Hemp, also known as industrial hemp, is a variety of the plant Cannabis sativa. When people hear the word ‘cannabis’, they immediately associate it with marijuana. Yes, marijuana and hemp are both cannabis plants, but their chemical makeup, usages, and morphology are very different. Their differences with each other are made evident in the way they are used.
For example, hemp is grown and harvested specifically for its industrial uses. In fact, it is one of the very first plants that were spun into fiber around 50,000 years ago. It has such a rich history in terms of usage. In fact, the term canvas is derived from the word cannabis. Nowadays, it is being used to make a variety of modern commercial items.
So, what can hemp be used for?
Hemp can be turned into a number of different products, such as textiles, paper, clothing, paint, biodegradable plastic, food, and even biofuel.
What goes into hemp production?
The technology for hemp production in the US has become more advanced as the years have passed. But it still follows the basic production steps for separating the bast fiber and hurd. Traditionally, the hemp stalks undergo a retting process before the fibers get beaten off the inner hurd. This process is called scutching. The two common ways of retting hemp include:
- Water retting. The hemp stalks are soaked in water tanks, streams, or ponds for a period of ten days. Warm water filled with bacteria is better.
- Dew retting. This entails leaving the crop laid out on the ground for a period of three to six weeks—occasionally turning the plants for even retting.
However, as mechanical technology became more advanced, the stalks are crushed and brushed by rollers to separate the fiber from its core. Alternatively, hammer-milling can be done, where hemp is beaten by a mechanical hammer mechanism against a screen. This will cause dust, hurd, and tiny bast fibers to slip through the screen.
Once the hemp fiber is produced, it can now be turned into different products.
What products are made from hemp?
What can hemp be used for? Here are just some of the most common products made from this material.
- Textiles: clothing and shoes
- Industrial textiles: nets, sail canvas, rope, and carpet
- Industrial products: paper and other hemp wood products for building and construction
- Personal care: beauty products, soap, and moisturizer
- Food: food supplement, oil, and birdseed
- Farm and landscaping: composting, mulch, and animal bedding
- Protein flour
- Seed cake
We hope this answered the question “what is industrial hemp used for?”
However, do take note these are just some examples of the uses for hemp fiber. But what’s the fuss about hemp? How does it differ from other natural fiber?
It’s not that hemp is any better than other plants used for fiber when it comes to quality. But, hemp—being a weed—is a densely growing plant. So when it comes to growth rate, hemp is the clear winner among other plants used for fiber. It grows so fast that herbicides aren’t necessary. It also has natural pest repellent properties, so there’s also no need for pesticides.
Amazingly, hemp also returns up to 60% of the nutrients it takes from the soil. Its extensive root system helps alleviate soil compaction problems. Aside from being easy on the soil, hemp requires very little water to survive compared to other plants, such as cotton?
And before we forget, the hemp plant also uses significantly less land to cultivate. It can yield twice as much fiber per hectare than cotton. When looking at it from an environmental perspective, there’s no doubt that hemp-based products are highly sustainable.
To show your support for this industry, you can make a donation or volunteer to charitable organizations that conduct scientific research for educational purposes about hemp, such as the Minnesota Hemp Farmers and Manufacturers Association (MHFMA). And to make your intention to help nature even more meaningful, why not also support non-profit organizations that sponsor vegan hunger relief programs across the planet like Food for Life Global?