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By Malinda Geisler, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University.

Revised June 2012.


Kenaf is a warm season annual that offers potential as a commercial fiber crop. It is related to cotton, okra and hibiscus and reaches heights ranging from 8 to 20 feet. A native of Africa, the crop is adapted to much of the southern United States and parts of California. USDA does not keep statistics on kenaf. Leaders in world kenaf production are India and China.

Kenaf (Hibiscus canabinus) is planted using a modified row-crop planter or grain drill. It matures in about 150 days. It can be harvested using forage coppers and sugarcane harvesters. Fiber yields range from six to 10 tons per acre annually. 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.

Other kenaf uses include animal forage, animal litter, a fiberglass substitute in molded plastic, a cellulose fiber for composition panels and boards and potting mix. Commercial processing plants exist in Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas. Most kenaf production is contract grown.


Alternative Agronomic Crops, ATTRA, NCAT, 2000.

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Links checked September 2013.


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