The 2018 Farm Bill has proven to be a boon for hemp farming nationwide, which in turn has transformed many industries via the production of environmentally friendly materials and biofuels. To heighten the benefits of hemp growth further, an obvious next step would be the integration of regenerative farming techniques across the industrial hemp space.
The term “regenerative farming” is used to describe a range of agricultural practices that help the environment. It uses natural processes like planting trees and managing weeds to keep the soil healthy and re-usable. It helps farmers produce more food on the same land and protect forests. Common regenerative farming techniques include minimization of chemical use, conservation tillage, livestock integration, and rotation or cover cropping.
Here are just six advantages to regenerative farming:
- Soil Quality Is Improved and Stores More Carbon Healthy soil is rich in organic matter, which is a natural source of carbon that helps plants grow. Organic matter also releases nutrients over time so farmers don’t need to use fertilizers.
- Water Quality Is Improved The soil absorbs water and protects water sources from pollution like fertilizer runoff. Soil also sinks into the ground when it is rich in organic matter, which means that less rainwater rushes off of farmland and into streams and rivers. This helps keep freshwater clean downstream so people can drink it.
- Forests Are Protected When the soil is healthy, farmers can protect forested land. Forestland helps clean air and water, protects animals and plants from extinction, and provides places for recreation. Farmers who practice regenerative farming often get paid stipends for helping keep forests alive.
- It Helps Farmers Grow More Food With Less Work Regenerative farmers don’t need as much fertilizer or pesticides. This means that they are using less diesel fuel and other energy sources to work their farms. They also don’t have to spend as much time applying chemicals, so more of their time can be spent doing things like selling their food or feeding it to their animals.
- Healthy Soil Is Flood And Drought Resistant When soil is rich in organic matter and has healthy plants, it can better withstand floods and droughts. In the future, with more extreme weather caused by climate change, this could help farmers produce food even when no rain falls for weeks at a time.
- It Makes Food Taste Better Plants grown on healthy soil taste good and can make farmers more money from their sales at the market. Their work is doubly rewarded because contemporary environmental awareness campaigns encourage consumers to buy food that comes from regenerative farms that protect forests.
When combined with hemp’s already rapid renewability and environmental utility as a carbon sink, regenerative farming would ensure maximum utilization of agricultural acreage in industrial hemp farms, as well as further mitigate their negative impact on land areas from their use of machine processes and refining facilities.
Let’s look at three examples of sustainable hemp-sourced materials already being produced from regeneratively grown hemp, as well as how they benefit the environment in the contexts of immediate and long-term use.
The Advantages of Hemp-Sourced Woven Fibers
Fabrics produced from woven hemp fibers are not only sustainable but also have the potential to be more durable and less expensive than many conventional clothing textiles. Monoterpenes provide natural antibacterial properties, which make them resistant to mold and mildew growth due to their ability to repel water vapor. This resistance also makes hemp an ideal source material for breathable clothing and underwear.
Hemp-sourced fabric can be made from the entire hemp stalk, resulting in strong and durable cloth. Hemp fiber is more versatile than cotton, which uses large amounts of land, water, pesticides and fertilizer to grow. In contrast, hemp requires no herbicides or pesticides to grow, does not deplete the soil of nutrients and enriches the soil it grows in.
Hempcrete’s Role in Environmentally Friendly Homes & Buildings
Hempcrete is made from the woody core of the hemp plant, mixed with water and lime to form a solid building material that’s similar to concrete. It has many advantages over traditional construction materials because it’s sustainable, highly insulating, fire-resistant and mold-resistant. Because Hempcrete can be rendered into modular masonry units, it’s considered highly viable in the creation of walls, ceilings and even roofing tiles.
Hempcrete buildings are naturally insect-repellant thanks to their carbon dioxide retention, which makes them inhospitable to pests like termites. If you aren’t impressed yet, Hempcrete’s most impressive ability is in its natural regulation of humidity in completed structures — which makes it a practical choice as a carbon-negative building material even in the developing world.
The Universal Green Appeal of Bioplastics
Hemp-sourced bioplastics are not only better for the environment, but they can also be composted at the end of their life cycle. Bioplastics have been around since the 1970s, but until recently, there has been little demand for them because petroleum-based plastics were cheaper to produce. However, the emergence of climate change and the increasing scarcity of fossil fuels has reinvigorated interest in bioplastic alternatives.
Hemp-sourced bioplastics are not only fully compostable; they also break down completely within six weeks of exposure to outdoor elements. This makes them renewable, biodegradable, and compostable — as well as highly viable in the manufacture of everyday items like plastic bags, cling films, stretch film, and food packaging.