jute (jōt) [key], name for any plant of the genus Corchorus, tropical annuals of the family Tiliaceae (linden family), and for its fiber. Many species yield fiber, but the chief sources of commercial jute are two Indian species ( C. capsularis and C. olitorius ), grown primarily in the Ganges and Brahmaputra valleys. Although jute adapts well to loamy soil in any hot and humid region, cultivation and harvesting require abundant cheap labor, and India remains the unrivaled world producer as well as the chief fiber processor. Kolkata (Calcutta) is the main center. Europe and the United States import large quantities of jute fiber and cloth; Dundee, Scotland, is also a major jute-textile manufacturer. The fiber strands in the bark are 6 to 10 ft long (2–3 m) and are separated from the woody stalk centers by retting. The fiber deteriorates quickly and, because of its uneven diameter and comparatively low cellulose content, is relatively weak. However, because of its low cost and the ease of dyeing and spinning, jute is the principal coarse fiber in commercial production and use. About 90% is spun into yarn for fabrics; the better qualities supply burlap and the poorer grades are used for baling and sacking (e.g., gunny sacks). It is also used for twine, rope, carpet and linoleum backing, and insulation. The discarded lower ends, called jute butts, are used for paper manufacture. The plant, cultivated in India from remote times, has been known to Western commerce only since about 1830. Jute is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Malvales, family Tiliaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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