Hemp’s Environmental Impact
What is hemp’s environmental impact? Hemp farming has numerous environmental benefits. With its variety of uses and renewability, the plant is eco-friendly and sustainable. Growing hemp gives back to the earth.
Hemp’s Environmental Impact
What makes industrial hemp cultivation such an attractive and sustainable venture is its numerous environmental benefits. These positive impacts exist in three areas of sustainability: ecological, economic, and social. Let us take a further look at the benefits and environmental sustainability that industrial hemp produces every day.
Phytoremediation is when a plant removes or converts harmful contaminants from water, soil, or air. The hemp plant has an intricate root system and a deep taproot. This root system enables the plant to draw toxins from deep within the soil into the plant. It then holds the pollutants until it dies. Scientists even used hemp to aid in the removal of radioactive strontium and cesium after the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. Consequently, it is under consideration for use in removing radiation from Fukushima.
Hemp Can Be a Biodegradable Plastic
Over the last 60 years, companies have produced billions of pounds of plastic materials. These plastics are mostly single-use and have harmful effects on wildlife and people. The plastics can also leak chemicals into groundwater and soil. Unfortunately, these chemicals can severely affect the human endocrine system and host and transport harmful and invasive microorganisms.
Notably, hemp plastics are a better alternative because they are biodegradable, durable, and lightweight. They also do not contain the chemicals found in regular plastics. Hemp plastics are, therefore, safe to the environment.
Hemp is an Environmentally Friendly Building Material
Experts expect the demand for cement in the world to increase. Concrete, which is a significant component of cement, is the second most used resource. However, it is a significant pollutant. In fact, it is the second-largest producer of carbon dioxide at 8 percent.
Hemp, once again, offers an attractive alternative. France and England have started using hempcrete, concrete made from hemp, in the development of many different structures. Hempcrete is a form of insulation that regulates moisture and holds up load-bearing walls. As such, another one of the hemp’s environmental impact is that it reduces CO2 emissions produced by concrete.
Low Need for Chemical Additives
Hemp is a highly resilient plant that is naturally resistant to diseases, insects, and fungi. Therefore, it does not need any chemical controllers such as fungicides and pesticides. These chemicals have disastrous effects on the environment, including water, soil, air, and biodiversity reduction.
This is yet another reason that farming hemp is essential to agricultural development. Climate change caused by over-reliance on chemicals and other destructive cultivation habits threatens food security and production. Rotating hemp with wheat in England has led to a 20 percent increase in wheat yield. Rotating hemp with soybeans in Ontario also reduced cyst nematode infestation by 50 to 75 percent, thereby decreasing the need for chemical additives. Half of all pesticides used in the US are associated with cotton. Hemp can replace cotton for its many uses. It is a substitute for almost any textile. Moreover, unlike cotton, it can be used to make fire-resistant clothing.
Helps in the Fight against Deforestation
Another one of hemp’s impact is that it slows down deforestation. Deforestation is taking place at an unsustainable pace across the world. People clear forests to make land ready for farming or to harvest trees for products such as paper.
However, hemp fiber can also make paper. Not only that, but it is less expensive to grow and requires less space to thrive. To be clear, trees can take up to 20 years to mature; hemp can produce four times as much paper pulp in a significantly shorter time. Additionally, hemp paper is recyclable for longer than paper made from trees.
Hemp paper is also far more durable than wood paper due to the high concentration of cellulose in hemp pulp. The world can save trees and slow down global warming by using hemp paper.
Hemp Conserves Water
Hemp is a less water-intensive crop. It uses significantly less water than other plants allowing for conservation of water. It can also irrigate itself naturally and needs very little water to grow. Hemp is a sturdy and quick growing crop. With a deep taproot, it can access water too deep in the soil.
How to Conserve Water in Hemp Farming
Hemp growers must learn to conserve water regardless of drought or legal restrictions. There are several ways that hemp growers can cut back on their water usage, reduce their bills, and improve the hemp’s environmental impact.
The best way to conserve water is by using an automated system rather than watering by hand. Many growers over water their crops by watering several times a week using high volumes. Watering this way leads to waste since the hemp plants absorb a limited amount of water each time. It is a good idea to water frequently with small amounts of water. Growers can buy a moisture meter and measure the amount of water in the soil at six, 12, and 18 inches. Water absorption occurs in the root system; therefore, there is no need to flood with a lot of water.
Growers can also use the available roof space to catch and collect rainwater. Indoor growers should use a catch and store technique that uses dehumidifiers to create a zero-loss system for water. In a closed system, any water that the plant secretes will come back down to the roots with a dehumidifier. Note that this water may contain organic contaminants. Thus, growers must treat it before use.
Hemp growers can also use special techniques to reduce evaporation to prevent water loss. For example, some growers cover the soil with carpeting to combat evaporation and keep the ground insulated. Greenhouse growers can lower their light temperatures and reduce the distance from lights to plants. Moreover, excess irrigated water can also be captured and filtered in a fine-sand tank and then recycled into the system.
Final Thoughts on Hemp’s Environmental Impact
Hemp has a myriad of uses that can support a more sustainable world. Apart from being biodegradable, hemp takes out a large percentage of carbon dioxide to reduce global warming. It is also nature’s purifier.
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