Hemp is more than 'CBD'. It is a front-line solider ready to battle global warming. Hemp can support Ireland in reducing its carbon spend.
How can hemp help the environment?
Hemp is a versatile, fast-growing commercial crop that can provide food, clothing, bedding, shelter and more. It can clean up contaminated soil, battle oil spills, offer an alternative to plastic and be used as a crop for marginal land.
However, hemp will only offer solutions to our current climate crisis and become our climate change 'silver bullet' if regulators develop a framework for farmers and processing companies to use the plant to its full potential. Here in Ireland we have the opportunity to use this crop in a truly sustainable manner.
Is hemp a viable alternative for farmers in Ireland?
Hemp can offer farmers a viable commercial opportunity (without sacrificing their land to 20 years of afforestation) while off-setting carbon emissions in line with our Government’s climate action plan. Irish farmers are living in a time of vast uncertainty. With tillage crops not yielding positive results as before, and dairy farmers becoming increasingly frustrated with the industry, there is an urgent need for Irish farmers to proactively protect themselves against potential instabilities further down the line. Hemp is a renewable and robust alternative to traditional crops. Low-cost, low-input, and naturally resistant to most pests and weeds, its economic burden is noticeably lower than that of its substitutes. It is currently grown and cultivated worldwide, and used in clothing, skin-care, dietary supplements, clothing, industrial materials and more. Hemp offers solutions to our challenges around carbon tax and it fits in perfectly with Ireland's Climate Action Plan.
Do Irish farms have an advantage?
Hemp producers in other countries are forced to cultivate the crop using vast amounts of energy for indoor grows or massive amounts of water for outdoor irrigation. Others are burning enormous amounts of oil to fuel elaborate drying hemp systems. (This one is especially nonsensical in a time when there are greener, cheaper and more effective solutions readily available.) If one starts to calculate the amount of oil used to ship raw biomass and crude oils around the world as well as the amount of plastic used in many hemp derived end consumer goods, then this environmentally friendly crop begins to do more harm than good.
Ireland is late to the game with regard to the cultivation and processing of hemp. However, we can still grab a slice of the action and we certainly don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Ireland's farming community is knowledgeable, energetic and hungry for change. In Canada and America much of the waste and unnecessary use of oil/energy is due to government imposed regulations. While the Irish government is ironing out the kinks in our regulatory framework and putting systems in place to support our farmers to switch to carbon heavy animal farming, we should be encouraging them to consider the environmental impacts of those regulations.
For example, outdoor cultivation will obviously be far more energy conservative than indoor growing. Let us use our copious amounts of rain to water our crops. Crops could be grown with as few inputs as possible, thus saving our environment from nasty pesticides and run offs into our rivers and lakes. Circular agricultural practices should be encouraged and incentives put in place to allow farmers (especially those in rural areas or with marginal land) to cultivate this winning crop.
Hemp can make circular agriculture a reality.
- Circular manufacturing and agricultural practices save money and create less waste.
- Organic soil naturally captures more atmospheric carbon.
- Farming practices that keep soil disturbance to a minimum keep more carbon in the ground, drawing it down so that it’s not further contributing to emissions.
- When grown in organic soil and sown in a sustainable manner, hemp could be a true hero and can sequester more carbon per acre per year than an acre of trees.
- If smart farming practices were applied to just 6000 licensed hemp acres in Ireland right now and regulatory frameworks were in place for the onward sale and process of the whole plant, Ireland would be on the road to reducing its carbon bill significantly.
What work is left to do?
The Irish industry needs to evaluate the mistakes of others and study what this plant can truly do. Only careful consideration of practices abroad and research into the full supply chain at home will enable this crop to aid in tackling our climate crisis.
Hemp won't save the world but it can offer real solutions.
Not in a few years.
Not next year.
If you are interested in growing hemp on your farm or using hemp in some consumer products please get in touch with us. We also suggest you contact your local TD or Minister and inform them of the opportunities that could be afforded to our farms and our Climate Action Plan if a sensible regulatory system were put in place for hemp cultivation and processing.
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