The Environmental Benefits of Hemp
When we start to investigate the positive impact that hemp can have on our environment the list is staggering. Imagine a single industrial crop with thousands of different uses, that is able to purify our air, regenerate our soil and grow abundantly with minimal water required. That my friend, is hemp.
Let’s explore this list of benefits a little deeper…
Unlike most agricultural crops, growing hemp actually leaves the soil in better condition than before it was planted. Every single part of the hemp plant is packed full of nutrients. As the plant matures and the seed grows, leaves and stalks fall to the ground and decompose. During the retting process a significant amount of nutrients is returned to the soil, leaving it enriched full of goodness and ready for the next crop. Many have also looked to the potential for hemp to clean up soils through phytoremediation. Through its deep root system (30cm – 200cm), hemp is able to uptake heavy metals, restore productivity and fertility to soils, and to re-establish ecological cycles.
Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth. It is often added as a fertiliser to boost plant production, however a lot is lost to livestock. Livestock waste easily drains (leaches) from the soil before plants can absorb it. Nitrogen leaching can cause negative effects on our environment by entering waterways and potentially harming ecosystems.
The hemp plant’s deep tap root enables high uptake rates of nitrogen (239kgN/ha when irrigated with 8mm/day). Most of this nitrogen gets stored in the leaves and if properly retted, it can raise total nitrogen in soils for subsequent crops. There could be an opportunity to utilise the ability to grow hemp annually as a rotational crop for dairy farmers, to uptake nitrogen and increase soil quality. Evidence demonstrates hemp can be rotated with existing fodder and vegetable crops to raise the yield of subsequent crops.
Industrial hemp crops have been shown to remove significantly more carbon dioxide from our atmosphere than an area of tree’s the same size. Hemp has the ability to remove roughly 11 tonnes of C02 from the atmosphere per hectare annually. We can use hemp to produce durable items such as clothing (see our sister brand Original Canvas), rope, textiles, hempcrete and hemp-plastic. The carbon gets locked into these materials and creates what we call a ‘carbon sink’ or ‘carbon-negative’ sequestering. In addition, hemp takes as little as 4 months to mature meaning we are able to grow, harvest and rotate crops at a much higher rate than tree’s. More hemp growing = more carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. Industrial hemp is unmatched as a means of sequestering Carbon Dioxide.
Spray-free and Resilient
Hemp has proven to be naturally pest resistant. This means our crops are able to grow and thrive without the use of pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. Exposure to these chemicals have had detrimental effects on our environment, waterways and human health.
Less Water Required
Again attributed to the hemp plants deep tap root system, hemp is able to grow with significantly less water than other industrial crops. An example of this is to compare the amount of water needed to produce 1kg of textile materials made from either cotton or hemp. Requirement for water is around two-thirds less for hemp textile production. When considering cotton is used for around one-third of all textiles in the world, imagine the amount of water we would conserve if we all switched to hemp-based clothing. (Read more about the benefits of hemp textiles on Original Canvas's blog.)
Pictured below is Mainland Hemp's hemp farm in North Canterbury, New Zealand. This is a dryland (no irrigation), spray free hemp crop and only received 38mm of rainfall in 3 months. See the contrast between the incredible growth of the hemp crop in comparison to the rest of the land!
Save the Bees!
Bee’s love to frolic in the hemp fields. Our hemp farms in Culverden are a testament to that, where we have local hives set up right next to our hemp fields. When the hemp flowers bloom, bee’s go crazy for the pollen.