Farmers have a lot of considerations to keep in mind when it comes to deciding which crops they’re going to invest in. Regardless of a farm’s size, every farmer is going to try to maximize farm production output and identify the most profitable crops to grow. All things considered, the reality is that every farmer would be doing themself a big favour by taking a look at one crop in particular– hemp.
The hemp plant is one of the oldest cultivated crops, and dates back more than 10,000 years. It’s a variety of cannabis that is grown and harvested for its seeds and stalks. An incredibly versatile crop, hemp can be used to produce thousands of products, from food to paper to plastic composites and more.
If you’re looking toward higher value crops, hemp should be on your radar. Here, we offer some insight into interesting facts you probably don’t know about hemp, and explore why it would do us all a whole lot of good if we grew more of it.
Hemp Farming Benefits: The EU Green Deal
Before we dive into the many specifics of hemp farming benefits, it’s important to point out that hemp is the perfect source to meet a wide range of goals laid out in the European Green Deal. The EU Green Deal is a set of policy initiatives by the European Commission aimed at making Europe climate neutral by the year 2050.
Hemp, as a sustainable and versatile crop that requires very little water and little-to-no pesticides, strongly aligns with the EU Green Deal’s initiatives related to climate change, industrial and agricultural policy, sustainability, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity.
Growing hemp greatly benefits all that the EU Green Deal is meant to accomplish. It’s a natural chemical-free crop that grows well in the European climate without many pesticides and herbicides. It also supports biodiversity, reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide, and serves as a sustainable source for thousands of products.
Hemp the Wonder Crop
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call hemp a wonder crop. It is arguably the most sustainable and versatile crop that farmers can grow. The entire hemp plant – from hemp stalks to hemp seeds and hemp flowers – can be used for commercial production, and when grown without the use of harsh chemicals, it can replace many commercial items with minimal impact on the environment.
Not to mention, many people refer to hemp as a superfood, and for good reason. The plant’s seeds contain many of the nutrients needed to maintain a healthy diet, With the full spectrum of amino acids and a nearly perfect balance of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids, plus iron, vitamin E and many of nutrients, hemp seeds are among the most nutritionally complete foods there is. Hemp seeds can be eaten raw or ground into meal, pressed into hemp and pressed into oil. They also make a nutritious bird seed and farm animal feed.
#1 Grows Fast
Hemp by itself grows incredibly fast. In fact, farmers only need to wait approximately 60 days after planting before they’ll find that hemp for fibre is ready for harvest with a combine harvester. After about 90 to 120 days in the ground, seed heads will be primed for harvest. Some farmers who harvest hemp for flowers find that it’s best to be done by hand, using a machete or shear, to ensure the flower’s resin trichomes stay intact.
What this fast growing rate means for farmers is an opportunity for multiple harvests per year, for a higher overall yield. It also means that hemp is a great option for farmers in colder climates who need to work within a shorter growing season.
#2 Disease Resistant
If you’re a farmer, you know that risk is an important consideration. The uncertainties inherent in diseases, pests, and more can make a powerful impact on a farmer’s return of investment.
Thankfully, hemp is a naturally robust crop that is naturally resistant to most common diseases and pests. It’s not that the plant is completely impervious to these dangers, but the plant’s speedy growth rate and naturally vigorous nature allow it to overcome the attack of most diseases and pests.
This also means that farmers can avoid, or at least limit their use of, pesticides. This is helpful to a farmer’s budget, but Because hemp is an efficient bio accumulator, it is important to avoid using chemical pesticides that can cause residual contamination of products. Toxic pesticides sprayed on hemp plants can also leach into nearby soil and water sources, negatively impacting local biological environments.
Like with pesticides, many hemp farmers avoid using herbicides because they can affect local biological communities or be absorbed by hemp plants and transferred residually to commercial products.
#3 Requires Less Water to Grow
Hemp plants are generally drought tolerant and they grow prolifically with little water. This means that farmers can help keep their water bill lower by choosing hemp other more thirsty crops like almonds, avocados, and cotton. Plus, hemp’s drought tolerant nature means that even farmers in dryer areas can incorporate the plant into their crop rotation.
Compared to cotton, hemp requires four-times less water to thrive. So while most clothing today is made out of cotton, hemp can be a more drought-friendly option for shirts, pants, and more. Not to mention, a single acre of hemp is able to produce as much fibre as nearly two or three acres of cotton. Plus, hemp’s fibres produce clothing that is lightweight, absorbent, and active against microbes in nature.
Farmers mostly can get away with only adding water once the soil becomes depleted and dry. You will want to make sure you irrigate your hemp plants more earlier in the process. During the first six weeks in the soil, planted hemp seeds are more sensitive to dryness and benefit with more regular watering’s.
#4 Hemp Carbon Sequestration
Aside from requiring fewer chemicals and less water, hemp has another characteristic that’s positive for the environment: it absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air. Hemp farming is considered “carbon-negative”, because the hemp plant converts carbon that it pulls from the air and converts it into its vigorous stalks and leaves.
Hemp has been shown to absorb more CO2 per hectare than any forest or commercial crop. One hectare of hemp can absorb an impressive 15 tons of carbon dioxide. With its efficient carbon sequestration rates and fast growing rates, hemp is one of the fastest carbon dioxide-to-biomass conversion tools available and a potential climate solution.
By efficiently sequestering carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas contributing to the warming of the planet, hemp farming helps to combat climate change.
#5 Industrial Processing & Multi Use of Hemp
Hemp is an endlessly versatile crop with thousands of different product applications. In fact, every part of a hemp plant, from its seeds to its stalks and flowers, can be used in some way, shape, or fashion as a sustainable source to make a product, including environmentally-friendly packaging materials and bio-plastics.
Hemp can be used to make:
- Food for humans
- Animal feed
- Skin and hair care products
- Green construction materials (hempcrete)
- Textiles (fabric for clothing, canvas, rope)
- And more
Also, hemp is naturally higher in cannabidiol (CBD) than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), making it an ideal source for making CBD products. Unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating, and now CBD oil is highly-sought-after and widely used as a supplement to naturally promote health and wellness.
#6 Can Be Grown Both Indoors and Outdoors
Hemp is a highly robust crop that can thrive in most environments, meaning farmers can choose between growing the crop indoors and outdoors. Outside of extreme desert climates and high mountain regions, a hemp crop can grow in harsh conditions.
With that said, most hemp growers elect to grow their hemp outside. This is because hemp thrives across many different natural conditions. It also has long and lanky stalks with deeply seeded roots, and needs adequate room to grow to its full potential. Farmers generally find that outdoors instead of indoors allows them to grow hemp on a significant scale for low costs.
When grown outdoors, hemp farmers will generally sow male and female hemp plants close together to encourage wind pollination and increase seed production. A dense grow of hemp fields also helps to naturally control weed populations.
If you choose to grow your hemp indoors, you’ll need to set up a controlled environment with artificial lighting and ideally controllers for temperature to best manage plant growth and flowering.
#7 Can Replace Plastic & Other Materials
Hemp, cultivated for millennia, can replace more environmentally harmful raw materials in the manufacturing of products.
For example, hemp can and has been used to make naturally biodegradable plastic, which is more environmentally responsible than traditional petroleum based plastics. Auto industry leaders already understand the value that hemp production can have to car manufacturing, specifically as a replacement to carbon fibre and fiberglass to make door panels and more.
Hemp is also already being used in the construction of houses through its use as insulation and as a strong, lightweight, and breathable building material called hempcrete. It can also replace petroleum as a fuel when made into biodiesel. Hemp-based biofuel is greener than gasoline and can be used in existing transportation vehicles.
A Growing Industry
According to Persistence Market Research, the global industrial hemp market is on track for huge gains in the years ahead, with a projected annual growth rate of 18.3% from 2018 to 2027.
The sustainability and versatility of hemp offer an exceptional opportunity for farmers willing to enter the hemp industry. Interest in hemp products is surging, and it’s also not far-fetched to assume that this renewed appreciation for hemp and its countless benefits will stimulate even higher demand as well as discoveries of new ways to use the versatile crop. Farmers who grow hemp are rewarded with many different options when it comes to making a profit. Not to mention, hemp growers can feel good that they’re using their farm for a sustainable, eco-friendly crop that has a positive influence on the environment around it.