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Alternative crops to ease lumber shortage

Posted on September 28, 1998

Three unusual crops may be the answer to a lumber shortage expected to have a large impact on the building and paper industries in a few years.

Duane Johnson, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension alternative crops specialist developed products from pulps derived from three crops — kenaf, sunn hemp and sesbania.

The pulps can he made into paper and other products traditionally made from wood. Johnson researched the pulps to address an expected shortfall in paper and wood products. The pulp industry is running at 96% capacity now and the demand for paper and wood products continues to climb by 6% annually. Demand over the next 10 years will require tree-farm harvests of 10 million acres. Like paper, the kenaf, sunn hemp and sesbania products can be recycled. And they are more environmentally friendly than wood products because their fibers are light enough in color to produce paper with little or no bleaching.

According to Johnson. anything made from wood can be made from kenaf, sunn hemp or sesbania — even pressed logs. Fibercrop boards are strong enough to support a building, he adds. And plant fibers can he mixed with plastics and other substances to make flexible or weatherproof products.

Copyright © 1998, The High Plains Journal. All rights reserved.