Hemp Harvesting: A Move In A Green Direction

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hemp seeds

Hemp is a sustainable crop that is widely misunderstood. Here are some ways hemp is currently being tested as a sustainable, and money-making, major US crop.

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Hemp is being harvested from many new trials around the US. The 2014 Farm Bill is a start to undoing the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act that classified hemp as a narcotic.  Purdue in Indiana, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Hawaii in Honolulu are now wrapping up the season of growing hemp for research purposes.

Other countries have legally been growing hemp for years, and the US is finally catching on. Hemp has been illegal since 1937. Up until then, it was the raw material for most everyday items: paper, textiles, fuel, food, rope, sails, plastics, and building materials. Because the DEA sees hemp as a drug, seed is not available to the public. No one can get high on hemp, and the sooner the government accepts the difference between hemp and cannabis, the better off the US will be economically.

Stuck in the system

Hemp is not a new crop. Sure, any crop needs trials, but the way it looks now, it will be years before seed is widely available to farmers and home gardeners. Let growers trial it themselves now. The more time we spend on ‘research’, the more money we lose in our economy.

According to the Hemp Industries Association, the 2014 US retail market of hemp products, all of which were imported, was about $620 million. It’s legal to sell hemp products, but not to grow it. What a huge boost to the economy if we could grow this raw material at home! Look how much money, employment, and tax revenue are lost with hemp prohibition.

Kentucky

Kentucky was one of the major producers of hemp centuries ago, so it makes sense to bring it back home. Hemp is the perfect crop to replace tobacco, which is in less demand than in the past. The University of Kentucky planted 33 acres of industrial hemp last year, and about 800 this year. Last year, they researched fiber production. This year they expanded to fiber, grains, and cannabinoids, used in food and dietary supplements.

In the field, they are observing and testing planting methods and density, row spacing, best harvest times and sizes, herbicide tolerance, and harvest methods. Researchers are not as concerned about production as they are about hemp making a profit for farmers. Markets need to be found, and processing plants built.

hemp fields 2

Purdue

In the wet growing season of 2015, Purdue grew plots of conventional and organic hemp. While battling the elements, they observed insects, weeds, and diseases in less than optimal growing conditions. They had test plots using various amounts and types of nitrogen, too.

Researchers will be developing the best varieties and growing methods for high yields for oil and fiber production.

Hawaii

The University of Hawaii in Honolulu harvested their first crop in July. After four months of growth, plants were 10’ tall with no supplemental pesticides or fertilizer. They grew so quickly, they choked out the weeds also. Researcher farmers are experimenting with irrigation with an eye on water conservation.

As sugar cane and pineapple farming drop off, hemp could take their places. One sugar company would like Hawaii to be a main seed source. The production of hempcrete for construction could also be a profitable path to take. With Hawaii’s year round growing season, they could have three harvests per year. That’s a plus for them!

Helping the market grow

The hemp market is expanding at a phenomenal rate every year. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act, an amendment of the Controlled Substances Act, would remove hemp’s status as a narcotic. Vote with your dollars, and support it! There are thousands of textiles, food, and health and beauty aid products to purchase.

Investors need to see the possibilities of industrial hemp and its huge potential return. Humble hemp needs to be viewed as profitable, and business plans need to be built around it, not oil and gas. Invest in hemp farms and processing infrastructure!

Learn more about hemp

There is no reason for hemp, the most sustainable crop on the planet, to be prohibited anymore. For more information about hemp and what you can do, visit Vote Hemp and the Hemp Industries Association.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.