Origin, Description, Importance, and Cultivation Area of Kenaf

  • E. AlexopoulouEmail author
  • Y. Papatheohari
  • M. Christou
  • A. Monti
Part of the Green Energy and Technology book series (GREEN)


This chapter discusses the origin and taxonomy of kenaf, the description of the plant parts (stems, leaves, flowers, seeds, and root), the importance of the crop worldwide, the cultivation area, as well as its importance. Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) is an annual spring crop cultivated for long (4000 BC). It originated from Africa, disseminated in the 1900s in Asia (in India and then in China) and in the 1940s from Asia to northern and central USA. Kenaf belongs to the Malvaceae family and section Furcaria. It is closely related to cotton, okra, hollyhock, and roselle. Nowadays it is being cultivated in 20 countries worldwide and its total production (kenaf and allied crops) is 352,000 tons (2010/2011). Currently, China and Pakistan are the main producers. In the last part of the chapter the importance of the crop is discussed. Kenaf is an annual non-food fiber crop that used to be cultivated for numerous uses (paper pulp, fabrics, textiles, building materials, biocomposites, bedding material, oil absorbents, etc.). Recently, it is also considered as an important medicinal crop as its seed oil is recorded to cure certain health disorders and help in the control of blood pressure and cholesterol.


Kenaf Origin Genus Crop importance Cultivation area Crop taxonomy Hibiscus cannabinusFamily Malvaceae Furcaria section Crop description Stems Flowers Leaves Seeds Root Multipurpose crop BIOKENAF project Annual crop Fiber crop Non-food crop Energy uses Fibers Bark Core Spring crop 


  1. Bagby MO, Cunningham RL, Clark TF (1975) Kenaf pulp-soda vs sulphate. Tappi J 58:121–123Google Scholar
  2. Baldwin BS (1994a) Physiological maturity determination and germination of kenaf seed. Sixth Annual International Kenaf Conference New Orleans, LAGoogle Scholar
  3. Baldwin BS (1994b) Selection and breeding of kenaf for Mississippi. In: Fuller MJ (ed.) A summary of kenaf production and product development research 1989–1993. Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station Bulletin 1011, Mississippi State University, Mississippi, (33 pgs.), p. 9Google Scholar
  4. Baldwin BS (1996) Adaptation of kenaf to temperate climatic zones. In: Janick J (ed) Progress in new crops. ASHS Press, Arlington, pp 402–404Google Scholar
  5. Borazjani A, Diehl S (1994) Kenaf core as an enhancer of bioremediation. In: Goforth CE, Fuller MJ (eds.) A summary of kenaf production and product development research, 1989–1993. Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station Bulletin 1011, Mississippi State University, Mississippi, pp. 26–27Google Scholar
  6. Charles L (2002) Trends in New Crops and New Use. ASHS Press, AlexandriaGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen YY, Lin LH, Wu JM, Qi JM, Zhou RY (2004) Genetic effect analysis of some field and quality traits of kenaf hybrid and parents. Plant Fibers Prod 26(6):261–266Google Scholar
  8. Cheng Z (2001) Kenaf research, products and applications in Japan (in Chinese). Plant Fibers Prod 23(3):16–24Google Scholar
  9. Clark TF, Bagdy MO, Cunningham RL, Touzinsky GF, Tallent WH (1971) Pulping of kenaf bark and woody fractions: preliminary investigations. TAPPI. Non-wood plant fiber pulping. Progress Report No. 2: 153–159Google Scholar
  10. Clark TF, Wolff IA (1969) A search for new fiber crops, XI. Compositional characteristics of Illinois kenaf at several population densities and maturities. Tappi J 52:2006–2116Google Scholar
  11. Coetzee R, Labuschagne MT, Hugo A (2008) Fatty acid and oil variation in seed from kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.). Ind Crops Prod 27:104–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cook JG (1960) Handbook of textile fiber. Merrow publishing, WatfordGoogle Scholar
  13. Dempsey JM (1975) Fiber Crops. The University Press of Florida, Gainesville 457 ppGoogle Scholar
  14. FAO (2003) Consultation on natural fibers, The production and consumption of kenaf in China. ESC-Fibers Consultation No: 03/6Google Scholar
  15. FAO (2010) World production of jute, kenaf and allied fibersGoogle Scholar
  16. Fried R (1999) Kafus environmental industries: producing forestry products without trees. Corp Environ Strategy 6(4):378–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hollowell JE (1997) Nutritional and yield evaluation of kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) as a potential high quality forage for the southern United States, MS Thesis, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MSGoogle Scholar
  18. Hooker JD (1875) Flora of British India, vol 1. L. Reeve and Co., London Google Scholar
  19. Hopkins CY, Chisholm MJ (1959) Fatty acid of kenaf seed oil. J Am Oil Chem Soc 36:95–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Howard A, Howard GLC (1911) Studies in some Indian fiber plants. On some new varieties in Hibiscus cannabinus L. and Hibiscus sabdariffa L. Indian Dept Agr Mem Bot 4:1–36Google Scholar
  21. Kaldor AF (1989) Preparation of kenaf bark and core fibers for pulping by the Annkel method. Tappi J 72:137–140Google Scholar
  22. Kaldor AF, Karlgren C, Yerwest H (1990) Kenaf—a fast growing fiber source for papermaking. Tappi J 11:205–209Google Scholar
  23. Kluger DE (1988) Kenaf newsprint: realizing commercialization of a new crop after four decades of research and development, A report on the kenaf demonstration project. USDA-CSRS, Washington, DC 13 ppGoogle Scholar
  24. Kobaisy M, Tellez MR, Webber CL, Dayan FE, Schrader KK, Wedge DE (2001) Phytotoxic and fungitoxic activities of the essential oil of Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) leaves and its composition. J Agric Food Chem 49:3768–3771CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kulger DE (1996) Kenaf Commercialization: 1986–1995. In: Janick J (ed) Progress in new crops. ASHS Press, Arlington, pp 129–132Google Scholar
  26. Li AQ (1990) Report of the germplasm collecting for jute and kenaf in Kenya (in Chinese). Plant Fibers Prod 1:16–21Google Scholar
  27. Li D (2002) Kenaf production, research and development in China. International kenaf symposium. T.N. USAGoogle Scholar
  28. Mazumder BB (2000) A combination treatment of kenaf bast fiber for high viscosity pulp. J Wood Sci 46:364–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McGregor SE (1976) Insect pollination of cultivated crop plants. Chapter 7: small fruits and brambles. Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.), family Malvaceae. USDA, Washington, DC Google Scholar
  30. Mohamed A, Bhardwaj H, Hamama A, Webber C III (1995) Chemical composition of kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) seed oil. Ind Crops Prod 4:157–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Muchow RC (1983) I. Effect of sowing date on the growth and yield of kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus) grown under irrigation in tropical Australia. Phenology and seed production. Field Crops Res 7:81–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nelson GH, Nieschlag HJ, Wolff IA (1962) A research for new fiber crops, V. Pulping studies on kenaf. Tappi J 45:780–786Google Scholar
  33. Nyam KL, Tan CP, Lai OM, Long K, Che Man YB (2009) Physicochemical properties and bioactive compounds of selected seed oils. LWT-Food Sci Technol 42:1396–1403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pate JB, Joyner JF (1958) The inheritance of a male sterility factor in kenaf, Hibiscus cannabinus L. Agron J 50:402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Perry RC, Jones DE, Bhangoo MS (1993) A preliminary study on kenaf as a feed for livestock (1992). Proceedings of 5th Annual International Kenaf Association Conference, March 3–5, 1993, Fresno CA, 45–48Google Scholar
  36. Ramaswamy GN, Easter EP (1997) Durability and aesthetic properties of kenaf/cotton blend fabrics. Textile Res J 67:803–808Google Scholar
  37. Roseberg RJ (1996) Underexploited temperate industrial and fiber crops. In: Janick J (ed) Progress in new crops. ASHS Press, Alexandria, pp 60–84Google Scholar
  38. Roxburgh W (1795–1819) The plants of the coast of Coromandel. George Nicol, LondonGoogle Scholar
  39. Royle JF (1855) The fibrous of India. Smith, Elder & Co., EnglandGoogle Scholar
  40. Rydholm SA (1985) “Chemical pulping” In Pulping processing. Robert E Krieger Publishing company, Malabar, pp 439–715Google Scholar
  41. Sellers TN, Reichert A (1999) Kenaf properties, processing and products. Mississippi State University, MSGoogle Scholar
  42. Singh DP (1988) Breeding mesta (Hibiscus cannabinus and H sabdariffa L.) for better quality. Induction of mutations superior in fats, fatty acids and amino acid content. Genet Agric 42:273–282Google Scholar
  43. Stout HP (1981) Jute and kenaf. In: Handbook of fiber science and technology. Marcel Dekker, New York, pp. 701–726Google Scholar
  44. Su J, Chen A, Lin J (2004) Genetic diversity, evaluation and utilization of kenaf germplasm in China. Plant Fiber Prod 26:5–9Google Scholar
  45. Subbaram MR, Rajagopal NS, Paulose MM, Subarao R, Roomi MW, Achaya KT (1964) Component fatty acid analyses by reversed-phase partition chromatography. J Sci Food Agric 15:645–652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Taylor S (1995) Kenaf. New Crio FactSHEE (
  47. Tolibave I, Mukhamedova Kh, Glushennkova AI, Tursunkhodzhaev AS (1986) Lipids of kenaf wastes. Kim Prir Soedin 6:686–688Google Scholar
  48. Touzinsky GF, Clark TF, Tallent WH (1972) Characteristics of sulphate pulps from kenaf bark and core. TAPPI. Non-wood plant fiber pulping. Progress Report No. 3, pp. 25–53Google Scholar
  49. USDA (1988) Kenaf paper—a forest-saving alternative. Agric Res 36:6–8Google Scholar
  50. Venturi G (1990) II kenaf, Hibiscus cannabinus, a new alternative crop? L’Informatore Agrario 46:5–8Google Scholar
  51. Webber ChL III (1993) Yield components of five kenaf cultivars. Agron J 85:533–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. White GA, Cummins DG, Whitely EL, Fike WT, Greig JK, Martin JA, Killinger GB, Higgins JJ, Clark TF (1970) Cultural and harvesting methods for kenaf. USDA Prod. Res. Report 113. Washington, DC. Wilson and Margaret, 1967Google Scholar
  53. Wilson FD (2000) Kenaf history and botany. American Kenaf Society (
  54. Wilson FD, Menzel MY (1964) Kenaf (H. cannabinus L.), roselle (H. sabdariffa). Econ Bot 18:80–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wlison FD (1978) Wild kenaf, Hibiscus cannabinus L. (Malvaceae), and related species in Kenya and Tanzania. Econ Bot 18:80–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wood IM (1975) KENAF a possible multi-purpose crop for the Ord River irrigation area. Journal of Agriculture 16:14–18 Western AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  57. Wood IM, de Jong S (1997) Plant fiber crops. In: Keith H (ed) The new rural industries. A handbook for farmers and investors, pp. 453–463Google Scholar
  58. Wood I (1998) Kenaf: The forgotten fiber crop. Issue No 9,
  59. Wood IM, Muchow RC, Ratcliff D (1983) Effect of sowing date on the growth and yield of kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) grown under irrigation in tropical Australia. II. Stem production. Field Crops Res 7:91–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zhang T (2003) Improvement of kenaf yarn for apparel application. Master thesis of Louisiana State University, USGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Alexopoulou
    • 1
    Email author
  • Y. Papatheohari
    • 2
  • M. Christou
    • 1
  • A. Monti
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Renewable Energy Sources (CRES)PikermiGreece
  2. 2.Agricultural University of Athens (AUA)VotanikosGreece
  3. 3.Department of Agricultural SciencesUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

Personalised recommendations