Hemp for Remediation and Green Spaces

Source: Reprinted from the National Hemp Association

One of the most underrated aspects of industrial hemp is its use for land reclamation and remediation. Below are excerpts from a very insightful report written by T.J. Cole for Messiah College. With the combination of brilliant young minds and this type of vision for hemp, we will help ensure a greener, healthier and sustainable future for all of us. The full report here.

Vacant lots in urban areas are all potential brownfield sites, which may be phytoremediated via industrial hemp by a state Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) for future development of green spaces or community gardens.  A main struggle for starting urban farming businesses seems to be fertile, healthy soil- the state of the ground’s health and its requirements for revitalization discourage one’s initiative for garden growth. Brownfield development in conjunction with industrial hemp will eliminate the first step for urban gardeners’ careers. Proposed here is a phase-oriented restorative research framework on using higher education institutes to do research on hemp as a phytoremediator on urban brownfields, which will facilitate creation of green spaces and urban gardens for local communities.

One acre of hemp has the ability to produce as much fiber as two to three acres of cotton. Little to no pesticides are used for hemp as well, and a single acre of hemp can produce as much paper as two to four acres of trees; hemp paper is also sturdier than tree paper, can be recycled more frequently, and requires fewer chemical inputs in manufacture. Harvest only comes after about 120 days. The plant’s intricate properties contribute to its four basic uses: food, fiber, fuel, and medicine.

A commonly overseen use for hemp, especially before the plant gets to manufacturing operations, is its usefulness in phytoremediation of contaminated soil. Overall, hemp plants are exceptional against heavy metals in soils, as shown by a study conducted in China. Eighteen cultivars of hemp were tested for tolerance and accumulation of cadmium (Cd) contaminated soils, screened for its potential bioenergy production in Cd-rich soils, and identified for its phytoremedial use. Results showed that all but three of the studied cultivars were considered to be good biodiesel crop candidates for phytoremediation in Cd contaminated soils.

Hemp makes a premium candidate for phytoremediation due to high biomass, long roots and a short life cycle. Hemp also has a high capability to absorb and accumulate heavy metals (HMs) lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), cadmium (Cd), zinc (Zn), and chromium. Hemp was planted in the contaminated soils of the Chernobyl disaster site in the Ukraine, and it was revealed that the plant can take up considerable amounts of HMs from contaminated soil thanks to high biomass and deep roots.  Another reported study elected hemp as the best bioaccumulator of Cd out of eight potential energy crops. In the future, the brownfields redevelopment industry may want to consider phytoremedial hemp as the starting tool for urban improvement.

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