Industrial hemp is a strain of the Cannabis Sativa plant which is grown for the industrial uses only. It is one of the fastest growing plants and was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago. It can be refined into a variety of commercial items, including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.
Hemp has lower concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which eliminates its psychoactive effects unlike it’s close relative - cannabis. The legality of industrial hemp varies widely between countries. Some governments regulate the concentration of THC and permit only hemp that is bred with an especially low THC content.
Hemp is one of the earliest plants. Based on the historical evidence, Hemp grew and was known in the Neolithic period from Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Romania, Ukraine) to East Asia (Tibet and China), but textile use of Hemp does not appear in the West until the Iron Age. Throughout ancient times, Hemp was wildly used for clothes, shoes, ropes, paper, food, etc.
The history of hemp in the United States started with George Washington - he pushed for the growth of hemp as it was a cash crop commonly used to make rope and fabric. George Washington also imported the Indian Hemp plant from Asia, which was used for fiber and, by some growers, for intoxicating resin production.
Hemp was used extensively by the United States during World War II to make uniforms, canvas, and rope. Much of the hemp used was cultivated in Kentucky and the Midwest. During World War II, the U.S. produced a short 1942 film, Hemp for Victory, promoting hemp as a necessary crop to win the war. U.S. farmers participated in the campaign to increase U.S. hemp production to 36,000 acres in 1942. This increase amounted to more than 20 times the production in 1941 before the war effort.
Hemp benefits crops grown after it. So, it is generally grown before winter cereals. Advantageous changes are high weed suppression, soil loosening by the large hemp root system, and the positive effect on soil. Since hemp is very self-compatible, it can also be grown several years in a row in the same fields (known as monoculture).
Hemp is usually planted between March and May in the northern hemisphere, between September and November in the southern hemisphere. It matures in about three to four months. For profitable hemp farming, particularly deep, humus-rich, nutrient-rich soil with controlled water flow is preferable.
Smallholder plots are usually harvested by hand. The plants are cut at 2 to 3 cm above the soil and left on the ground to dry. Mechanical harvesting is now common, using specially adapted cutter-binders or simpler cutters.
Traditionally, hemp stalks would be water-retted first before the fibers were beaten off the inner hurd by hand (a process known as scutching). As mechanical technology evolved, separating the fiber from the core (decortication) was accomplished by crushing or brush rollers, or by hammer-milling, wherein a mechanical hammer mechanism beats the hemp against a screen until hurd, smaller bast fibers, and dust fall through the screen. Recently, new high-speed kinematic decortication has come about, capable of separating hemp into three streams; bast fiber, hurd, and green microfiber.
Hemp plants are incredibly versatile. Hemp is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products, including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation, and biofuel. The bast fibers can be used to make textiles that are 100% hemp.
The inner two fibers of the plant are woodier and typically have industrial applications, such as mulch, animal bedding, and litter. When oxidized (often erroneously referred to as "drying"), hemp oil from the seeds becomes solid and can be used in the manufacture of oil-based paints, in creams as a moisturizing agent, for cooking, and in plastics. Hemp seeds have been used in bird feed mix as well.
A considerable portion of hemp products falls into the category of food. Hemp seeds are high in complete protein and a great source of iron. They can be eaten raw, ground into hemp meal, sprouted or made into dried sprout powder. Hemp seeds can also be made into a liquid oil and used for baking or for beverages such as hemp milk and tisanes (herbal teas).
For centuries, items ranging from rope, to fabrics, to industrial materials were made from hemp fiber. Pure hemp has a texture similar to linen. Because of its versatility for use in a variety of products, today hemp is used in a number of consumer goods, including clothing, shoes, accessories, dog collars, and home wares.
Fuel can be a by-product of hemp cultivation. Hemp fuel is a form of cellulosic ethanol, meaning that the biofuel is made from the fibrous stalks of the hemp. Biodiesel can be made from the oils in hemp seeds and stalks; this product is sometimes called "hempoline".
Hemp paper mainly consists of pulp obtained from fibers of industrial hemp. The by-products are: cigarette paper, banknotes and technical filter papers. Hemp pulp offers a longer fiber, higher tear resistance and tensile strength. However, production costs are higher than for paper from wood, since the infrastructure for using hemp is underdeveloped.
HEMP PRODUCERS AND REGULATIONS
The world-leading producer of hemp is China, which produces more than 70% of the world output. France ranks second with about a quarter of the world production. Smaller production occurs in the rest of Europe, Chile, and North Korea. Overall, over 30 countries produce industrial hemp.
France is Europe's biggest producer (and the world's second largest producer) with 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) cultivated. 70–80% of the hemp fiber produced in 2003 was used for specialty pulp for cigarette papers and technical applications. About 15% was used in the automotive sector, and 5-6% was used for insulation mats. And about 95% was used as animal bedding, while almost 5% was used in the building sector.
Russia and Ukraine
From the 1950s to the 1980s, the Soviet Union was the world's largest producer of hemp. Since its inception in 1931, the Hemp Breeding Department has been one of the world's largest centers for developing new hemp varieties, focusing on improving fiber quality, per-hectare yields, and low THC content. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the commercial cultivation of hemp declined sharply. However, at least an estimated 2.5 million acres of hemp grow wild in the Russian Far East and the Black Sea regions.
As of December 2018, hemp is federally legal to grow again in the United States. As of 2015 the hemp industry estimated that annual sales of hemp products were around $600 USD million annually; hemp seeds have been the major force driving this growth. Despite this progress, hemp businesses in the US have had difficulties expanding as they have faced challenges in traditional marketing and sales approaches.
Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields? / Henry Ford
Hemp plants can be vulnerable to various pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, nematodes, viruses and other miscellaneous pathogens. Such diseases often lead to reduced fiber quality, stunted growth, and death of the plant. These diseases rarely affect the yield of a hemp field, so hemp production is not traditionally dependent on the use of pesticides.
Hemp is considered to be environmentally friendly due to a decrease of land use and other environmental impacts. Hemp is also claimed to require few pesticides and no herbicides, and it has been called a carbon negative raw material. Results indicate that high yield of hemp may require very high nutrient levels (field plus fertilizer nutrients) similar to a well-yielding wheat crop.