What is hemp, you may ask? It’s simply another name for the cannabis plant. It’s fibrous and incredibly versatile in its potential uses. Hemp can offer sustainable solutions to unsustainable practices.
Hemp plastic is non-toxic and biodegradable. It is also much stronger than conventional plastic. It provides an alternative to cotton, which uses 50 percent more water than hemp to grow. It also uses up 25 percent of the world’s pesticides.
It’s also another option for paper. One acre of hemp yields as much paper as four acres of trees in one growing season (~100 days). It also serves as a better, cleaner and infinitely more sustainable option to crude oil. Hemp-based biofuel is 86 percent greener than gasoline and can be used in existing transportation vehicles
Hemp is the most ecofriendly answer to the soil pollution that is causing headaches for our farmers. The GMO monoculture of harvesting corn and wheat has caused considerable damage to our fields. Our heartland is becoming more dry and causing soil erosion. Farmers from Eastern Colorado are claiming that soil conditions are similar to those during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
Hemp is a great answer to these problems as its wide climatic adaptation and fast-growing foot-long roots allow it to thrive in drought-damaged soil. It also helps with soil stabilization thanks to its long, fast-growing taproots. Internationally, in countries like China, hemp has traditionally been used for erosion control. Just in the past 3 years, lot of Coloradans decided to try out hemp for this reason.
Since hemp was legalized in Colorado, we have seen exponential growth in hemp cultivation. Initially, in 2014, hemp was seeded and harvested in 250 acres of land. Since then, many farmers have adopted the crop and hemp was harvested in over 2,000 acres in 2015. That is almost a 1,000 percent growth!
Demand of hemp seems to continue to grow and the total acreage cultivating hemp is looking to grow to 20,000 acres this year.With Colorado leading the way, many more states are observing and learning from its success. States such as Hawaii and North Dakota that are looking for a suitable crop to replace their traditional staple crops are looking at hemp as the alternative solution. The success in these few states will be key in accelerating the hemp adoption across the US.
Why are farmers in Colorado utilizing hemp in their crop cycle? This is easy to answer if we just observe what has happened in Canada. Today, Canadian hemp farmers rake in profit of about $250 per acre for hemp. This is a significant amount when you compare this with the $30-$100 that wheat brings in. A farmer who planted a thousand acres in 2012 netted $250,000.
The Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance has said that Canada’s hemp acreage has doubled to 100,000 acres in 2015. For US farmers, the enticing aspect of this growth is that 90 percent of Canadian hemp’s demand comes from the US. Just last year, US has imported roughly $150M worth of raw hemp. Considering that the US hemp market has been growing 20 percent annually, this number will continue to grow in the future.