Jute is a long, soft, shiny bast fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. It is produced primarily from plants in the genus Corchorus, which was once classified with the family Tiliaceae. The primary source of the fiber is Corchorus olitorius, but it is considered inferior to Corchorus capsularis. "Jute" is the name of the plant or fiber used to make burlap, hessian or gunny cloth.
Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers, and second only to cotton in the amount produced and variety of uses. Jute fibers are composed primarily of the plant materials cellulose and lignin. It falls into the bast fiber category (fiber collected from bast, the phloem of the plant, sometimes called the "skin") along with kenaf, industrial hemp, flax (linen), ramie, etc. The industrial term for jute fiber is raw jute. The fibers are off-white to brown, and 1-4 metres (3-13 feet) long. Jute is also called the "golden fiber" for its color and high cash value.
The jute plant needs a plain alluvial soil and standing water. The suitable climate for growing jute (warm and wet) is offered by the monsoon climate, during the monsoon season. Temperatures from 20 to 40 °C (68-104 °F) and relative humidity of 70%-80% are favourable for successful cultivation. Jute requires 5-8 cm (2-3 in) of rainfall weekly, and more during the sowing time. Soft water is necessary for jute production.
Historical documents (including Ain-e-Akbari by Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak in 1590) state that the poor villagers of India used to wear clothes made of jute. The weavers used simple hand spinning wheels and hand looms, and spun cotton yarns as well. History also suggests that Indians, especially Bengalis, used ropes and twines made of white jute from ancient times for household and other uses. It is highly functional for carrying grains or other agricultural products.
Tossa jute (Corchorus olitorius) is a variety thought native to South Asia. It is grown for both fiber and culinary purposes. People use the leaves as an ingredient in a mucilaginous potherb called "molokhiya" (, of uncertain etymology). It is popular in some Arabian countries such as Egypt, Jordan, and Syria as a soup-based dish, sometimes with meat over rice or lentils. The Book of Job (chapter 30, verse 4), in the King James translation of the Hebrew Bible ? malua? "salty", mentions this vegetable potherb as "mallow, giving rise to the term Jew's Mallow. It is high in protein, vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, and iron.
Bangladesh and other countries in Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific mainly use jute for its fiber. Tossa jute fiber is softer, silkier, and stronger than white jute. This variety shows good sustainability in the Ganges Delta climate. Along with white jute, tossa jute has also been cultivated in the soil of Bengal where it is known as paat from the start of the 19th century. Coremantel, Bangladesh, is the largest global producer of the tossa jute variety.
For centuries, jute has been an integral part of the culture of East Bengal and some parts of West Bengal, precisely in the southwest of Bangladesh. Since the seventeenth century the British started trading in jute. During the reign of the British Empire, jute was also used in the military. British jute barons grew rich by processing jute and selling manufactured products made from it. Dundee Jute Barons and the British East India Company set up many jute mills in Bengal, and by 1895 jute industries in Bengal overtook the Scottish jute trade. Many Scots emigrated to Bengal to set up jute factories. More than a billion jute sandbags were exported from Bengal to the trenches of World War I, and to the United States south to bag cotton. It was used in the fishing, construction, art and the arms industries. Initially, due to its texture, it could only be processed by hand until someone in Dundee discovered that treating it with whale oil made it machine processable. The industry boomed throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ("jute weaver" was a recognised trade occupation in the 1900 UK census), but this trade had largely ceased by about 1970 due to the emergence of synthetic fibers. In the 21st century, jute again has become an important export crop around the world, mainly in Bangladesh.
The jute fiber comes from the stem and ribbon (outer skin) of the jute plant. The fibers are first extracted by retting. The retting process consists of bundling jute stems together and immersing them in slow running water. There are two types of retting: stem and ribbon. After the retting process, stripping begins; women and children usually do this job. In the stripping process, non-fibrous matter is scraped off, then the workers dig in and grab the fibers from within the jute stem.
Jute is a rain-fed crop with little need for fertilizer or pesticides, in contrast to cotton's heavy requirements. Production is concentrated mostly in Bangladesh, as well as India's states of Assam, Bihar, and West Bengal. India is the world's largest producer of jute, but imported approximately 162,000 tonnes of raw fiber and 175,000 tonnes of jute products in 2011. India, Pakistan, and China import significant quantities of jute fiber and products from Bangladesh, as do the United Kingdom, Japan, United States, France, Spain, Ivory Coast, Germany and Brazil.
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At the beginning of the 21st century, in 2002 Bangladesh commissioned a consortium of researchers from University of Dhaka, Bangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRI) and private software firm DataSoft Systems Bangladesh Ltd., in collaboration with Centre for Chemical Biology, University of Science Malaysia and University of Hawaii, to research different fibers and hybrid fibers of jute. The draft genome of jute (Corchorus olitorius) was completed.
Making twine, rope, and matting are among its uses.
In combination with sugar, the possibility of using jute to build aeroplane panels has been considered. 
Jute is in great demand due to its cheapness, softness, length, lustre and uniformity of its fiber. It is called the 'brown paper bag' as it is also the most used product in gunny sacks to store rice, wheat, grains, etc. It is also called the "golden fiber" due to its versatile nature.
Jute matting is used to prevent flood erosion while natural vegetation becomes established. For this purpose, a natural and biodegradable fiber is essential.
Jute is the second most important vegetable fiber after cotton due to its versatility. Jute is used chiefly to make cloth for wrapping bales of raw cotton, and to make sacks and coarse cloth. The fibers are also woven into curtains, chair coverings, carpets, area rugs, hessian cloth, and backing for linoleum.
While jute is being replaced by synthetic materials in many of these uses, some uses take advantage of jute's biodegradable nature, where synthetics would be unsuitable. Examples of such uses include containers for planting young trees, which can be planted directly with the container without disturbing the roots, and land restoration where jute cloth prevents erosion occurring while natural vegetation becomes established.
The fibers are used alone or blended with other types of fiber to make twine and rope. Jute butts, the coarse ends of the plants, are used to make inexpensive cloth. Conversely, very fine threads of jute can be separated out and made into imitation silk. As jute fibers are also being used to make pulp and paper, and with increasing concern over forest destruction for the wood pulp used to make most paper, the importance of jute for this purpose may increase. Jute has a long history of use in the sackings, carpets, wrapping fabrics (cotton bale), and construction fabric manufacturing industry.
Jute was used in traditional textile machinery as fibers having cellulose (vegetable fiber content) and lignin (wood fiber content). But, the major breakthrough came when the automobile, pulp and paper, and the furniture and bedding industries started to use jute and its allied fibers with their non-woven and composite technology to manufacture nonwovens, technical textiles, and composites. Therefore, jute has changed its textile fiber outlook and steadily heading towards its newer identity, i.e., wood fiber. As a textile fiber, jute has reached its peak from where there is no hope of progress, but as a wood fiber jute has many promising features.
Jute is used in the manufacture of a number of fabrics, such as Hessian cloth, sacking, scrim, carpet backing cloth (CBC), and canvas. Hessian, lighter than sacking, is used for bags, wrappers, wall-coverings, upholstery, and home furnishings. Sacking, a fabric made of heavy jute fibers, has its use in the name. CBC made of jute comes in two types. Primary CBC provides a tufting surface, while secondary CBC is bonded onto the primary backing for an overlay. Jute packaging is used as an eco-friendly substitute.
Diversified jute products are becoming more and more valuable to the consumer today. Among these are espadrilles, soft sweaters and cardigans, floor coverings, home textiles, high performance technical textiles, geotextiles, composites, and more.
Jute floor coverings consist of woven and tufted and piled carpets. Jute mats and mattings with 5/6 mts width and of continuous length are easily being woven in southern parts of India, in solid and fancy shades, and in different weaves, like bouclé, Panama, herringbone, etc. Jute mats and rugs are made both by powerloom and handloom in large volume in Kerala, India. The traditional Satranji mat is becoming very popular in home décor. Jute non-wovens and composites can be used for underlay, linoleum substrate, and more.
Jute has many advantages as a home textile, either replacing cotton or blending with it. It is a strong, durable, color and light-fast fiber. Its UV protection, sound and heat insulation, low thermal conduction and anti-static properties make it a wise choice in home décor. Also, fabrics made of jute fibers are carbon-dioxide neutral and naturally decomposable. These properties are also why jute can be used in high performance technical textiles.
Moreover, jute can be grown in 4-6 months with a huge amount of cellulose being produced from the jute hurd (inner woody core or parenchyma of the jute stem) that can meet most of the wood needs of the world.
Thus, jute is the most environment-friendly fiber starting from the seed to expired fiber, as the expired fibers can be recycled more than once.
Jute is also used to make ghillie suits, which are used as camouflage and resemble grasses or brush.
Another diversified jute product is geotextiles, which made this agricultural commodity more popular in the agricultural sector. It is a lightly woven fabric made from natural fibers that is used for soil erosion control, seed protection, weed control, and many other agricultural and landscaping uses. The geotextiles can be used more than a year and the bio-degradable jute geotextile left to rot on the ground keeps the ground cool and is able to make the land more fertile.
Corchous olitorius leaves are used to make mulukhiya, sometimes considered the Egyptian national dish, but consumed in Cyprus and other Middle Eastern countries as well. It is an ingredient for stews, typically cooked with lamb or chicken.
In Nigeria, leaves of Corchorus olitorius are prepared in sticky soup called ewedu together with ingredients such as sweet potato, dried small fish or shrimp. The leaves are rubbed until foamy or sticky before adding to the soup. Amongst the Yoruba of Nigeria, the leaves are called Ewedu, and in the Hausa-speaking northern Nigeria, the leaves are called turgunuwa or lallo. The cook cuts jute leaves into shreds and adds them to the soup, which normally also contains ingredients such as meat or fish, pepper, onions, and spices. Likewise, the Lugbara of Northwestern Uganda eat the leaves in a soup they call pala bi. Jute is also a totem for Ayivu, one of the Lugbara clans.
In the Philippines, especially in Ilocano-dominated areas, this vegetable, locally known as saluyot, can be mixed with either bitter gourd, bamboo shoots, loofah, or sometimes all of them. These have a slimy and slippery texture.
State emblem of Pakistan, Jute depicted in the fourth quarter
Bangladesh Bank monogram, with three connected jute leaves at the base.