What is Jute?

Jute is a soft, shiny, and relatively long fibre that has the ability to be spun into strong, coarse threads. Plants belonging to the genus ‘Corchorus’ are the primary source of Jute. This genus was previously classified with the family of flowering plants called ‘Tiliaceae’. Jute mallow, also known as Corchorus Olitorius, is believed to be the primary source of jute fibres. However, this species of Jute is believed to be inferior to the white jute species (also known as Corchorus capsularis). It is important to note that jute is the name of the fibre (or the plant) that is primarily used to make gunny cloth, burlap cloth, or hessian cloth.

Commercially, jute (along with cotton fibres) is considered to be one of the most inexpensive and economical plant fibres. Lignin and cellulose are the main chemical components of jute fibres. To refer to a class of complex organic polymers, the word ‘lignin’ is used. Cellulose is an organic polysaccharide which consists of hundreds (or sometimes thousands) of D-glucose molecules linked to each other in a linear chain (straight-chain).

How is Jute Cultivated?

A warm and humid climate, plenty of rainfall, and well-drained, loamy soils are needed for jute cultivation. The interesting thing about jute growing is that fertilisers and pesticides are barely needed. They are subjected to ‘retting’ after the stems are harvested from the plant, whereby they are submerged in slow running water for 10 to 30 days in order to allow bacteria to dissolve the gummy materials holding the fibres together. After this, in a method called ‘stripping’, the non-fibrous matter of jute is scraped off, and then the fibres are separated by beating with a paddle the stem. The separated fibres are then washed, dried, graded and sent to the jute mills to be further processed for the production of jute yarn. The yarn is then used for the various jute products to be produced.

Features of Jute

Jute fibre is very strong and does not easily undergo fibrillation or bleaching. Jute has a wide variety of applications: it can be used for making products for cereals and sugar, such as cord, twine, rugs, chair covers, hessian cloth and food grade bags. It also has many applications in home decor, such as carpets, curtains, for example.

Jute has several good features such as UV protection, insulation of sound and heat, low thermal conduction, and anti-static properties. Jute is one of the cheapest available natural fibres, second only to the quantity of cotton produced and the variety of uses of vegetable fibres. Jute fibres consist mostly of plant materials such as cellulose (the main component of plant fibre) and lignin (the main component of wood fibre). Therefore, it is a lignocellulosic fibre which is partly a textile fibre and partly wood. Raw jute is the agricultural word for jute fibre. The fibres are brown to off-white, and 1-4 metres long.

Applications of Jute

During World War I, jute sandbags were shipped from Bengal to the trenches. Its applications range from making clothing, ropes to the production of household goods. It was used for fishing, weapons and in the construction industry. This versatile fibre is used in modern times for making household products such as carpets, sacks, rugs, chair coverlets, etc. The more diversified use of jute involves items such as espadrilles that give this otherwise humble fibre an aspect of glam.

In the manufacture of matting and twine, the main application of jute fibres is in the making of thread. Jute matting is a viable choice for protecting the soil in order to avoid soil erosion due to floods. In fact, following the establishment of natural vegetation, such methods are often used. Another main benefit of jute fibre is that the fibre is fully biodegradable and natural for the matting and securing of soil.

In the manufacture of fabric and bags, jute is often used. It should be noted, however, that the fabric made from jute fibres is typically very coarse and therefore unfit for human clothing. They are, however, commonly used in the manufacturing of sacks for the storage of many items. In the manufacture of some types of curtains, jute fibres are also known to be used.

Frequently Asked Questions on Jute

What is White Jute?

In the Malvaceae family, Corchorus capsularis, commonly known as white jute, is a shrub-type plant. It is one of the sources of jute fibre, considered to be of higher quality than the primary source of jute, Corchorus olitorius fibre. The leaves are used as foodstuffs, and traditional medicine uses the leaves, unripe fruit and the roots.

What is jute mallow?

A genus of shrub in the family Malvaceae is the jute mallow or nalta jute. The primary source of jute fibre is the Corchorus capsularis. Leaves and young fruits are used as vegetables, dried leaves are used as a thickener for tea and soup, and the seeds are edible.

How is jute fibre produced?

The jute fibre comes from the jute plant’s stem and ribbon (outer skin). By retting, the fibres are first removed. Bundling jute stems together and immersing them in slow running water consists of the retting process. Two forms of retting are available: stem and ribbon. Stripping commences after the retting process. The non-fibrous matter is scraped off in the stripping process, then the workers reach in and catch the fibres from inside the jute stem.

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