I’ve written numerous times on the benefits of hemp for our bodies, but an area I haven’t covered in great detail is how hemp can benefit the natural world and help with soil regeneration.
I will try to cover every aspect of how hemp can be utilised in a sustainable manner to help benefit the world, so read on to learn more about this magical natural solution to so many world problems.
Detoxifying and Regenerating The Soil
Crop rotation is a practice farmers implement in order to help reduce soil erosion. It works by adding diverse biological activity and optimising nutrients, through the practice of switching which crop grows on the land with something completely different to the previous occupant.
Crops such as coffee, wheat or soybeans can be particularly damaging to the soil to grow, meaning greater levels of erosion.
However, hemp is incredible for crop rotation, with the long roots helping to bind the soil together. Also, with the roots being so deep in the soil, it means it becomes more loose once removed, allowing for delicate plants to easily grow afterwards.
Another factor is the biomass produced by hemp in large doses, which goes back into the ground and provides nutrients.
If you want to read a really interesting story, I’d look up how hemp is now being grown in Chernobyl. Obviously, the hemp can’t be used for food or medicine, due to the radioactivity in the area, but it is being used for biofuel, helping to clean up and remove the radioactive elements in the soil.
Pulling nuclear toxins from the soil in an area people had deemed unusable for the next 500 years is certainly impressive.
No Need For Herbicides and Pesticides
Pesticides are commonly utilised in modern farming, to help protect the plant against pests eating away at it, however this also brings a number of negative factors.
At the end of the day, pesticides are poison. They’re hugely toxic, causing a number of health effects on the human body.
They contaminate the air, ground and water. They can affect aquatic environments, killing off fish, while they’re also a nightmare for bees.
However, hemp is naturally resistant to pests, meaning it doesn’t require the addition of these pesticides.
The reality is that hemp is highly porous, so you would want the hemp to be organically grown if to be extracted as a CBD oil, as otherwise the pesticides will transfer through to the oil in the extraction process. This is why you should always check the lab report for a presence of pesticides before making a purchase.
Without the presence of pesticides, hemp is seen as a perfect home for pollinators, meaning you’re doing something great for the natural world.
Also, as hemp is a cover crop, it helps to supress the growth of perennial weeds in the field, hence why herbicides aren’t required. Herbicides come at quite a cost, so this is also a benefit for the farmer’s pocket.
Minimal Use Of Land
If you were farming cattle, you would need 1.5-2 acres per day for a dairy cow. Palm oil is responsible for 40% of the loss of natural forests, while soya bean farming works out as around 51.5 bushels per acre.
In stark contrast to these examples of key deforestation factors, hemp is a much more sustainable and positive form of high-yield crop farming.
The hemp plants can be grown incredibly close together with no issues, something that can’t be said for many other crops. Most of the time, they are grown 6ft between rows and 4ft between plants.
A single acre of hemp will provide four times the quantity of paper as trees would, twice as much oil as the same space of peanuts, or double the amount of fibre as cotton farming. Of course, to be profitable, you’ll undoubtedly need to grow a minimum of 50 acres.
Less Water Required
Hemp requires around 35cm of water per growing season or rainfall equivalent for each crop. Cotton requires double the amount of water to hemp.
This study highlights that the required precipitation per growing season for hemp in the UK is met with the natural rainfall. This is a far cry from the thirsty cotton counterpart.
Considering 97% of the world’s water is salt water, dealing with a lack of water is a difficult and increasingly expensive issue. Agricultural water wastage is a costly and can lead to poorly grown crops.
By cultivating a crop that doesn’t require as much water, you will also create less pollution with machinery and conserve the fuel required to power the machinery.
Absorption of CO2
The senior researcher at the Centre for Natural Material Innovation at Cambridge, Dr Darshil Shah, hemp is one of the best CO2-to-biomass converters, even more effective than trees.
That is quite the statement, but backed up by research. A hectare of industrial hemp can absorb an astonishing 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare of cultivation.
Some other sources have even said it could absorp as much as four times the amount of CO2 than trees. Whichever source you decide to believe, it seems to be a profound finding, that hemp is incredibly effective in addressing the ever worrying carbon emission issue.
The sad thing about writing on a piece of paper is the awareness that a tree was chopped down for this to be possible.
But quite alarmingly, the usage of paper is expected to double over the next 25 years, yet we simply don’t have the natural supply to handle this increase, let alone our current usage.
Deforestation is damaging for oxygen supply, not to mention homes for insects and plants.
However, hemp is an incredible alternative source for paper, using the hemp stalks and pulping the fibres into a slurry, before removing the excess water and being spread and dried.
Hemp was actually the main source of paper for 2,000 years, however this changed in the 20th century, but with the effect on the environment, we are starting to see this change back.
Hemp paper is more durable, more can be recycled and it requires less land to yield greater quantities.
Nothing Is Wasted
The final point I wanted to make on this subject was that every single aspect of the hemp plant is utilised to make thousands of different products.
The seeds, stalks, roots and leaves can all be utilised, to make everything from fuel to fibre, medicine and clothing.
Even when I think about my usage nowadays, I have hemp milk in my cereal, I add hemp seeds to my post-workout protein shake for some additional healthy fats, while I have hemp in my detergent and in my soap.
Using every part of the plant is known as ‘whole crop utilisation’ and means nothing will end up being wated, making it a much more environmentally friendly option compared to many other crops.