Uses of hemp
Hemp can be used to make over 25,000 different products. These include things like clothing, shoes, diapers, rope, canvas, cellophane, paints, biodegradable plastics, paper, fiberboard, building materials (hempcrete), food (milk, protein powder, hemp juice and hemp oil), cosmetics, carpets, insulation, cars, batteries and biofuel.
Most products made from hemp are superior alternatives to their less environmentally friendly counterparts. Hemp produces far more paper per acre than trees, and produces twice as much fibre per acre as cotton. The use of hemp dates back over 10,000 years.
The Hemp industry in Ireland is currently in its infancy but is growing. For more information see the following links:
- Hemp thrives in adverse soil conditions.
- Its deep roots help to prevent soil erosion.
- Hemp is the perfect carbon sink. It absorbs more CO2 per hectare annually than commercial forestry. One hectare of industrial hemp can absorb approximately 15 tonnes of CO2.
- Hemp helps heal the land and was used to clean up the nuclear spill in Chernobyl, Russia.
- Hemp can be grown organically. Fibres are hand stripped from the stem – thereby avoiding big factories with smoke stacks and hazardous chemicals.
- Building materials made from hemp can be used as a substitute for wood. Using hemp-based building materials could reduce building costs and save millions of trees. The hemp based products are also stronger than their wood-based counterparts.
History of hemp growing in Ireland
Hemp was grown extensively throughout Ireland to make rope, sail canvas, fabric and textiles. It has a texture similar to linen and was used along with flax to make fabric. At the height of the linen industry spinning mills were located across Ireland. In Ulster the linen industry was still thriving until recent times. In 1866 a pamphlet was produced by George Sigerson which argued that hemp had the ability to revolutionise the Irish economy.
Current state of the hemp industry in Ireland
In 2017 17 licences were issued to grow 76.45 hectares (188.9 acres) of hemp. In 2018 24 licences were issued to grow 229.83 hectares (567 acres) of hemp. A number of established hemp companies such as Celtic Wind Crops are currently expanding their operations. More information can be found at the recently formed Hemp Co-operative Ireland.
Ideal soil and climate conditions for hemp
Industrial hemp can be grown on a wide variety of soil types. A deep, well-aerated soil with a pH of 6 or greater is preferred, along with good moisture and nutrient holding capacity. Poorly drained soils are not recommended. Hemp is sensitive to flooding and soil compaction.
Hemp prefers a mild climate, humid atmosphere, and a rainfall of at least 25-30 inches per year. Good soil moisture is required for seed germination and until the young plants are well established.
Weeds and Fertilizers:
Due to its dense canopy of leaves weeds are almost eradicated, thereby eradicating the need for pesticides or agricultural chemicals.
Hemp grows to between 1.8 and 4.5 metres tall in four to five months. It is a hardy, tolerant, annual plant, and consistently produces high yields.