By Emily Ledger
Given the explosion of CBD popularity, you would be forgiven for thinking that UK hemp farmers are now driving around in new cars and holidaying in the Caribbean. However, the UK hemp industry is still widely seen as being “not financially viable”.
This is because farmers are still only allowed to harvest the seeds and the fibre of the low-THC cannabis plant. Meanwhile the law state that the CBD-rich flowers and leaves should be destroyed…
While seeds are often used for hemp seed oil, which is a common ingredient in health and beauty items, and the fibres can be used for construction and fabrics, the high-CBD flowers and leaves are the most lucrative part of the plant. Nevertheless, UK farmers are still missing out on this revenue while huge amounts of CBD extract are legally imported from other countries…
But aside from financial potential, the humble hemp crop also offers an array of environmental benefits.
It consumes CO2
Hemp is very effective at absorbing carbon-dioxide (CO2), one of the key causes of Climate Change. Just one hectare of the crop can absorb up to 15 tonnes of CO2. This makes it one of the fastest natural CO2-to-biomass conversion tools at our disposal. Annually, hemp absorbs more of the compound per hectare than any other crop or commercial forestry!
It can decrease deforestation
For hundreds of years, hemp was used as one of them main materials for the production of paper. However, the crop fell out of favour for a number of reasons, including the social and political demonisation of cannabis and the growing strength of the timber industry.
Many have theorised that if the hemp production was given a boost and hemp-based paper (and other industrial products) once again became commonplace, we could decrease the amount of deforestation.
It is recyclable
Yes, timber-sourced paper is recyclable, too. But, paper made from hemp fibre can be recycled more than twice as many times as its tree-sourced counterpart. Hemp fibre is also a great insulator, meaning it could also replace fibre glass (a non-recyclable product) in construction!
It can improve soil quality
Hemp can grow almost anywhere, even in poor quality soil. Not only this, but it’s interlocking roots are great for preventing soil erosion, and its leaves for locking in nitrogen. The crop has natural defences against pests, and its denseness almost eradicates the growth of weeds. This eliminates the need for pesticides and herbicides which can damage the soil!
Hemp has been used to regenerate poor quality land and even absorb dangerous radiation. Following the devastating nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, hemp has been used alongside other plants to reduce soil toxicity.
It can be converted to fuel
The conversation around fuel supply and cost has picked up pace in recent months as we face what has been referred to as a ‘fuel crisis’. The UK is a net importer of fuel – this means that the majority of our fuel is imported from other countries.
If our energy supply was to diversify to include hemp fuel, not only would supply increase, but costs to the consumer – as well as importation costs – could be reduced.
Hemp has been used by humans for thousands of years – mainly for making clothing and paper. Henry VIII made a national law stating that farmers must dedicate a fraction of their farm to growing the crop. It is estimated that the crop has up to 50,000 end uses, so why aren’t we making the most of it today?