What is industrial hemp? It’s a variety of Cannabis sativa plants explicitly grown for industrial uses. It has a wide range of applications, including rope, clothing, paper, and construction materials. Unlike other varieties of cannabis, it contains deficient levels of THC (the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana its recreational effects). This makes it an ideal material for several industrial and commercial applications.
Growing it is not difficult and can be done in any climate. There are a few things to keep in mind, however. First, the plant must be started from seed or clones (cuttings from mature plants). Second, industrial hemp grows best in well-drained soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. Third, the crop should be spaced at least four feet apart to allow adequate air circulation and light penetration.
What is it? How Can I Grow it?
Harvesting industrial hemp is a relatively simple process. The plants are cut down when they reach their desired height (between six and eight feet). They are then left to dry in the field. After the plants have been dried, they can be processed using standard harvesting equipment.
Due to the efforts of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, it’s is commonly thought to be native to America. In reality, it’s an old-world plant with origins in Asia. It probably originated in China or Russia from where it spread over Europe millennia ago. The first recorded paper was made out of hemp fiber around 200 A.D. n China; Subsequently, it spread throughout the world over the next two thousand years.
It was an essential crop from around 1500 to 1800 in many countries.
It became a significant industry in some areas until its use was suppressed by the invention of the cotton gin. This made short-staple cotton profitable at a low cost. It was pushed out in parts of the world where it had been a staple crop for thousands of years; the remnants of its former range were limited to remote areas. Russia, China, and other countries continued to grow it as an essential crop until around 1900. The last known commercial hemp field was planted in Wisconsin.
Hemp is a low-growing, fibrous plant with long stems and a deep taproot that stays behind it in the soil; abundance of carbon-rich organic material. One acre planted with it has the potential to grow more than four tons of CO2 per year. One acre produces as much cellulose fiber (the raw paper material) as 4-1/2 acres of trees.
It can have energy and build materials stronger than wood, concrete, or steel and much more efficiently, converting sunlight into biomass as a fuel source through photosynthesis. Industrial hemp could make it possible to end the gasoline age tomorrow!
Hemp was grown legally in the U.S. until the early twentieth century when it was outlawed along with marijuana in 1937.
And it’s fiber became a significant component of aircraft construction because it is strong but lighter than steel. That year, the Marihuana Tax Stamp Act was passed, requiring that anyone who dealt commercially in cannabis had to have a stamp stating that they were doing so legally. That significantly reduced cultivation at the time. Later in the 20th century, with rising environmental concerns and government subsidies of industrial agriculture, farmers began planting crops that required fewer pesticides and less water.
At the same time, interest in alternative agricultural practices was increasing.
As a result of all these factors, hemp cultivation for legal purposes has been re-allowed in many countries (although not yet in the U.S.) since it doesn’t have the side effects that commonly occur with more traditional crops like cotton. Today, hemp is grown for industrial purposes in over 30 countries, including Canada and the U.S., and it’s experiencing a resurgence as an environmentally friendly crop because of the growing awareness of its multiple uses.
How can you grow industrial hemp? In Colorado, farmers may now obtain a permit from the Department of Agriculture to plant or harvest this critical crop that can provide many resources for the future of Colorado agriculture. The legislature has taken steps to enable the industry to flourish, and they must be applauded for their efforts. However, more needs to be done as there are still too many barriers that prevent free trade in industrial hemp products from growing industries worldwide.
There are many advantages to growing industrial hemp. It is a versatile crop that can be used for various applications. It is easy to grow and does well in multiple climates and soil types. Additionally, hemp produces high yields per acre, making it an economically viable option for farmers. Lastly, it is a sustainable crop that does not require pesticides or herbicides.
If you are interested in growing industrial hemp, contact your local agricultural extension office for more information. They can provide you with detailed instructions on how to get started.