Hemp is an incredibly versatile and beneficial crop for crop rotation. Its deep roots help keep the soil together, reducing erosion and loosening it, allowing more delicate plants to grow later. Hemp also produces large amounts of biomass, which returns to the soil and breaks down, returning essential nutrients. This makes hemp an ideal crop for rotation with winter cereals, which require high-quality soil.
Hemp leaves are also full of nutrients that fall, break down and nourish the soil. And once it has been harvested, any remaining plant matter can be returned to replace the soil. Hemp is a relatively resilient plant and needs much less water than many other industrial crops, such as cotton. It is also capable of absorbing more carbon from the air than trees, which take much longer to grow, and more annually, per hectare, than any other commercial crop.
This makes hemp an ideal crop for organic and local production instead of being shipped worldwide. At a recent event, it became even more evident that there is real potential for widespread hemp production in the United States. The Stroud Water Research Center has launched a collaborative project to study cultivation, soil health and environmental impact, and industrial hemp fiber manufacturing. This project demonstrates that land can be valued as an ecological resource and, at the same time, produce viable agricultural yields.
In South Africa, a historical study is testing the theory by planting hemp in areas of the country that have been devastated by unethical mining practices. With more than 50,000 requests, it may come as no surprise to learn that farmers have been growing hemp for thousands of years. Hemp is not only beneficial for soil regeneration but also for construction and insulation purposes. Earlier this year I attended a demonstration to learn about the use of hemp fiber in construction and insulation.
While the new plant has been hailed as a “sinless superharvest”, a hemp-based economy doesn't automatically create a greener future. However, unlike cannabis, hemp has very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in cannabis, and therefore cannot get you high. The hemp that Campbell is harvesting from the experiment will not be safe for use in food or other health products intended for human use, but it should be safe for construction uses.