Scientists say that if we planted one trillion trees, we could naturally solve our climate crisis. The issue is… that’s a lot of trees! Trees don’t grow in any type of soil. Trees are prone to insect infestations. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a tree hugger. I love trees. But there’s a plant better designed to draw down CO2 from our atmosphere.
Hemp grows very quickly and can be planted close together. Trees take significantly longer to grow and require much more space than hemp. A plot of land growing hemp therefore absorbs more carbon dioxide than almost any plant. Scientists estimate that for every ton of hemp grown, 1.63 tons of carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. Plus, hemp crops can be grown in nearly any type of soil. They require very little water and don’t need any fertilizers or insecticides to stay healthy. And hemp begins sequestering carbon the moment it is seeded.
Growing more hemp crops would make a substantial positive impact on global warming. The rise in average temperatures on earth is caused by higher concentrations of greenhouse gases; specifically, an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere and prevents it from being released into space. Warming temperatures cause negative effects including freak weather conditions, droughts and a rise in sea levels due to the melting of glaciers.
Hemp cultivation also encourages biodiversity in the soil, by regenerating farmland that has long been depleted from the use of toxic chemicals. Hemp is a “weed” and grows like one, ubiquitously, beating out other plants without pesticides; and its long tap root holds the soil, channeling moisture deeper into it. Unlike trees, hemp can be grown on existing agricultural land and included in a farm’s crop rotation. It improves the quality of the soil with positive effects on the yields and the profits from other rotated crops.
Industrial hemp permanently bonds carbon within the fiber which then can be used for anything from textiles, to paper, to building materials. It is currently replacing plastics in car production at BMW.
Hemp grows to 13 feet in 100 days, making it one of the fastest CO2-to-biomass conversion tools available. It can be grown on a wide scale on nutrient poor soils with very small amounts of water and no fertilizers. Hemp is a very leafy, dense plant. As such, hemp releases more oxygen into the atmosphere than most other plants.
Hemp can also sequester carbon back into the soil through a process called, biosequestration. When the hemp crop is harvested, it can be slow-smoldered, not burned, to create biochar. This charcoal-like product is then tilled into the soil adding nutrients and sequestering carbon. According to a paper provided by Holon Ecosystem Consultants, hemp can produce as much as 13 tons of biochar per hectare annually, which triples the output of Salix (a popular biomass crop) plantations.
Other advantages of hemp:
- Hemp can be grown in a wide range of latitudes and altitudes.
- Hemp can produce three crops per year.
- Hemp replenishes soil with nutrients and nitrogen, making it an excellent rotational crop.
- Hemp controls erosion of the topsoil.
- Hemp makes paper more efficiently and ecologically than wood, requiring no chemical glues.
- Hemp converts CO2 to oxygen better than trees.
- Hemp produces more oil than any other crop, which can be used for food, fuel, lubricants, soaps, etc.
- Hemp can produce bio-fuel and ethanol (better than corn).
- Hemp fibers can make very strong ropes and textiles emitting less CO2 in production than cotton or nylon.
We need to promote hemp cultivation as an effective and integral part of a holistic approach to solving our climate crisis.