Description of Kenaf

Kenaf Fiber  Fibers  Fiber Definitions - textile fiber


Kenaf is a warm-season annual row crop well suited to the U.S. "Cotton Belt".  It is related to cotton; therefore, a member of the plant family Malvacae (Mallow).  Two leaf types are common; one that is deeply divided and looks like hemp/marijuana and an undivided (juvenile) leaf shape that looks somewhat like cotton (Gossyppium sp).  Fiber derived from the plant originates from the stalk itself; relatively long fiber aggregates from the bark known as bast, and shorter woody fibers from the central part of the stem known as core.

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Kenaf came onto the scene during WW II.  Jute and abaca exports from southeast Asia were disrupted during this period. Hemp production in the U.S. was outlawed in 1933. The USDA began to look at other possible fiber crops with kenaf showing the most promise.  Since this time, interest in kenaf has fluctuated. Kenaf research began at Mississippi State University in 1989 and is one of the nation's leaders in kenaf research.

Harvesting Kenaf

Harvest is accomplished by utilizing a forage harvester that cuts and "chops" the whole stalk, and then blows the crop into a boll buggy that is positioned beside or the behind the harvester. Fiber length can be adjusted by adding or subtracting knives from the cutting cylinder.  The kenaf is then placed in a module. The kenaf can be used as whole-stalk or transported to the separation facility, where the bast and core are separated. Other harvesting techniques employ cubing the kenaf. This is accomplished in the same manner, however the kenaf is dumped into a hopper that feeds a field-side cuber. The cubes are then transported to the processing facility.

Kenaf must be frost killed in Mississippi before harvest can occur.  This creates a problem because Mississippi does not receive a killing frost until mid-December, normally.  By this time the winter rains have set in, making timely entry into the field nearly impossible.  However, research is being conducted at Miss. State to rectify this problem.

The Apparel Search Company wants to give special thanks to Wes Graham for providing wonderful information on Kenaf.

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