The hemp industry cannot be overlooked with all the advantages it brings. When you support the hemp industry, it makes a beneficial difference to the environment and therefore, the economy, where these businesses are located. It creates jobs, protects the environment, and provides us with clean, natural, sustainable materials to work with. These resources are created locally, cutting down the impact of transportation of products and mining for resources, reducing our global carbon footprint overall.
Hemp can regenerate soil, draw carbon from the atmosphere, and supply animal feed, bedding, food, fibre, biofuel, rope, concrete, vehicles, paper, bioplastics, clothing, and much more.
If we switch 40% of the world’s agricultural crop to hemp over the next 5 years, this will have a positive, fundamental impact to local economies and environments, therefore, contributing to the global community.
Read more to discover how hemp is the answer to sustainable farming.
- Requires Less Water and Space
To get a far better insight into how little hemp requires water, let’s compare it to cotton.
To supply 2.2 pounds of cotton, 2,850 gallons of water is required. 2.2 pounds of cotton produces about one t-shirt and a pair of jeans!
Hemp needs 4 times less water, about 80 gallons of water. This water is supplied mostly from rainfall and will produce on average a pound of fibre.
Agricultural farming is the key driver for worldwide deforestation. Buffer strip is an area of land along a water body that’s not tilled or used to grow crops. It contains habitats of native species and prevents contamination of water caused by runoff containing fertilisers. Buffer strips are removed by farmers to allow for more planting of crops. This adversely impacts waterways as buffer strips normally protect them from erosion or runoff.
Hemp plants can be sown and grow close together, meaning less land is required. Hemp is a high-yield crop. For example, only one acre of hemp can yield 3-8 dry tons of fibre, and as much paper as up to 4 acres of trees! There’s no requirement to remove buffer strips, meaning natural habitats are not disturbed and waterways are protected. For this reason, hemp is a sustainable crop to grow as it has minimal impact on the environment and doesn’t negatively affect neighbouring habitats or biodiversity.
- Lack of Pesticide Use
Insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, molluscicides, nematicides and plant growth regulators are all examples of pesticides. Pesticides can be a quick, economical solution for controlling pests and weeds, but they have contaminated virtually every part of our environment. Pesticide residues are everywhere - the soil, air, surface, and ground water. Pesticides carry unwanted side effects meaning they are a high-risk contaminant to the environment and non-target organisms such as fish, birds, plants, and beneficial insects. These chemicals also hold risk to humans and other forms of life. As discussed in the paper by Aktar et el. (2009), there are many risks associated with pesticides. Pesticides contaminate our surface water by runoff from treated plants and soil. Heavy use of pesticides causes the populations of beneficial soil microorganisms to decline. It is similar to antibiotic overuse in humans. Plants need a variety of soil microorganisms to grow and thrive. Insecticides are generally the most acutely toxic class of pesticides, but herbicides can also pose risks to non-target organisms. The EU Food to Fork strategy has set out to reduce the use of pesticides by 50% by 2030.
Hemp has natural antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, making it pest and disease resistant. Hemp can grow and thrive without the use of any pesticides. This means a boundary can remain around the field so wildlife can come back to protect the crop. Hemp is a massive answer to sustainable farming in the light of pesticide use. The lack of pesticide use means hemp purifies the soil, in turn, benefiting the earth, living organisms and the environment.
Discover more about the EU Food to Fork Strategy: https://ec.europa.eu/food/farm2fork_en
- Improves Soil Fertility and Regenerates Soil
Agriculture has resulted in soil degradation, which is the decline in the natural condition and quality of soil. Soil degradation involves the reduction in, or adverse change in the following:
- Soil fertility,
- Structural condition,
- Acidity, alkalinity, or salinity,
- Organic matter,
- Water & wind erosion,
- Contamination by toxic chemicals.
Hemp is a soil-remediator. It is used for regenerating soil polluted by heavy metals.
If Celtic Wind have any waste, it is returned to the field from which the crop came from to replenish the nutrients and therefore, completes an entire natural crop cycle. This improves soil fertility, benefiting the next crop to be planted.
Hemp is an annual, rotational crop, that is great for sustainable rotation farming as it nourishes nutrient depleted soil.
Soil erosion can make land infertile and block waterways, negatively impacting fish and other living organisms. Degraded soil cannot retain water, so it can also increase the risk of flooding. Soil erosion is prevented by hemp as it has long roots that bind soil together.
Hemp only takes 4 months to grow, compared to a tree which takes 20 years to mature. Due to its short growing season and deep root system, aeration is allowed, and this constantly improves soil structure.
Fun fact: In 1998, hemp was planted at Chernobyl to reduce soil toxicity. It is considered one of the best phyto-remediative plants in the world. It is being used in other parts of the world to decontaminate soil.
- Hemp’s Versatility Reduces Waste
The demand for food increases as the world’s population increases. The demand for food is met by farming, which subsequently increases waste. Agricultural waste is continuously increasing. The hemp plant has thousands of different uses, making it the most versatile plant in the world. Every part of the hemp plant is utilised, or it is put back into the earth to nurture the soil as a natural fertiliser. Hemp reduces waste due to its versatility.
The hemp crop is harvested to result in hemp seeds and hemp stalks. The seeds undergo intermediate processes such as hulling and pressing, and the stalk undergoes decorticating.
Hemp seeds are full of phytonutrients such as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PFAs), which constituent for 80% of the hemp seed, most abundant in all plants. Hulling divides the hemp meat from the shell. The meat can be used for food such as dairy products. The shell can be ground up into flour to use in baking and to produce bakery products.
Pressing the seed produces oil and hemp cake. The oil is used as a food supplement, fuel, paint, ink, or personal care products. Hemp cake is used for animal feed, beverages, and as a food additive as it is an excellent source of protein (hemp powder).
The stalk supports the plant as it grows and matures. Decortication breaks the stalk into fibre and hurds. Hemp fibre is the strongest natural fibre in the world. Hemp fibre is used to produce clothing, rope, animal bedding, and paper. Hemp paper is stronger than paper made from trees. It is more beneficial as it can be recycled more times and requires fewer toxic chemicals to produce.
Hemp hurds (inner core of the stalk) is used for construction materials such as hempcrete, insulation, and bioplastic. Hurds can be converted to gasoline, so it is used to make biofuels. Hemp biomass can make ethanol, methanol and methane gas using a process called pyrolysis.
Not only is hemp sustainable to grow and farm, but it can be utilised to make a wide variety of sustainable materials, leading the way to a sustainable future.
- Supports Natural Habitats & Biodiversity
Natural habitats are being destroyed due to unsustainable farming. It also causes a large amount of pollution that adversely impacts surrounding ecosystems due to the use of toxic chemicals.
Using hemp in sustainable farming protects nature by supporting natural hedgerows around fields, and this encourages wildlife. Hemp is biodiversity friendly, shown by a significant increase in the bee and butterfly population during growing season.
We see it here at Celtic Wind, there is an abundance of ladybugs, birds, butterflies, bumblebees, and other wildlife in their natural habitat at the height of growing season. It really is a beautiful sight to see.
A great example is bumblebees. Due to an increase in the human population and pest control measures such as pesticides, there has been a worrying decrease in bee habitats over recent years. There is current research studying hemp crops as it has been discovered that hemp is a vital nutritional resource for bees and plays a critical role in the insects’ future.
Hemp can offer an additional pollen source for bees, providing huge ecological benefits, and supports multiple bee species. A study by O’Brien and Arathi (2019), reported ‘20 various genera of bees on flowering hemp’, clearly showing that hemp supports and benefits pollinators in the agroecosystem.
It is evident that hemp supports neighbouring habitats and biodiversity. The natural growth of hemp and the absence of pesticides means wildlife is not harmed, soil isn’t damaged, and water isn’t contaminated.
It is a known fact that hemp is carbon negative. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is increasing in the atmosphere due to climate change, meaning the planet and oceans are warming. From the moment hemp is planted, it starts to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Approximately one tonne of harvested hemp can sequester 1.62 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere!
We believe hemp is the way forward for business and industry alike. Creating natural resources from a sustainable ancient crop like hemp, an annual spring break crop that can feed, clothe, and shelter. What an amazing plant, and the key to sustainable farming.