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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Cultivation of kenaf and sunn hemp in the mid-Atlantic United States

Authors
item Bhardwaj, H.L. - VIRGINIA STATE UNIV.
item Webber, Charles
item Sakamoto, G.S. - USDA-NRCS

Submitted to: Industrial Crops and Products
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 19, 2004
Publication Date: September 1, 2005
Citation: Bhardwaj, H., Webber III, C.L., Sakamoto, G. 2005. Cultivation of kenaf and sunn hemp in the mid-Atlantic United States. Industrial Crops and Products. 22:151-155.

Interpretive Summary: In the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, there is a need for crop diversification and protection of the Chesapeake Bay from nitrogen pollution. Legume plants that have the potential of reducing/eliminating use of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers need to be studied. Sunn hemp, a legume plant, has great potential as an annually renewable fiber crop, in addition to its desirable biological nitrogen fixing capability for improving the soil. The objectives of our research studies were to examine the feasibility of producing both kenaf and sunn hemp in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, and if feasible, identify optimum factors to maximize sunn hemp and kenaf yields. We compared the performance of kenaf cv. 'Everglades 41' and sunn hemp cv. 'Tropic Sun' for two years in Ettrick, Virginia by using three planting dates (late May, mid June, and late June) and three row spacings (30 cm, 60 cm, and 90 cm). During each year, the treatments consisted of: kenaf produced with 100 kg N/ha, sunn hemp without inoculation and with 100 kg N/ha, and sunn hemp with inoculation and without N fertilization. The results indicated that sunn hemp with inoculation had the tallest plants (202 cm) and produced 10 Mg ha-1 dry matter, which was similar to kenaf (10.2 Mg ha-1) and sunn hemp (9.5 Mg ha-1) with N fertilization. The mean plant heights for kenaf (148 cm) and sunn hemp with N fertilization (190 cm) were significantly lower than that for sunn hemp with inoculation. Sunn hemp planted in middle of June gave the highest yield (11 Mg ha-1) and the optimal row spacing for sunn hemp was observed to be either 30 or 60 cm. Our results demonstrate that production of both kenaf and sunn hemp is feasible in Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. However, it may be desirable to further study sunn hemp because due to its biological nitrogen fixation capabilities, it can help in reducing/eliminating use of N fertilizers and, thus, help save the Chesapeake Bay from pollution.

Technical Abstract: Crop diversification efforts in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States are constrained by the need for avoiding N pollution of Chesapeake Bay waters. Among the alternative non-wood sources of fiber and pulp, sunn hemp (Crotolaria juncea L.), a legume plant, has considerable potential for development as an annually-renewable source of fiber and pulp. However, most research has focused on kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) and information about sunn hemp is lacking. We compared the performance of kenaf cv. 'Everglades 41' and sunn hemp cv. 'Tropic Sun' for two years in Ettrick, Virginia by using three planting dates (late May, mid June, and late June) and three row spacings (30 cm, 60 cm, and 90 cm). During each year, the treatments consisted of: kenaf produced with 100 kg N/ha, sunn hemp without inoculation and with 100 kg N/ha, and sunn hemp with inoculation and without N fertilization. The results indicated that sunn hemp with inoculation had the tallest plants (202 cm) and produced 10 Mg ha-1 dry matter, which was similar to kenaf (10.2 Mg ha-1) and sunn hemp (9.5 Mg ha-1) with N fertilization. The mean plant heights for kenaf (148 cm) and sunn hemp with N fertilization (190 cm) were significantly lower than that for sunn hemp with inoculation. Sunn hemp planted in middle of June gave the highest yield (11 Mg ha-1) and the optimal row spacing for sunn hemp was observed to be either 30 or 60 cm. We conclude that both kenaf and sunn hemp could be produced in Virginia, but use of sunn hemp may be desirable due to its biological nitrogen fixation abilities.

Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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