Kenaf: Ag Fiber of the Future?

Final Report for FNC99-280

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1999: $4,630.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2001
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


DeWayne has 150 acres of semiarid Harney soil. Crop rotations have included wheat sorghum (or forage sorghum)-summer fallow, wheat-wheat-sorghum (or forage sorghum)-summer fallow, and wheat-summer fallow. The rotation depended on available moisture.

A sheep flock consisting of about 300 ewes has been used to increase the return to the sheep enterprise by using wheat pasture and harvesting bindweed on wheat stubble after harvest. We have attempted to use the sheep to control bindweed on the wheat stubble. One of the problems with the type of control has been predator control. The loss of ewes to coyotes can cost more than spraying the bindweed. Rotational grazing has been another avenue used to harvest the sunlight and moisture. There have been species changes in the pasture used in rotational grazing. Adding cows to the pasture has helped to correct the species change.

1) See if Kenaf is a viable cash crop for western Kansas.
2) See what affect row spacing had on Kenaf production
3) See what affect seeding rate had on Kenaf production
4) See what affect seed population had on Kenaf production.
5) Plant enough Kenaf to be able to take to the fiber board plant in Hutchinson, KS to run some tests on the production of fiber board with Kenaf.

When deciding to do this project, I realized I wanted enough acres to see how it would grow in a real life setting. I also needed to due the small replicated plots to develop some dependable data at research level. I contacted the Kansas State University Research and Extension Southwest Area Agronomist, Curt Thompson. Curt helped me set up the plot plan through a randomization process. He also helped harvest and measure the results. We wanted economics to play a role in this process. Curt was able to help on the purchase of the seed for the project.

As this was an extremely dry year in this area of the county, yields were less than anticipated. As we drew near to harvest the fiber board plant was contacted about taking the Kenaf as previously agreed to verbally. Unfortunately this is where some problems arose. The previously agreed to commitment was made with a different manager. The plant had changed personnel. The new manager indicated since nothing was in writing, there was no contract and they did not want the fiber. It was past time to make some quality feed with Kenaf. We attempted to destroy the fiber by disking it. It did not work. The fiber lasted a long time.

The height of the Kenaf in the field varied according to soil moisture. In the drier soil the Kenaf was about 4’ tall (similar to the test plot). In the wetter areas of the soil some of the Kenaf was over 8’ tall.

As I reflect on the project, I feel I have learned many things from the results and observations. First and most important – get a solid customer for the product. Make sure it is a firm commitment in writing before launching into alternative crops. Personally, I still think ag fiber will be large part of the future of agriculture. Technologies need to improve in the fiber area of agriculture.

With no sale of product, the economic viability of the project was a dismal failure. However, we learn more from our failures than from our successes. If a product of a higher value could be made from Kenaf, it could become a sustainable cash crop for this area.

I will be putting the results in a newsletter sent out by the local Extension office. I have answered questions from extension personnel and other farmers on Kenaf.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.