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Tilmon, H.D., R. Taylor, and G. Malone. 1990. Kenaf: an alternative crop for Delaware. p. 301-302. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), Advances in new crops. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

Kenaf: an Alternative Crop for Delaware

Hames Don Tilmon, Richard Taylor, and George Malone


Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L), a relative of okra and cotton, is a warm weather annual plant with high fiber content that can reach 4 to 5 meters in height in only three months.

While most of the research on kenaf in recent years has been concentrated in the area of newsprint, printing, writing and tissue paper, a major product from the plant is the fiber or cordage that is used for carpet pads, twine, rope and fiber bags. The fiber represents 35% of the plant by weight and, when separated for use as cordage, the core material as a by-product remains.

Modern broiler production has its roots on the Delmarva Peninsula, and the industry continues to thrive there as the most concentrated area of broiler production in the nation. The magnitude of the industry creates a tremendous demand for "broiler litter" materials, both for new houses and for the periodic cleaning out of existing housing. Sawdust from local sawmills is the current litter material of choice for the Delmarva poultry industry. New materials are constantly being sought and the search for an alternative source of broiler litter has centered on the "kenaf core" material and preliminary results are encouraging.

Quantities of core materials were obtained from Kenaf International for replicated litter trials in early July, 1988.

There were no statistically significant differences in any of the performance parameters. These preliminary trials suggest kenaf core can be a suitable broiler litter material. Additional studies will be conducted for verification and evaluation under various management situations.

Ongoing research on kenaf field production also appears promising. Preliminary yields of irrigated kenaf in Delaware range from 5.7 to 7.4 tonnes per acre (12,778 to 16,588 kg/ha) in 1988.


Table 1. Comparison of kenaf and sawdust as broiler litter.

Litter type
Parameter Sawdust Kenaf
Estimated density
(kg/cu. m. at 25% moisture)
160 96
Litter moisture (%)
Initial 41 8
21 days 27 25
46 days 33 40
Relative ammonia release (ppm)
21-day litter 62 27
46 days 332 325
21-Day broiler performance
Body weight (kg) .60 .60
Feed conversion 1.43 1.42
46-Day broiler performance
Body weight (kg) 2.04 2.02
Feed conversion 1.95 1.98


Sij, J.W. 1990. Cultivar evaluations and fertility requirements of kenaf in southeast Texas. p. 302. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), Advances in new crops. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

Cultivar Evaluations and Fertility Requirements of Kenaf in Southeast Texas

John W. Sij

Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) is a potential source of pulp and paper products, particularly newsprint. Six cultivars were seeded on various planting dates at two locations in Southeast Texas in 1987 to determine yield and general adaptability under nonirrigated conditions. In another study several nitrogen fertility treatments were imposed on the cultivar 'Cubano'.

Yields of several cultivars from May-planted kenaf at Beaumont approached 18 t/ha, while yield from July-planted kenaf was less than half that of the May planting. Drought at Eagle Lake reduced yield from a June planting to less than half that of the June planting at Beaumont, were rainfall was more abundant.

Kenaf showed a significant response to added nitrogen. Yield was increased to more than 22 t/ha (150% over the control) with 100 to 150 units of added N. Split applications of N on May-planted kenaf resulted in no yield advantage over a single application.

The data emphasize the importance of planting date and nitrogen fertility in optimizing dry matter yields along the Upper Gulf Coast.


Last update March 11, 1997 by aw