The Sustainable Potential Of Industrial Hemp Crops
There are a few things that make hemp hot in the environmental space: For one, it’s a hardy plant that can grow in many different environmental conditions. Though it thrives in warm, humid climes, it can survive in colder areas as well. It’s also quick to grow; some forms are ready to be harvested just 60 days after planting.
In a relatively short amount of time, hemp develops a strong, deep root system. Equipped with this underground web, the plant is really effective at absorbing toxins and heavy metals from surrounding soil, so it’s known as a bioremediator.
Following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, hemp was planted to help clean up the area surrounding the nuclear site, and more recent research validates its ability to absorb and trap environmental contaminants like cadmium and selenium.
In addition to filtering out toxins, the quick-to-grow crop can help improve the quality of degraded soil, making it a promising option for land restoration and regenerative agriculture projects. In the future, it can be planted alongside other bioremediators like sunflowers, Poplar trees, and mustard plants to restore farmland that has been degraded by industrial agriculture and make it suitable for growing again.
As it cleans the ground, hemp also filters the air and absorbs high amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere via photosynthesis. The crop’s ability to draw down carbon rivals that of plant and tree species that are much larger and more resource-intensive to grow.
A final point in hemp’s favor is the fact that it can be turned into many different products. While hemp that is planted to absorb heavy metals is a harder sell, cleaner varieties can be turned into consumer goods like food, clothing, building products, paper, and nutritional supplements.
As hemp cultivator Gavin Stonehouse tells Rolling Stone, “If you can clean up the environment and still get a commercial product, you are killing two birds with one stone.”