International Conf. on New Industrial
Crops and Products. Riverside, CA.
Webber, C.L. III and R.E. Bledsoe. 1993. Kenaf:
production, harvesting, and products. p. 416-421. In: Janick, J. and Simon, J.E.
(eds.). New Crops. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York, N.Y.
White, G.A., D.G. Cummins, E.L. whiteley W.T. Fike,
J.K. Greig, J.A. Martin, G.B. Killinger, J.J. Higgins, and T.F. Clark. 1970.
Cultural and harvesting methods for kenaf. USDA Prod. Res. Report 113.
Wilson, ED., T.E. Summers, J.F. Joyner, D.W. Fishler,
and C.C. Seale. 1965. 'Everglades 41' and 'Everglades 71', two new varieties of
kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) for the fiber and seed. Florida Agr. Exp. Stat.
Wing, J. M. 1967. Ensilability acceptability and
digestibility of kenaf.