By Malinda Geisler, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University. kenaf being harvested

Revised July 2015


Kenaf is a close relative to cotton and okra and is originally from Africa. It is a crop that is easily grown and is high in yield.
Two distinctive fibers are harvested from the stalks. One is a jute-like, long bast fiber from the bark. The bast fiber is used to make burlap, carpet padding and pulp. The second fiber is short, spongy core fiber that resembles balsa wood. It is processed into poultry house bedding, oil-absorbent mats and packing materials.


Kenaf is generally not marketed as a good, but rather sold to manufacturers as an input to create a final good such as rope. The domestic market for kenaf is limited and the crop is grown mostly for a niche market. Commercial processing plants exist in Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas.


In the United States, once the soil has warmed o 13°C and there will be no more frosts, kenaf can be planted. In some locations this can be as early as April or May. The crop can grow in many soil tipes, however best yields occur on well-drained sites.  Kenaf (Hibiscus canabinus) is planted using a modified row-crop planter or grain drill. Kenaf seeds are planted 1.25 to 2.5cm deep and a plant emerges within 2-4 days. Dense planting limits branching and promotes long fibers in the main stem. The crop matures in about 150 days and can be harvested using forage coppers and sugarcane harvesters. Fiber yields range from six to ten tons per acre annually.


A 2013 production scenario done in Kentucky estimated a total of $293 in costs per acre. Returns were estimated at 7.2 tons of kenaf at $55 per ton for gross revenue of $396 per acre.  


Alternative Agronomic Crops, ATTRA, NCAT, 2000.

Kenaf - University of Kentucky, 2014

Kenaf Production: Fiber, Feed, and Seed

Other Links

Links checked July 2015.