Fibre Crop

Fibre Crop crops that produce filamentous matter from the bast tissue or other parts of plants, used for industrial purposes. Fibre crops include a wide variety of plants of fibrous biomass that are grown annually or seasonally at specific weather and climatic conditions of a country. These crops are considered as important agricultural commodities. Once a considerable part of the foreign exchange earnings of Bangladesh used to come from the export of both raw jute fibre and finished manufactured jute products. Economic fibre crops still play the leading role in the socioeconomic development of the country.

Fibre crops can be classified as soft and hard, lignified and nonlignified, bast and flower, major and minor, depending on their annual production, quality and end uses. Natural fibres are used for fine apparel, household textile, industrial packing such as hessian, sacking, bagging, carpet backing, twine, furnishing fabrics, mats, wall cover, handicrafts, jutton and jute blended products, decorative and aesthetic products, cellulose derivatives, composite materials, geotextiles, agrotextiles, medicare textiles, composite material, wood substitutes, pulp and paper, etc.

The principal fibre crops grown in Bangladesh are jute, mesta, cotton, and sunhemp. Coir, pineapple leaf fibre, banana stem fibre, and kapok fibre are used for different purposes.

Jute, and mesta are the major cash crops of Bangladesh. Among them jute predominates in all respects such as production, manufacture, export, crop area, technology, economy, and industry. Jute is the bast phloemic and lignified fibre obtained from stalks of the dicotyledonous plant belonging to the species Corchorus capsularis and C. olitorious, respectively known as white jute and tossa jute. Fibres of Hibiscus cannabinus, and H. sabdariffa var. altissima are commonly known as kenaf and mesta, respectively.

Jute and allied fibre crops are cultivated under more or less similar agronomic conditions with slight changes in sowing and harvesting time. Physio-mechanical properties of jute fibre are superior to that of mesta. These crops can be grown almost all over the country except in saline and hilly areas. Mesta is more stress-tolerant than jute. Total cultivated area and production of jute and allied fibres are 614283 ha and 5901450 bales respectively. The total annual cultivated area and production, however, varies and the variation is directly related to the local market and world demand. Home consumption of jute and jute products is not usually more than 10%.

Mesta is a fibrous crop of the genus Hibiscus, family Malvaceae. There are two varieties of the species Hibiscus sabdariffa. One is the branching type, and is about two metre in height and bears fleshy, enlarged edible calyces which are used for making juices, jams, jellies and other confectioneries. The second variety is a tall, erect unbranched plant, bearing calyx. The two varieties can be differentiated by red and green stem colours. Fibre structure, morphology, physical and chemical constituents of mesta are more or less similar to those of jute. Its seed contains about 16-20% oil.

Cotton is a soft, white, downy substance consisting of the hairs or fibres attached to the seeds of malvaceous plants of the genus Gossypium. It is used in making fabrics, thread, etc. Cotton plants are usually 1-2 m high, bear whitish flowers, and produce seedpods (bolls) which burst when filled with soft masses of fibres. After harvesting, the fibres are separated from seed by ginning and cleaning. Cotton contains about 95% cellulose with small amount of protein, pectin, and wax. The fibre is commercially classified on the basis of its staple length and other properties.

Table  Area and production of jute and other fibres in  2007-2008

Name of crop Area (ha) Production (bales)
Jute 4,40,702.66 46,22,000
Cotton (Summer) (Comilla) 38,31,968.35 26,92,000
Cotton (Winter) (American) 49,91,392.71 1,23,57,000
Sunhemp (Winter) 67,582.50 1,79,000

Source Yearbook of Agricultural Statistics,  2007-2008.

Cotton fibres are light, durable and lustrous, and are used in a wide range of garments, furnishing, and other products. The seeds are crushed to yield cottonseed oil which is used as cooking oil, or in preparing margarine, soaps, etc. Though at present the major proportion of cotton consumed in local textile industries is imported, about 74 thousand bales of cotton are grown in about 35,000 ha of land. Bandarban, Rangamati, Dhaka, Tangail, Jessore, Kushtia, and Rajshahi are the major cotton growing areas of Bangladesh. The cotton grown here is of medium to short medium staple length. A special type of lower staple cotton is grown in Comilla.

Another type of local fibrous material kapok (Bombax species), popularly known as Simul Tula, is generally used for pillows and mattresses, and is grown all over the country, but mostly in greater Mymensingh. Its wood is used for the production of matchsticks. The fibre obtained from the outer husk of the coconut, Coscos nucifora, is generally used in making mats, ropes etc. The better type is used for the making brushes. Very recently, coir based products like filters, fibre drain, mulching mat etc are being used. Coconut plants are widely grown in southern districts, such as Khulna, Barisal, Noakhali and Chittagong. A few coir industries have been established to produce mats and ropes. The fibres are extracted from the husks; generally saline water accelerate the retting process. After softening, the fibre is separated by a hammering, washing and drying process.

Hemp or sunhemp is a bast fibre crop of the genus Crotalaria, family Leguminosae. The plant has land manuring capability. The fibre is soft, less lignified, and is thus primarily used for twine, ropes, cordage, strings, paper making, and spinning fishing nets. Its agricultural practice is similar to that of jute. In Bangladesh it is generally grown in Rajshahi, Rangpur, Jessore and Bogra, often in two seasons, commonly known as Bhadoi sunhemp and Rabi sunhemp. [ABM Abdullah]

See also cotton; crop; jute.