What Makes Hemp Fiber Better Than Alternative Options?
Hemp is undoubtedly one of the most durable fibers available, but its production has been discouraged (and banned) because of its close resemblance to marijuana (also commonly known as the pot). The truth is that its chemical is used as a narcotic. The rest of the components of hemp are very useful and are being used in several ways in various industries.
Hemp fiber made from the hemp plant is way better than other alternatives in many ways. Some people tend to confuse it with other materials, but in reality, fiber from the Cannabis plant is being used for 10,000 years. Hemp clothes dated from 8000BC are proven to exist.
The plant named Cannabis sativa (aka hemp) is being employed in a number of industrial uses. Efforts are underway to legalize its mass production because of its immense benefits.
Reasons That Make Hemp Fiber Better:
- Protection of the wearer:
Since these fibers are made from a plant, they protect the wearer from water and sun. It does not absorb water so you can be safe from any spilling, and alongside it absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, keeping the wearer safe. So, hemp fiber can save you from the scorching sun and pouring rain.
- Durability and strength:
Fibers made from hemp are durable and reliable; also, at the same time, they are also very lightweight and comfortably breathable. Strength combined with lightweight material makes it suitable for use in a variety of fabrics.
After spinning, the material becomes coarse and slightly thick, which makes it suitable for a number of industrial uses. For use as a fabric, it is spun in such a way that it becomes mold resistant and very able to withstand damage or tearing down.
- Sustainable material:
Talking in terms of sustainability, hemp is a perfect choice for the environment too. It not only absorbs more CO2 but also produces more oxygen. There are no waste materials, and every part of this crop can be recycled, so this is a very sustainable choice.
- Organic crop:
Growing hemp plants puts a lesser strain on the ecosystem. It does not require fertilizers or pesticides for growth and turns out to be a fully organic crop. A full harvest of hemp needs half water than that required by the cotton crop. There are no by-products as all components of hemp can be used for industrial purposes.
Additionally, the crop can be harvested roughly three times in a year, because hemp gets ready much quicker (in roughly 3 to 4 months), thus causing lesser strain on land and environment. Once the crop has been harvested, the land can be immediately used for growing the next crop of hemp without needing an in-between break.
The growing space requirement is also quite low, so it can be easily grown in compact spaces while increasing the yield. So, the farmers can have a good yield throughout the year, with up to 3 harvests of hemp n a calendar year.
- Range of industrial uses:
The use of hemp is not limited to fiber only; rather, it is being used in industrial production of a number of practical uses like shoes, insulation, paper, ropes, and even biofuel. Since 2000 years, hemp is being used for paper production, thus saving countless trees.
- Withstands wear and tear:
Strength is one of the most significant plus points of Cannabis sativa. It is sturdier than materials like wool or cotton. So, fibers manufactured from hemp are able to withstand wear and tear a lot better.
- Pairing up with others
Another significant advantage of hemp is that it can be used in combination with other fiber materials. So, combining it with other materials in proportionate amounts will result in the right qualities that the manufacturers are seeking.
- Profitable produce
Despite being ecologically feasible, the production of hemp is economically viable too. Farmers and producers can earn a good share of profits from this crop. As mentioned earlier, it cuts down other expenses like water and pesticides, making it less of a hassle to grow it. The soil also improves with each harvest, allowing a good crop in next season.
There are many other advantages of using hemp fiber. It is a win-win situation for everyone; right from the grower to the wearer, everyone benefits from using hemp as a fiber.
Clarke, R. C., & Merlin, M. D. (2013). Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany. California: University of California Press.
Hemp Business Journal. (2020). The U.S. Hemp Industry grows to $820mm in sales in 2017. Retrieved from Hemp Biz Journal: https://www.hempbizjournal.com/size-of-us-hemp-industry-2017/
Hemp Gazette. (2020). How Hemp Fibre Is Produced. Retrieved from Hemp Gazette: https://hempgazette.com/industrial-hemp/hemp-fiber-production/
Hemp News. (2020). Why should farmers grow hemp? Retrieved from CRRH Hemp News: http://www.crrh.org/cannabis
Musio, S., Müssig, J., & Amaducci, S. (2018, November 23). Optimizing Hemp Fiber Production for High Performance Composite Applications. Retrieved from Frontiers In: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2018.01702/full
Recreator. (2017, July 12). Hemp 101: A Traditional Method of Hemp Textile Production. Retrieved from Recreator: https://recreator.org/blogs/hemp-101/hemp-101-a-traditional-method-of-hemp-textile-production
The Genetics Improvement Of Hemp
The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill now classifies hemp as a legal substance. Because of this, a lot of producers were presented with a massive window of opportunities to cultivate Industrial hemp. Under the Act, hemp is deemed industrial if the concentration of its tetrahydrocannabinol or THC has a dry weight of less than 0.3%.
Legally, this separates hemp from its cousin marijuana, which is more intoxicating. Nonetheless, there’s still a fine line in the distinction between these two types of cannabis. And this is a concern among hemp breeders who want to make sure that they’re following the law.
As much as possible, hemp growers want to distance themselves from THC. What they’re after is to cultivate plants that mainly produce CBD or cannabidiol. CBD is a non-psychoactive substance that offers calming properties and plenty of other health benefits. Because of this, they are keen to understand and learn the genetic foundation of CBD production.
The Importance Of Genetic Testing
For anyone looking to breed premium varieties and lines of hemp, genetic testing of the utmost importance. The molecular markers treatment in numerous field produce has advanced the process of breeding dramatically. Hemp growers can also apply this together with database genotyping and DNA fingerprinting in the breeding and production of the cannabis plant.
Female plants can be easily distinguished during the growth’s early stages with the help of a DNA marker. This tool can help both breeders and growers massively. They can extract the DNA directly from the leaf tissue or seed of hemp. Then, to determine the male to female ratio, PCR is conducted on the extracted DNA. And the great thing about it is that the entire process can yield results within 72 hours.
These genetic markers are associate with THC content and other desirable traits of the plant. Hence, hemp growers can utilize the DNA analyses for screening seedlings for desirable properties. This means that they don’t have to wait for the plants to grow into adults, which can take months.
Is Genetic Engineering The Solution?
Genetic engineering may very well provide the industry with effective alternatives. There are already some biotechnology companies and researchers looking for ways on how to use genetically-enhanced microorganisms spitting out THC, as a replacement to cannabis plants. Meanwhile, some are striving to modify the cannabis plant’s chemical synthesis through the genetic alteration of its cells to produce the molecules they desire to boost the yield.
Regardless, the goal remains the same, and that’s to produce a more efficient, reliable, and affordable CBD in comparison to the traditional way of cultivating the plant. Additionally, microbial synthesis offers further benefits such as the capability of mass-producing rare CBD, which are typically present in plants in trace amounts only.
Public research about the development of hemp molecular markers has commenced. The study will provide breeders with an extremely cost-effective solution. And in no time, this will be readily available to assist hemp growers.
Nevertheless, it’s still a waiting game for the industry before the data becomes available to the public. But molecular tools are something that private growers need as soon as possible. For cases like this, interested parties can develop molecular markers quickly by utilizing their germplasm.
One of the biggest benefits of this method is that it can increase the effectiveness of the data since it will be developed from a particular germplasm, as well as for utilization in the same materials. Thanks to the improvements in sequencing, projects like these could be arranged immediately and cost-effectively.
Hemp for Soil Remediation and Reclamation
For a while now, we are bombarded with the of various environmental mishaps and the trail of destruction left in their wake. In July 2019, an oil well run by Indonesian state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina leaked crude oil into the Java Sea. This carried on for nearly three weeks killing surrounding sea life and polluting the coastline along with it.
Environmental pollution could originate from natural disasters or from human activity just like the 2019 Pertamina oil spill. Whatever the cause, we are left with the terrible aftermath and the need to clean and reclaim our contaminated land is more imperative.
Mostly in the past and even in recent times, soil remediation was majorly done by chemical means which is expensive and invasive. Chemical remediation works by converting heavy chemicals in the soil into different chemical forms which plant roots take up. The absorbed chemical will eventually spread through the whole plant which will then pass on to any animal that consumes the plant.
The toxic pollutants leave the soil, enters into the plant and animal and the metals are cycled through our ecosystem until it gets to us. A better way of tackling pollutants should be a method that removes the heavy chemicals from the eco cycle completely.
Scientists are now turning towards phytoremediation as a solution. Phytoremediation is the growing of plants especially fiber crops to degrade, reduce or remove soil contaminants. Here we look at how hemp can be deployed in healing the soil instead of cycling the problem.
Why Use Hemp?
Industrial hemp has relatively long roots whose length span about 1.5 – 3 ft. These roots are able to go fairly deep into the soil to absorb toxic chemicals. Hemp could also absorb a significant amount of heavy metals. It achieves this by storing them in its tissues, leaves and in the whole body. Another advantage of using hemp is that the harvested toxic-rich hemp, though not fit for consumption can be distilled into ethanol to be used as a biofuel.
Proven Cases of Hemp’s Phyto-Remediation Properties
Hemp to Soak Up Dangerous Heavy Chemicals
Cadmium (Cd) left in the soil will make its way into our food chain until it eventually gets to us. The presence of this metal in the body can lead to excruciating spine and joint pain. Over time, it has been linked to some forms of cancer and kidney problem.
In September 2012, five researchers from China released a paper where they documented their findings. Their research showed how hemp was successfully used to absorb Cadmium from the soil.
The scientists grew eighteen varieties of hemp native to China on polluted soils. They found only 7 of the varieties contain the highest amount of Cadmium.
Their conclusion was that those seven cultivars are thus good candidates in decontaminating Cd-contaminated soils.
Zinc is one of the heavy metals in the soil. In trace amounts, it is beneficial but in high concentrations, it is potentially phytotoxic. Another Chinese study in 2010 experimented with eight crops, including hemp to determine their capacity to absorb Zinc.
They reported that hemp along with other crops they tested except sunflower thrived moderately well under a concentration of 400 – 800 mg/kg. Hemp especially displayed little inhibitions in growth which indicates high zinc tolerance.
Plant and Soil in 2003 published a study carried out in Italy that demonstrates that hemp is indeed a phytoremediator. Hemp was used to cull cadmium, nickel, and chromium from the soil. Another discovery from the research showed that the morphology of the hemp plant is unaffected by high concentrations of heavy metals.
There was a noticeable increase in DNA content and phytochelatin as the hemp plants grow which suggested a knack to avoid cell damage by triggering different molecular mechanisms.
A German study in 2005 published in Biologia Plantarum also confirmed the observations of the Italian study. They discovered that cadmium concentrations as high as 800 mg/kg has no effect whatsoever on the hemp root.
On the other hand, concentrations of 50 – 100mg/kg in the leaf and stem had a strong effect on the vitality and viability of the plant. The study also found out that the rate of cadmium uptake is affected by a soil’s PH.
Hemp and the Chernobyl Nuclear Waste
The most well-known use of hemp in cleaning up radioactive deposits was in Chernobyl, Ukraine. In April 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, discharging tons of radiation over 100,000 square kilometers of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus.
In 1998, a company called Phytotech started planting industrial hemp in the contaminated fields around Chernobyl. The experiment was a tremendous success and it marked the first successful use of hemp in soil remediation. Hemp’s phytoremediation properties finally caught public attention.
Hemp’s Phytoremediation properties put to test in Italy’s Puglia region
In over 20 years of operation, Italy’s Ilva steel plant (the biggest of its kind in Europe) continually emitted toxic substances poisoning the local animals, soil and plants. The toxicity of the environment led to the prohibition of livestock grazing within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant.
In 2012, farmers in the region began to grow industrial hemp in an attempt to decontaminate their polluted soils. The harvest is then converted into fiber for construction and clothing in a hemp processing plant.
Hemp’s Potential in Cleaning up Oil Spill
Harmful chemicals like Corexit for lack of a better option are used to clean up oil spills. Scientists and governments are now considering phytoremediation as a more environmentally friendly and effective alternative to Corexit. The United States Navy conducted an experiment using a plant in the hibiscus family, Kenaf to soak up spilled oil.
They chose Kenaf because of its absorbent and fibrous core and the plant succeeded in soaking up the spillage during the experiment. Kenaf’s fibrous root is similar to that of hemp so hemp is presumed to have the same absorbent features.
There has been no proven experiment with hemp because of the U.S. war on drugs. The clampdown inflates the price of hemp and limits those who grow or conduct research with hemp.
As many governments begin to relax their strict policies on hemp, several people are beginning to explore and discover the vast potential of hemp.
Hemp has given hope to farmers and other landowners particularly in contaminated or “dead” zones. They now have the means to repair their land and earn an income at the same time.
Hempcrete – A Comprehensive Guide to Hemp Building Material
The construction industry is consuming more than 40% of the total energy and resources across the globe. The construction industry must be moving towards more sustainable practices to face occurring climate changes. For this reason, the industry is stirring away from using building materials that are mined or harvested from the forests.
The industry is switching towards using renewable resources, and hemp is the perfect material that is gaining huge popularity in the construction industry, with a hemp mixture known as hempcrete.
Hempcrete is one of the bio-based building materials that can be used to restore, renovate, or build any kind of building from apartments to houses and from service to public sector buildings, and from listed historical buildings to traditional buildings.
What is Hempcrete?
Hempcrete or hemp-lime is one of the most incredible building materials made from industrial hemp. It is a bio-composite material, which can be used in the construction as an alternative to traditional building materials like concrete.
Hempcrete is made from the balsa wood-like core of the cannabis sativa plant. This material can be mixed with water and lime to form hempcrete. It has high silica content, allowing it to bind well with lime. Hempcrete is a lightweight material and only weighs approximately one-eighth as compared to concrete.
The material is widely used in construction for centuries across Europe. However, hemp is now grown widely by certified commercial growers. The strain of hemp plant contains as low as 0.3% of THC, the psychoactive substance found in cannabis. This is quite a low level when compared to those found in medicinal and hallucinogenic varieties of cannabis (contains 5-10% of THC).
Fully dried hempcrete blocks will float in water. The material is not used as a structural element but as an insulating infill between the frame members. All the load is carried by the internal framing. In Europe, as much as 10-story buildings have been constructed using hempcrete.
While hemp is grown legally in Canada and Europe, it was illegal in the United States for several decades. However, with the gradual liberalization of laws in the country, the hemp production is getting legalized.
How are Hempcrete Blocks manufactured?
Traditionally, the hempcrete blocks were prepared at the site by mixing the raw material and then placing it into the formwork, or by using the equipment. Initially, this process required highly qualified workers.
However, with advancements in technology and an increase in the demand for hempcrete, hempcrete blocks are manufactured at the industry level. The production process of these blocks are divided into three steps:
- Mixing: Hemp shives, water, and lime are mixed to create hempcrete. The raw materials are dosed proportionately and mixed.
- Molding: Hempcrete obtained from the previous step is poured into the blocks of varying widths using a special press.
- Open-air Curing: The frail blocks are placed on an automatic conveyor belt after some time, which takes the blocks to the storage area for open-air drying. Drying is done to add strength and hardness to the hempcrete blocks. Blocks require about 6-10 weeks to get ready for usage. This time duration varies with the width of the block.
Applications of Hempcrete
- As roof and floor insulation
- As plasters
- As internal and external wall insulation
- New buildings
- For insulating old buildings
Benefits of Hempcrete
- Naturally Sourced Material
Hempcrete is completely organic, and the manufacturing doesn’t involve any synthetic component. Moreover, it doesn’t need a huge amount of energy for production, making it a highly environment-friendly material.
On the other hand, traditional building materials such as concrete have a large carbon footprint and are a major cause of concern for the whole planet.
- Low Maintenance
Hempcrete is a very low maintenance material, and it requires little to no caring. Once used in insulation, the material lasts for years and can help protect the structure of the building from various elements in an effective way.
- Structure Strength
The material is substantially dense as compared to traditional insulating materials. Thus, the use of hempcrete can help reinforce the structural capacity of the building. Moreover, the material provides an excellent surface for plaster finishes.
Hemp building material is used extensively for constructing buildings in earthquake-prone areas as the low density of the material renders it resistant to breakage under movement.
- Breathable Walls
Walls made from hempcrete are highly breathable, and it allows the moisture to pass through. It also has low thermal conductivity and wind-resistant properties, which makes it an ideal insulating material.
- Handles Moisture Efficiently
Due to the porous nature of the material, hempcrete can absorb a large amount of moisture without causing damage to the building’s structural integrity. The plant fibers also have a huge amount of internal surface, which also acts as a storage for moisture. Once the conditions are favorable, the material releases the absorbed moisture content.
- Carbon Absorbent
The hemp plant is carbon absorbent, and this property is imparted to hempcrete. For every cubic meter of hempcrete, it sequesters about 100 kilograms of carbon. When compared to the conventional construction materials, this amount is huge, as the conventional materials contribute to carbon emission during the manufacturing process.
- Resistant to Hazards
The most important feature of hemp building material is its resilience to common problems faced by traditional building materials. It is highly resistant to flame, making the material an inherent fireproofing material.
As lime is used in the binding process, the material is also resistant to fungus and possesses antimicrobial properties. This leads to resistance from the formation of mold even in high humidity conditions. The material is also parasite-resistant.
- Excellent Insulating Properties
With its antifungal, moisture absorbent, and antimicrobial properties, the material is a great insulator during both cold and hot climates. The material is perfect to use in areas with extremely high humid climates.
Additionally, it also has outstanding soundproofing properties, making it an ideal material for blocking the external noise.
Hempcrete is an extremely lightweight material. As mentioned earlier, it weighs only one-eighth of that of concrete. Due to its lightweight, the material can be easily transported to greater heights.
- Recyclable and Non-Toxic Material
It is a non-toxic building material and doesn’t percolate any harmful substance into the building structure. Hence, the material doesn’t harm the construction and the inhabitants of the building in any way. Hempcrete is biodegradable, and it can be easily reused.
Due to the multiple benefits of hempcrete over traditional building materials, hempcrete is gaining huge popularity in the construction industry. More and more companies are coming forward to manufacture hempcrete blocks. The material can be used in a wide range of construction projects. The possibilities are endless, and so does the benefits of the material. Hence, it can be one of the best choices available for construction companies in the future.