Hemp can be manufactured and processed into over 25,000 different products. The legislation around growing and working with hemp has been relaxed in the last 10 ten years, making it legal to cultivate. Evidence of hemp planting can be traced to 10,000BC in what is modern-day Taiwan.
Hemp is often associated with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive chemical compound. When grown as part of an industrial strategy, the THC is exceptionally low and the cannabidiol (CBD) levels are maintained at around 40% of the overall composition. Industrial hemp is not grown for the THC content, the benefits are seen in other areas, such as being environmentally friendly and economically viable.
Hemp is organically friendly, requiring very little input to sustain efficient growth. Whilst hemp can take up to two years to reach full maturity, it can be harvested after only 120 days.
Hemp is highly tolerant of pests and diseases. This has the immediate benefit of not requiring synthetic chemicals to carry out this function. Apart from being environmentally beneficial, this has a financial impact, making it a cheaper crop to grow, maintain and harvest. Because of this, it can also be used as an intercropping plant, being used to prevent outbreaks amongst other crops. Hemp will prevent and protect other crops from being attacked, reducing damage effectively.
Hemp has long been known to absorb toxins that are present in the soil. This reduces the damage that may be caused to a surrounding ecosystem. It also helps to cleanse the soil of fertilizer and pesticides. Hemp contains phytoremediation properties, enabling it to clean the air, soil, and water – during the 1990s, scientists planted hemp around the contaminated Chernobyl area and discovered that it absorbed toxic metals from the soil. Further studies were carried out by the Italians which confirmed this – an accident at a steel mill was used to demonstrate that the soil could be classed as “non contaminated” after being planted with hemp. This was so successful that the area was declared fit for sale.
As hemp reaches the end of its growth period, it can be recycled back into the soil. The decomposition of hemp enables the soil to re-use the nutrients effectively.
Reducing Global Warming
It has been discovered that hemp absorbs more Carbon Dioxide (CO2) than any other commercial crop. Annually, a crop of hemp may absorb more than 3 tonnes, giving it a crucial role in fighting pollution – especially carbon emissions. There are some countries that are now able to issue hemp farmers with “carbon credits” – these are certificates issued by the government with a tradeable value, proving that a certain amount of CO2 has been removed from the environment.
Hemp is remarkably efficient during growth – it does not require large amounts of water. Whilst it requires an effective irrigation system, it has a long taproot which bores into the soil to absorb moisture and nutrients.
The deep penetration also works to loosen the soil for other crops to be planted, and improves the condition by encouraging sub-surface microcultures, removing the need to use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides between crops.
Hemp has great value in the way that it provides a service to the environment long after the cropping period. Once removed from the soil and processed, it is used to make a variety of recyclable, non-toxic and biodegradable products. One of these is hemp bioplastic. Currently, half of the plastic pollution is attributable to single-use plastic items. Hemp bioplastic is a viable alternative to this.
As stated, hemp can be used in the manufacture of over 25,000 products. The economic benefits for farmers, hemp processing plants, governments and retailers are wide ranging. An industry that is still evolving, there is potential for job creation, tax collection and income streams that were previously non-existent.
Hemp fiber has long been used in the production of clothing. The fibers themselves are stronger than cotton, giving longer lasting products. This means that farmers have a more effective product, the clothing industry has a unique selling point and the potential for discarded clothes is lowered.
Hemp has also been used in construction – notably within hemp concrete. In the past 15 years, consumers have become more aware – and more demanding – in the use of environmentally friendly building materials. As the cost of hemp-related products continues to fall with wider acceptance and government relaxation of cultivation laws, this has the potential to change the face of building in developing countries.
Hemp farmers – apart from a government-issued license – need very little in the way of input to begin growing. Hemp can allow those farmers who struggle in a market which drives their more traditional crop prices downwards to face little challenge in converting to growing hemp and maximizing the returns, benefitting both nations and generations.
As the hemp industry expands, there will be a need for a wider workforce. At the moment, the market is driven largely by entrepreneurs who have seen the potential, and those who are already ethically invested in this crop. This can only benefit a country in relation to employment and taxes – and an improvement in the way of life this promotes.
Hemp grows rapidly, cleanly – and helps clean the environment around it. It is 100% biodegradable and recyclable. There is the potential for new jobs in an emerging market, stability in the farming sector and in the production of more eco-friendly products.
Hemp could be the next world-changing crop and there are still benefits to be discovered.