Kenaf: The South's New Wonder Crop?

  Kenaf: The South's New Wonder Crop?

Posted by FoM on January 13, 2002 at 17:50:41 PT
By Elliot Minor, Associated Press  
Source: Charlotte Observer 

A materials company is encouraging Southern farmers to grow kenaf, a fibrous plant that flourishes in the region, grows quickly and, unfortunately, has a striking resemblance to marijuana. So planting kenaf might bring some unwanted visitors to farmer's fields."It's a hassle when you're hassled by police, or have people coming in and stripping your leaves," said Brian Baldwin, a Mississippi State University agronomist who has studied the plant since 1992.
Would-be smokers won't get high from puffing kenaf, Baldwin said. "Kenaf will make you sick as a dog. Some of the chemicals in it will give you an incredible sore throat."A better use for the plant is as fiber for a new type of environmentally friendly, termite-resistant lumber.Integrated Composite Technologies needs from 7,500 to 11,000 acres of kenaf within two years as part of its plan to make boards and preshaped molding from recycled plastics and cellulose fibers that can come from sawdust, rice hulls or the fibrous core of kenaf plants.The boards will be made at the company's south Georgia factory, said ICT President Ron Rutherford."This is the first step in changing a whole materials paradigm that has built up over the past 200 years," he said. "It's been a series of improvements on existing technologies to do things faster."Africans grew kenaf as early as 6000 B.C., and within the last century it has been grown in India, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. U.S. farmers devoted about 12,000 acres to kenaf last year, mostly in Texas, Mississippi and Georgia.There are two types of kenaf. One has leaves that resemble marijuana and the other has heart-shaped leaves similar to the hibiscus plant, a cousin of kenaf.Kenaf stalks, which reach heights of 12 feet to 14 feet, have two types of fiber. The long, stringy outer fiber can be twisted into cords and ropes. The shorter inner fibers can be used to make paper, or blended with plastic to make molded or extruded products.Agricultural officials say some auto makers have switched from fiberglass to molded door panels made with kenaf, which is stronger, lighter and less likely to shatter or warp in extreme temperatures."What we see is an opportunity," Rutherford said. "We don't want to just look at pine. We're here because kenaf can be grown in this market. We're talking about a radical change in manufacturing."In October, ICT moved into a former recreational-vehicle plant in Montezuma, an economically depressed town about 100 miles south of Atlanta. The company has a $1.5 million, computer-controlled machine that blends plastic and fibers at high temperatures and squeezes the paste out like Play-Doh. Rutherford said the plant can support 10 machines, and more have been ordered."Our tests have shown that termites won't go after the extruded materials," he said. "The termites sense plastic and don't attack it."Rutherford said ICT also is trying to create a new economic model, where factories don't just provide jobs, but also buy and use locally grown raw materials.Baldwin's work at Mississippi State has demonstrated kenaf can be grown in the Southern cotton belt, but farmers have been reluctant because of limited markets. They also would need equipment to separate kenaf's fibers.Andy Moye, a board member of the Carolina Kenaf Farmers' Foundation in Snow Hill, N.C., said the crop has attracted interest of some tobacco farmers whose incomes have been slashed by mandatory production cuts.Fiber of the Future: Marijuana look-alike can turn into lumber a termite won't touch.Source: Charlotte Observer (NC)Author: Elliot Minor, Associated Press Published: Sunday, January 13, 2002Copyright: 2002 The Charlotte ObserverContact: opinion charlotteobserver.comWebsite: Hemp Archives

Home    Comment    Email    Register    Recent Comments    Help

Comment #1 posted by CorvallisEric on January 13, 2002 at 20:05:10 PT
Narcs and kenaf
Since they have trouble distinguishing cannabis from tomatoes, wait till they see these!
Here's a good starting point for info on various fibers and another kenaf photo:
The DEA needs to quickly outlaw kenaf before people hide their evil marijuana plants among the kenaf. They should contract with the USDA to prove that kenaf is not economically viable and therefore worthy of prohibition ;)
[ Post Comment ]

  Post Comment