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Corchorus olitorius L.

Nalta jute, Tussa jute

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Toxicity
  5. Description
  6. Germplasm
  7. Distribution
  8. Ecology
  9. Cultivation
  10. Harvesting
  11. Yields and Economics
  12. Energy
  13. Biotic Factors
  14. References


While perhaps better known as a fiber crop, jute is also a medicinal "vegetable", eaten from Tanganyika to Egypt. Dried leaves were given me by an Egyptian friend who had brought them with him to this country. They are used in soups under the Arabic name "Molukhyia." In India the leaves and tender shoots are eaten. The dried material is there known as "nalita." Injections of olitoriside markedly improve cardiac insufficiencies and have no cumulative attributes; hence, it can serve as a substitute for strophanthin.

Folk Medicine

Reported to be demulcent, deobstruent, diuretic, lactagogue, purgative, and tonic, tussa jute is a folk remedy for aches and pains, dysentery, enteritis, fever, dysentery, pectoral pains, and tumors (Duke and Wain, 1981; List and Horhammer, 1969-1979). Ayurvedics use the leaves for ascites, pain, piles, and tumors. Elsewhere the leaves are used for cystitis, dysuria, fever, and gonorrhea. The cold infusion is said to restore the appetite and strength.


Per 100 g, the leaves are reported to contain 43-58 calories, 80.4-84.1 g H2O, 4.5-5.6 g protein, 0.3 g fat, 7.6-12.4 g total carbohydrate, 1.7-2.0 g fiber, 2.4 g ash, 266-366 mg Ca, 97-122 mg P, 7.2-7.7 mg Fe, 12 mg Na, 444 mg K, 6,410-7,850 ug beta-carotene equivalent, 0.13-0.15 mg thiamine, 0.26- 0.53 mg riboflavin, 1.1-1.2 mg niacin, and 53-80 mg ascorbic acid. Leaves contain oxydase and chlorogenic acid. The folic acid content is substantially higher than that of other folacin-rich vegetables, ca 800 micrograins per 100 g (ca 75% moisture) or ca 3200 micrograms on a zero moisture basis (Chen and Saad, 1981). The seeds contain 11.3-14.8% oil (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962), reportedly estrogenic (Sharaf et al, 1979), which contains 16.9% palmitic-, 3.7% stearic-, 1.8% behenic-, 1.1% lignoceiic-, 9.1% oleic-, 62.5% linoleic-, and 0.9% linolenic- acids as well as large portions of B, Mn, Mo, and Zn.


Contains HCN and several cardiac glycosides. Negm et al (1980) report the LD50 of tissue extracts to mice. The "lethal dose" of Corchoroside A to cats is 0.053-0.0768 mg/kg and Corchoroside B 0.059-0.1413, but some authors say that Corchoroside A is twice as active as Corchoroside B.


Annual, much-branched herb 90-120 cm tall; stems glabrous. Leaves 6-10 cm long, 3.5-5 cm broad, elliptic-lanceolate, apically acute or acuminate, glabrous, serrate, the lower serratures on each side prolonged into a filiform appendage over 6 mm long, rounded at the base, 3-5 nerved; petioles 2-2.5 cm long, slightly pubescent, especially towards the apex; atipules subulate, 6-10 mm long. Flowers pale yellow; bracts lanceolate; peduncle shorter than the petiole; pedicles 1-3, very short. Sepals ca 3 mm long, oblong, apiculate. Petals 5 mm long, oblong spathulate. Style short; stigma microscopically papillose. Capsules 3-6.5 cm long, linear, cylindric erect, beaked, glabrous, 10-ribbed, 5-valved; valves with transverse partitions between the seeds. Seeds trigonous, black (Kirtikar and Basu, 1975).


Reported from the African, Hindustani, and China-Japan Centers of Diversity, tussa jute, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate disease, fungi, high pH, laterite, limestone, and salt (Duke, 1978). Several cvs are discussed in the Annual Reports of the Jute Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR, 1973, 1975). (2n = 14, 28)


Rather pantropical in distribution, perhaps more often a weed than a cultivar. Considered a serious weed in Australia, Egypt, Mozambique, the Philippines, Senegal, and Thailand, a principal weed in the Sudan, and a common weed in Afghanistan, India, Kenya, Nepal, Turkey, and Zambia (Holm et al, 1979). Systematic attempts have been made to grow jute in West Africa, Sudan, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Thailand, Java, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.


Ranging from Warm Temperate Thorn through Tropical Desert to Wet Forest Life Zones, tussa jute is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 4.0 to 42.9 dm (mean of 15 cases = 18), annual temperature of 16.8 to 27.5°C (mean of 15 cases = 23.8), and pH of 4.5 to 8.2 (mean of 13 cases = 6.5). (Duke, 1978, 1979)


In India, seeds are sown in (Feb.-) Mar-May (June) in carefully prepared soil, plowed and cross plowed 5 or 6 times, clay soils requiring more plowing. Cow dung and wood ashes are applied as manure. Rotted water hyacinth or its ashes may also be applied. Seeds are broadcast or dribbled behind the plow. When soils are moist, seeds may germinate in 2-3 days. If germination is bad, replowing and resowing is recommended. Starting at 8-25 cm tall, the seedlings are harrowed with a rake 3 to 4 times, and weeded 2 to 3 times. After the final weeding, plants are spaced at 10-15 by 15 cm. Highest yields were obtained (ca 3000 kg/ha) with 80 kg/N compared to 1700 per ha in unfertilized controls.


In India, usually harvested Aug-Sept, when ca 50% of the plants are in pods, but earlier if floods threaten. Plants are cut close to the ground with sickles. Cut plants are tied into bundles, left to dry 2-4 days and shed their leaves. The jute is retted usually in stagnant water. After retting, the bundles are beat on the root end with a mallet to start the fibers which are wrapped around the fingers and the stems are jerked back and forth in the water to separate the fibers.

Yields and Economics

Fiber yields run ca 800-1600 kg/ha with exceptional cases of 2400 in India, and genetic potential of 4000 kg/ha, the fiber representing ca 6% of the green weight. Intercropped with Vigna, jute has yielded 3270 kg compared to 2290 monocropped. Rice yielded 5650 kg/ha following the intercropping and, potatoes yielded 13,600 kg/ha following the rice (ICAR, 1973). Seed yields run 200-350 kg/ha, usually lower in C. olitorus than in capsularis.


Assuming the fiber yields are 6% of green weight, annual green weight productivity ranges from 13 to 42 MT/ha, with genetic potential of 67 MT. Assuming 80% moisture, this translates to 2.6-13.4 MT DM. ICAR (1973) reports DM yields of ca 10 MT near Barrackpore corresponding roughly to an uptake of 75 kg N, 4 5 kg P2O5, 120 kg K2O, 115 kg CaO, and 35 kg MgO.

Biotic Factors

Anthracnose spots caused by Colletotrichum gloeosporioides may infect 50-90% of a jute population, but spraying with copper oxychloride at 0.5% strength checked the spread, holding it to 5-10% (ICAR, 1973). Thangavel et al (1974) found that this species was badly infested by 3 species of weevils (Myllocerus spp.) while C. capsularis was unaffected. The semilooper Anomis sabulifera may stunt the growth, reducing fiber yields by ca 13-32%. The yellow mite, Polyphagotarsonemus latus may also reduce yields.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
last update July 8, 1996