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Curious about kenaf

 
Peter Ellis
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I know it grows very fast, is a tremendous fiber for making paper but has some special processing requirements that require dedicated facilities different from wood pulp paper making. I get the impression that the paper industry in the States is pretty well locked into wood pulp and the timber industry and there has been little support if not outright opposition to kenaf for paper.

But, is it good for anything else? Fodder? Dynamic accumulator? Is it a heavy feeder that drains soil?

I have read some information, but am hungry for more. An annual that can grow fifteen feet tall is pretty impressive! Sounds like an enormous amount of biomass generated in a hurry, and that sounds potentially helpful. I understand that in warm climates it is a perennial, but get the impression that it reaches full size, at least above ground, in the first season.

I have not heard it discussed in any of the permaculture reading I have done. Thought I would throw it out here and see what people could tell me about it.

Thanks.
 
gary reif
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I was wondering about organic matter, can you chop it down, how well does it rot etc
 
Peter Ellis
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I am surprised. No one has any comments?
A bit more research says the leaves run 24 percent or more protein and chickens love them. Also being used as a fuel stock but I am unclear as to just how.
depending on how the stalks dry it might be rmh fuel for people with little wood available.

Fast growing, good fodder, good fiber and possibly good fuel, above and beyond generating enormous amounts of biomass to work back into the soil.

So far I am not seeing much downside.
 
Kris schulenburg
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Location: Henry County Ky Zone 6
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sounds like a great plant, had not known about it. Have you had any luck finding seed? What I have found so far is large commercial quantities or from over seas. Thanks for posting.
 
leila hamaya
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i am very interested in this plant, and its highly prized among fiber artists/ paper makers. well at least "alternative" fiber craftspeople/paper making.
it is weird to consider it "alternative" paper making , if you really consider the whole long history of paper making, wood pulp has only been around for just over a hundred years, compared to thousands of years of using other plants.

but kenaf and flax are the two big ones in the paper making craft world, though theres hundreds of different plants that can be used.
i have worked with kenaf fiber, but havent ever grown it, though fairly recently i picked up some seed. its a bit rare to get seed, at least here in the states, because it likes to be in a tropical climate or very close. so even though you could grow kenaf, in many places in the US it will not be able to complete its cycle and produce seed.
perhaps there are varieties that are better at producing viable seed in a short season. actually i love its whole extended plant family, from okra to hibiscus to mallows. i theorize just about any of these would be a great fiber / paper material...though you only hear about people using kenaf for this purpose.

and its not so much that kenaf fiber needs a special processing facility, really its the opposite. wood pulp needs a special facility, or rather special equipment and also harsh and nasty chemicals. because its such a STUPID thing to make paper from!
kenaf would not require the special equipment or chemicals, just like all the other more traditional fibers.

and if you just think about it quickly it seems obvious its stupid to make paper from wood. what you want to do is to smush all the tiny bits of the fiber together in a smooth sheet...if you had never known about wood pulp or papermaking and wanted to create something paper like, i highly doubt you would think of a huge tree to start with. plants like kenaf, flax, cotton, hemp etc etc etc make a lot more sense. and probably the reason why wood pulp paper was never attempted until a little more than a hundred years ago. once the grinder was invented that grinds down the wood, and the chemical were being produced to futher break down the wood, then someone had the stupid idea to make paper from it. at first it was considered a crude and inferior product to all other fibers, and it likely was being that its difficult to produce quality paper from wood and requires so much processing. as a scrap from timber tho it was considered a waste product and so something to be done with the waste fiber was to make paper...but now its not just that. whole trees are sometimes ground up to turn into paper....


heres a short article about it from my book marks:

Can 1 miracle plant solve the world's 3 greatest problems?
 
Peter Ellis
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Thanks leila, I knew someone around here had to know about kenaf.

As to special processing, perhaps incompatibe would have been a benter word. My point was that you cannot run kenaf through a pulp mill that makes paper from wood. Therefore different manufacturing has to be invested in and that investment seems hard to come by.
 
Joe Braxton
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Back in the late 1970's about 500 ac. were planted in eastern NC as a test crop. Not much came of it that I'm aware of, but here is some info -

https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1990/v1-297.html

 
leila hamaya
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Peter Ellis wrote:Thanks leila, I knew someone around here had to know about kenaf.

As to special processing, perhaps incompatibe would have been a benter word. My point was that you cannot run kenaf through a pulp mill that makes paper from wood. Therefore different manufacturing has to be invested in and that investment seems hard to come by.


yes any paper made by hand on a small scale, and most groups who are trying to promote and use "alternative fiber" even on a larger scale, have a very hard time trying to become financially feasible, unfortunately. its pretty much similar for almost all hand made crafts, too few people recognize the greater value and greater time needed to produce these things, how difficult is to be a "starving artist" and to try to create a businesses with products like this.
paper making and book binding was one of my more profitable crafts, but still nothing like close to even minimum wage ! things like this need to be done on a big scale with people who understand the value of it, err well something. perhaps more of that is coming, more appreciation for these things is happening, and starting to gain some ground. we did it for the love of doing it, but you cant take your love-of doing- it to the bank! well i tried for a while to create income for myself with tree free paper making and book binding, and did make some, easier to sell than most things i have made, but still very difficult to get the equipment and get it rolling.

an alternative fiber paper mill could certainly take over a wood pulp facility, minus some of the equipment that is needed for the wood pulp. but the likelihood of that happening seems pretty nil.
 
Peter Ellis
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All things considered, I am thinking this sounds like it could be a useful permaculture plant. In temperate areas it might be hard to get a regular seed supply and I wonder how hard it would be to breed for a variety that could set seed in temperate climates.

Produces loads of biomass. Leaves are very high protein and at least chickens like them. I wonder about ruminants. The bast fibers are good for making rope. That is a significant thing in itself. Good rope is valuable stuff. Not in a commercial sense, perhaps, but when you look at that idea of "self-sufficiency", it grows in significance.

Would be curious to see how and with what to polyculture kenaf.

One to keep on my experimental plant list.
 
leila hamaya
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it would be cool if someone bred a variety that could grow in cooler temperatures. i bet at least a few people have worked on it.

its a short day plant, so it wont go about making seed until the light goes away later in the year. you could probably fake it out with some contraption of light depravation or something, but that would be a whole lot of extra work and fuss....i certainly wouldnt want to mess with any of that. so i guess the issue would not be to make it seed earlier (i dont think thats possible without light dep) but breeding a strain that could tolerate cold so it could actually finish out its complete cycle and not die before making seed.
 
Carma Nykanen
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I recently ran across Kenaf and then went to Permies to get some real life info.
I see it's been a few years since this thread stopped.
Anyone tried to grow it, or know more about it? And new downsides come to the light?
I'm in zone 7 and am pondering. ....
 
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