FARMERS are being urged to switch to hemp in moves which could boost incomes – and help reduce potentially harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
The UK National Farming Union (NFU) is encouraging British farmers to plant hemp for building materials, as its aims to make the agricultural sector carbon neutral within 20 years.
A recent report entitled; ‘Achieving Net Zero: Farming’s 2040 Goal’ it says the hemp hurd – or shiv – is an ideal material for the construction sector.
The report highlights how shiv not only absorbs carbon dioxide when growing, it continues the absorption process when used in hempcrete.
The report also recommends using farming bi-products such as methane to produce electricity, while planting more trees and hedgerows to increase carbon storage.
Hemp farming has been out of favour since the legal crackdown on cannabis began in the early part of the last Century.
In fact, records show 1533 King Henry Eighth mandated that for every 60 acres, farmers had to set aside one rood – about 1/4 acre – for hemp to make rope, sails and nets for the Navy.
Nowadays, most UK hemp production goes in to the manufacture of horse bedding, mattresses, hempcrete, rendering and house construction, clothing and paper.
The NFU report picks up on a common theme amongst many cannabis advocates highlighting the significant environmental benefits of the hemp plant.
Guy Coxall, Chairman of HempTank and Compliance Director for the Cannabis Trades Association, is a well-informed apostle of the multi-faceted cannabis plant.
Writing in the Hemp & CBD Expo magazine in 2019 he highlights how hemp can provide low-carbon alternatives in transport, heating, construction and as an alternative to plastics.
He said: “To me the shiv is the most valuable part of the plant. By value I am not talking about the monetary sense – the flower reaches the highest price – I am relating it to a valuable solution too many of our problems.”
He goes on to say that a typical house can be built using around 50 cubic meters of hempcrete – which is made from the shiv, lime and water – and will lock up 5.5 tonnes of carbon, compared to a standard house which will emit 48 tonnes of carbon over its lifetime.
In the transport sector he says hemp seed oil can be used as an effective ‘non-petrochemical alternative to diesel and the shiv can produce ethanol to power petrol vehicles’.
He believes the hemp industry can ‘boost the economy and create thousands of UK jobs’.
British farms are responsible for around 10% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, but only 10% of that total is carbon dioxide, while 40% is nitrous oxide from things such as fertilizers, and 50% is methane from cows and sheep.