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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Can Kenaf Paper Save Our Trees?

(Image Credit: Wikipedia)

No matter how you slice it and dice it (no pun intended), we cut up billions of trees every year just so we can communicate ideas in the physical (on paper), not to mention build houses.

With the need for trees probably expected to increase in the near future (due to human population growth), one Israeli researcher has come up with an idea to ease our dependency upon trees for paper by replacing it with a little known plant called Kenaf.

(Israel 21st Century) Israeli Professor Roni Aloni of Tel Aviv University has been working with kenaf for 30 years, and may have finally discovered the breakthrough that will spring kenaf from obscurity. He, along with Professor Adi Avni and graduate student Jonathon Dayan, has succeeded at silencing a gene in the kenaf plant, which causes the kenaf to produce 50% more fibers per crop - and those fibers are longer and of higher quality than before. "The idea was to increase quality and fiber and stem length," Aloni told ISRAEL21c.

The technology is still in the testing stage, but the hope is that kenaf will replace trees as the source of pulp for paper manufacture. Kenaf grows much faster than trees, and would therefore be a more efficient source of pulp even without genetic modifications. "The same acreage of land planted with kenaf can yield the equivalent quantity of pulp fibers from wood that takes 20 years to grow," explained Aloni.

The technology still has yet to be perfected, but the promise of what it may bring could ease our dependency upon our forests for paper. Although trees will still be chopped down due to lumber demands (as there is no cheap substitute for wood), we may see newspapers made out of Kenaf instead of trees (as we need the latter for oxygen).

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