Kenaf is a bast fiber plant comprised of two main components that can be leveraged for industrial use. The first is the bast fiber of the plant located inside the outer layer of the stalk. The kenaf fiber has historically been used to make rope, twine, canvas bags, and several other woven items.
The second useful part of the plant is the core. The core, known as kenaf hurd, is woody in nature and comprises roughly sixty percent of the crops weight.
Harvesting the material
To get the outputs of hurd and fiber from a kenaf plant it must undergo a few processes. Once the kenaf stalks are fully grown they must be cut down and laid out to ret. During the retting process, the stalks are exposed to moisture and bacteria through dew and other elements. This helps break down some of the components that keep the fiber bound to the stalk.
Once the retting process is complete the stalks must be bailed and sent to a processing facility where it will be put through a decortication machine. In essence, these industrial machines crush the stalks and use wheels set with blunt knives to separate out the hurd and the fiber.
Could kenaf fiber be a wood pulp alternative?
Traditionally, kenaf fiber has been limited to very simple applications such as rope and yarn, however, there is currently a great opportunity for this fiber to leveraged as a source for producing paper.
Once the fiber has undergone a process called pulping, the material can be used to manufacture paper. This could prove to be a much better long-term solution environmentally speaking for supplying paper. The comparative growth cycle of kenaf (four to five months and the traditionally utilized timber material (five to ten year) is staggering.
An even more advanced effort of adopting sustainability is the use of kenaf fiber is the composites that are used for car panels. Companies like Ford and BMW have already made cars with these natural fibers as reinforcement in their door panels.
Kenaf hurd is an ideal bedding material
The core of the kenaf plant possesses very high-water absorbency characteristics giving it a few potential uses.
The largest to date of these is as an animal bedding. Since its absorbency is high, small cage pet owners can use it and decrease the number of times they have to change out their pets’ bedding. When used for larger animals like horses, the owner won’t need to change out the entire stall as often since the kenaf hurd prevents the waste from spreading; They simply need to replace a small area that has absorbed the waste to ensure it is clean.