The world's oldest and most versatile crop, hemp has the potential to replace all major non-renewable raw materials. It's vast range of end-uses include nutrition (the most nutritious single food source known), multi-use fibre for industry and communities, and forestry derived fuel replacement. With deforestation running at around 3% per year, hemp offers respite for trees and superior resources for people. Hemp derived fibre is stronger and more versatile than any other plant derived fibre, including cotton and wood. Hemp content is used in the world’s major currency banknotes due to its strength and water resistance. Hemp is also a major resource for construction, creating excellent boards, insulation and 'bio-crete,' a sustainable replacement for concrete.
Hemp's rapid growth makes it one of the fastest CO2-to-biomass conversion tools available, more efficient than agro-forestry per land use. Hemp grows in diverse soil types and conditions without the need for chemical inputs and improves soil structure while also protecting and binding soil. Hemp also adds nutrients to soil by tapping into sub-soil nutrients other plants cannot access. It also destroys nematodes and other soil pests, resulting in improved yields of follow on crops. With the additional benefits of high nutrition and versatile biomass for raw materials, hemp offers a path to sustainable living in harmony with the environment and eco-systems we depend on.
Our basic premise is that hemp is far more productive than typical agro-forestry projects, producing annual, versatile biomass alongside more rapid CO2 uptake. It can produce a vast range of sustainable raw materials with an overall low environmental impact, as well as improving soil structure, using low fertiliser and no other chemical inputs (i.e. reduced agrochemical residues).
Hemp can be grown on existing agricultural land (unlike most forestry projects), and can be included as part of a farm's crop rotation with positive effects on overall yields of follow on crops. This, along with super versatility in diverse soil conditions and climates, makes hemp cultivation a viable and genuine potential large scale contributor to GHG mitigation.
The vast quantities of hemp derived products and raw materials created by large scale cultivation could replace many oil-based unsustainable products and materials, particularly in construction, locking in captured CO2 and creating secondary benefits to the global environment. In particular, hemp could be used to replace significant quantities of tree-derived products, allowing reduced use of existing tree populations, thus maintaining their CO2 uptake.
Hemp also produces much higher quantities of stronger and more versatile fibre than cotton, and many other fibre crops, which often have very high chemical residue and water footprints. Extra processing required by hemp is also at least partially offset by its recycling potential.
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Hemp Knight Beer
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Hemp Building Symposium
16-18th September 2009
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