Corn and soybean are two extremely common crops. These crops are used for food, animal feed or other applications. However, the massive amount of corn and soybean being produced is harmful to the environment. The crops require pesticides and other chemicals to grown successfully, meaning growing these plants depletes the nutrients in the soil.
Hemp, while still emerging in mainstream markets, is much better for the environment and may be able to supplement the corn and soybean markets to decrease the amount of corn and soybean being farmed.
A paper written in 2011 details the increase of corn cropping. Some farms increased their corn acreage, while others increased their soybean acreage, both a result of decreased cotton acreage.
Growing soybeans non-organically is detrimental on soil health. According to an article titled “Organically Grown Soybean Production in the USA: Constrains and Management of Pathogens and Insect Pests,” there were 226 million metric tons of soybean produced worldwide in 2013. Of that, 0.1% of the soybean grown was grown organically.
This means pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals were used to ensure the growth of soybean were used, all of which are harmful to the environment and the soil the soybean is grown in. To grow crops organically means they are grown chemical-free, pesticide-free and are not genetically modified.
Growing hemp is more sustainable and natural than growing corn or soybean, and the plant can be used in several more applications than either corn or soybean. Hemp uses less water, grows easily and requires less land. As the hemp plant grows, it replenishes the soil it grows in rather than stripping the soil of its nutrients.
Hemp grows quickly and the plants can grow in close proximity as well, making it easier for the plant to thrive while minimizing the chance for weeds to grow and compete for water and soil nutrients. Corn and soybean do not have this advantage as hemp does.
The roadblock hemp continues to encounter is the fact that there need to be markets to sell the hemp product to. However, as hemp becomes more prevalent, the markets for hemp continue to grow and expand.
Locally at IND HEMP, the fiber processing plant can process hemp fibers for several applications:
Hemp fiber can be processed into textiles for clothing or other fabrics. Companies such as Patagonia are using hemp in their products to offer durable, breathable and sustainable clothing options.
Hemp fiber can also be used in plastic applications, or non-woven textile markets. The paneling inside cars may include hemp, or buildings can be built with hempcrete.
A report in Hemp Today states that given the growth of hemp as an alternative plant protein, the food sector shows promise to become a growing market for hemp.
Hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, contain high amounts of easily digestible protein.
Hemp seed oil can be used in cooking to obtain the omegas, or it can be used topically in products like lotions as it absorbs into the skin easily and hydrates dryness.
Hemp protein powder is a great way to get extra, high-quality protein into a diet quickly and easily.
According to an article in E3S Sciences, hemp just may be the future of the plastic industry. Not only is hemp plastic better for the environment, sustainable and biodegradable, but the hemp plant absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as is grows. Better for the environment and a strong contender as an alternative to petroleum-based plastics, the hemp plant shows promise in the plastics industry.
While corn and soybean saturate farms and farming industries, the hemp plant is proving to be a viable contender. Better for the environment and the soil it grows in, the hemp plant grows quickly and easily and can be used in several markets. As these markets continue to grow and develop, hemp will likely become a commonly grown and marketed crop – one that helps the environment rather than harms it.