Jute instead of plastic!
After cotton, jute is the most important natural fiber and, with production of over 3.4 million tons in 2013, occupies a leading position among renewable raw materials. The fibers are obtained from the bark of the jute plant and are among the long plant bast fibers. Jute fibers consist of the primary plant components cellulose (plant fiber) and lignin (wood fiber). The most common varieties are white jute (Corchorus capsularis) and tossa jute (Corchorus olitorius). In Bangladesh and East Bengal, jute ('Shada Pat' in Bengali) has been cultivated for more than 400 years and is an integral part of the regional culture. Almost 85% of today's jute production comes from this region, making it an important source of income for smallholder farmers. That is why it is also called the 'Golden Fiber of Bangladesh'.
How is jute grown?
Jute grows best on fertile alluvial soils and prefers warm and humid climates, ideally under the influence of annual monsoon events. The optimal growing conditions are:
- Temperature: 20 °C to 40 °C, optimum 25 °C
- Precipitation: 50 mm weekly
- Humidity: 70% - 80%
- Soil: alluvial soils in flat terrain
Jute is a rainy season crop - so sowing begins between March and May and continues into June. Due to the nutrient-rich alluvial soils, farmers only need organic fertilizers such as manure and dung. Compared to cotton production, hardly any chemical fertilizers or pesticides are needed. In addition, jute cultivation provides employment for many people in rural areas because of the labor required. Depending on when it was sown, the harvest lasts from July to September. The jute fibers are of particularly high quality, the plants are harvested before seeds are formed. The 2.5 m to 3.5 m tall bast plants are harvested by hand with sickles just above the ground. The jute stalks are then bundled and left in water at a depth of 60 cm to 100 cm for 20 days for roasting.
The fibers of the jute plant are located just under the bark and enclose the woody part of the stem. The term 'roasting' describes the process by which the fibers are separated from the rest of the plant. Microbes naturally occurring in the water soften the stems and separate them from the woody part. The fibers are then washed, dried by squeezing, and hung on bamboo sticks in the sun for further drying. Finally, the fibers thus obtained are knotted into small bundles and are ready for further processing.