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General
  • Kenaf or Hibiscus cannabinus L is a bast fiber crop that has been used for a long time as cordage, ropes, etc. Kenaf, Species: Hibiscus cannabinus, L.Family: Malvaceae , is a warm-season annual fiber crop related to cotton, okra, and hibiscus. Kenaf is one of the allied fibers of jute and shows similar characteristics.
  • Kenaf is a short-day, annual herbaceous plant cultivated for the soft bast fiber in its stem. Kenaf is closely related to cotton, okra, and the hollyhocks. Kenaf grows quickly, rising to heights of 12-14 feet in as little as 4 to 5 months.

  • Kenaf has been a source of textile fiber for such products as rope, twine, bagging and rugs. Kenaf is a promising source of raw material fiber for pulp, paper and other fiber products, and has been introduced since WWII in China, USSR, Thailand, South Africa, Egypt, Mexico and Cuba.

Process

  • Several harvest and storage methods have been tested. The preferred system will likely vary from one area to another because of differences in climate and milling requirements. Until recently, the most feasible method appeared to be chopping the green or air-dried plants with a forage chopper. The green material can be stored anaerobically like silage and the air-dried material can be piled or loosely stacked or baled. The most recent innovation has been the development of an 8-row harvest machine which cuts the stalks and lays them down for drying in the field. The dried stalks are gathered, shredded at the field and transported to the fiber mill's storage area.
  • Kenaf fiber, as removed from the stalk, is too long to be used for conventional hardboards. By using a steam-pressurized refiner, a very good quality fiber suitable for making hardboards was produced. Before refining, the stalks were pre-steamed in a digester for 3 min under 310 kPa steam pressure. Open plates with subsurface dams were used for the refining process; the plate gap was 380 μm. Some of the kenaf was initially refined by putting the cut stalk into the digester for the steaming process.

Production

  • Kenaf  is a fiber plant native to east-central Africa where it has been grown for several thousand years for food and fiber. It is a common wild plant of tropical and subtropical Africa and Asia.
  • Kenaf  are sold at local markets in West and Central Africa. Statistics on production and trade as a vegetable are not readily available. World production of kenaf fibres is estimated at 400,000 t/year. India is by far the largest producer 230,000 t/year. In Africa, production is limited and practically all kenaf fibre is produced domestically. Industrial production is reported from Nigeria and Sudan.

Application

  • The main uses of kenaf fiber have been rope, twine, coarse cloth, and paper. In California, Texas and Louisiana, 3,200 acres  of kenaf were grown in 1992, most of which was used for animal bedding and feed.
  • Emerging uses of kenaf fiber include engineered wood, insulation, and clothing-grade cloth.
  • Kenaf seeds yield a vegetable oil that is edible and high in omega antioxidants. The kenaf oil is also used for cosmetics, industrial lubricants and as bio-fuel.
  • An infusion of the leaves is used in the treatment of coughs. In Ayurvedic medicine, the leaves are used in the treatment of dysentery and bilious, blood and throat disorders.

Market

  • Jute, kenaf, and other allied fibers (JAF) are the second most important natural fibers next to cotton. Total world production of JAF fluctuates around three million tons each year depending largely on the world demand, as well as the climate conditions in JAF producing countries. In 99/00, total world jute and kenaf production was 2.6 million tons. Total kenaf production in 99/00 was 0.51 million tons, among which production from China accounts for 44%, India for 39%, Thailand for 12%, and the remaining are from Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries.
  • China’s jute and kenaf textile industry reached a peak when the output of gunny bags rose to 931 million and the annual production capacity climbed to 1.3 to 1.5 billion. But the market demand, including export, was only 700 to 800 million.

Report

  • KP Products Inc. produced the very first commercial scale kenaf paper that was made from 100% virgin kenaf fiber, U.S. grown, and totally chlorine free.
  • Processors and manufacturers are particularly interested in using hemp and kenaf for manufacturing non-woven products. Kenaf has a lower tensile strength than fibre-glass but greater than pine-wood fibres.

  • During the past 10-20 years in both Australia and USA focussed of using kenaf as a source of paper pulp. However, more recent studies conclude that kenaf and hemp both have potential uses in the higher value end of the market, eg industrial non-woven products, which are worthy of further investigation.

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