Known as the ‘golden fibre’ jute is one of the longest and most used natural fibre for various textile applications.
Jute is extracted from the bark of the white jute plant (Corchorus capsularis) and to a lesser extent from tossa jute (C. olitorius). It is a natural fibre with golden and silky shine and hence called the Golden Fibre. Jute is an annual crop taking about 120 days (April/May-July/August) to grow.
It thrives in tropical lowland areas with humidity of 60% to 90%. Jute is a rain-fed crop with little need for fertilizer or pesticides. Yields are about 2 tonnes of dry jute fibre per hectare. Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibres and considered second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses of vegetable fibres.
Jute is long, soft and shiny, with a length of 1 to 4 m and a diameter of from 17 to 20 microns. Jute fibres are composed primarily of the plant materials cellulose (major component of plant fibre) and lignin (major components of wood fibre). The fibres can be extracted by either biological or chemical retting processes. Given the expense of using chemicals to strip the fibre from the stem biological processes are more widely practices. Biological retting can be done by either by stack, steep and ribbon processes which involve different techniques of bundling jute stems together and soaking in water to help separate the fibres from the stem before stripping. After the retting process, stripping begins. In the stripping process, non-fibrous matter is scraped off, leaving the fibres to be pulled out from within the stem.
Jute fibre is 100% bio-degradable and recyclable and thus environmentally friendly. A hectare of jute plants consumes about 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide and releases 11 tonnes of oxygen. Cultivating jute in crop rotations enriches the fertility of the soil for the next crop. Jute also does not generate toxic gases when burnt.