One of Ireland’s richest natural farming advantages is that rainfall is abundant, frequent and clean. With fertile soils, a temperate climate and abundant rain water, Ireland has enviable natural advantages for farming the land to produce food, fibre, fuel and medicine. Aided by the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream, Ireland’s climate is particularly suited for the growth of Industrial hemp, an excellent break crop for tillage farmers to use in rotation with winter wheat. This simple comparative advantage is the basis for much of Ireland’s farming today.
The technical properties and environmental profile of Hemp make it an important crop for the emerging bio-economy. Hemp not only offers a competitive gross margin, for farmers, characterised by high yields and low input, but the crop also has many additional benefits including excellent weed control, fewer field operations and improved soils. The varieties of industrial hemp grown today have been specially bred and have no drug content.
Hemp is an extremely robust annual crop. Drilling takes place from mid-April up to the end May. Cutting is around mid-August (or mid-September for dual crops). Seed is harvested and taken away immediately for drying and crushing for oil. After 2-3 weeks for ‘retting’, the dry hemp straw is baled and stored on farm until required for processing.
Hemp is not a greedy crop and returns quantities of nutrients to the soil. Hemp yields are among the highest of any crop. The Hemp crop requires no herbicides or pesticides. No part of the plant is wasted. Hemp fibres are tough, durable and incredibly versatile.
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