The one plant crop that might tide us over this period of energy and food uncertainty

Hemp, commonly known as industrial hemp, is a plant of the Cannabaceae family that is typically grown for its bast fiber or edible seeds. The plant is commonly mistaken with cannabis plants, which are used to make marijuana and the narcotic preparation hashish.

 

Although all three products—hemp, marijuana, and hashish—contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical that causes psychoactive effects in humans, the strain of cannabis grown for hemp contains far less THC than that grown for marijuana or hashish.

 

In the public eye, the line drawn between “hemp” and “cannabis” might be a bit murky, but hemp and cannabis aren’t as similar as they may appear.

 

THC is the psychoactive element in cannabis that causes a ‘high,’ according to scientific study. The concentration of THC in a cannabis plant determines whether it is hemp or marijuana. Hemp is defined as having a THC concentration of 0.3 percent or below. Marijuana is defined as having a THC concentration more than 0.3 percent.

 

People do smoke hemp, according to what I’ve learned from asking around. It is quickly becoming one of the most common methods of taking Cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is a substance present in trace amounts in hemp.

 

Although it does not make the smoker high, the user may smoke hemp for a multitude of reasons such as anxiety, depression, pain, inflammation, and overall health and wellbeing.

 

But the focus of my writing is not on smoking it but rather, utilizing this plant for other types of practical and industrial uses.

 

As many of us already know, the majority of the plastic we use today is manufactured from cellulose derived from petroleum. Petroleum is derived from oil, which means that the end-product that is plastic, is highly persistent, very difficult to break down therefore very harmful to our environment.

 

Hemp can be used to create polymers that are both stronger than ordinary plastic and completely biodegradable.

 

Apart from using hemp to replace plastic-based products, we can also rely on hemp as a source of food. Hemp used to be widely recognized as an excellent source of nourishment all across the world. In fact, the plant is still used in some places in Asia today, even though it has become less popular.

 

Hemp seed has an ideal combination of essential fatty acids, amino acids, and oils such as Omega-3 and Omega-6.

 

It is also extremely rich in protein, to the point that some people consider hemp seeds to be a far superior option to high protein sports beverages. These proteins assist to maximize nutrient intake, maintain organs, and even build muscle.

 

Best of all, hemp is also a highly hardy plant that can thrive in harsh environments such as those found all over the world. It does not require pesticides or as much water as other crops. During the nineteenth century, the Australians survived two unusually protracted famines only on hempseed. These are important attributes to finding suitable crops to replace popular grains like rice in the context of Asia, especially when climate change threatens to destroy many types of food crops.

 

Hempseed cake is a food that may be fed to both pets and animals. It is essentially a by-product of pressing hemp for its oils, and it includes all of the nutrients that the animal need. It enables for maximal weight increase while being less expensive than regular feed.

 

Another advantage is that because hemp can be cultivated without pesticides or other dangerous chemicals, and there was research to show that it does not enter the food chain if fed to cattle.

 

When it comes to the built environment sector, you might be mildly surprised that the plant could be used to produce concrete solutions as well. Hempcrete is a hemp-based concrete solution that might be the most helpful of them all.

 

It has seven times the strength of concrete, half the weight, and three times the pliability of hemp. It is also permeable, which means it helps the structure to breathe, reducing moisture buildup and, eventually, mould and other terrible things.

 

Hempcrete also hardens over time and absorbs carbon, so offsetting the carbon impact of the construction project. If the average house were constructed with hempcrete, it could store up to more than 20,000 kilogrammes of carbon.

 

Plus, hemp also has the potential to be a carbon-neutral fuel, or something close to it. During growth, the plant collects CO2 from the environment, and when the fuel is burned, the same amount is released back into the atmosphere.

 

Because hemp-based bio-diesel is biodegradable, accidents and oil spills will not inflict the same amount of environmental harm as conventional oil does. In fact, most diesel engines can still be run on bio-fuel with minimal conversion nowadays.

 

This crop could be used as a short-term replacement to fossil fuel when the entire world attempts to switch over to other forms of renewable and clean energy.

 

On top of that, hemp can also be used to replace cotton that is obtained from harvesting from cotton crop.

 

Hemp contains two types of fibers: lengthy bast fibres found in the stem and hurds, which are the shorter inner fibres of the stem. The bast fibres are the most valuable, accounting for 20-30% of the hemp plant.

 

According to Stockholm Environment Institute study, hemp uses half the acreage of cotton, less chemical fertilisers, and less water than cotton.

 

Finally, hemp can also be used as a material to produce paper.

 

Hemp paper has several advantages over wood paper. For instance, its composition is far superior to that of wood paper. Hemp paper is rich in cellulose and has just 4-10% lignin. Wood pulp, on the other hand, includes 18-30% lignin, which must be chemically removed during the papermaking process.

 

This reduction in chemical treatment means that it consumes less water and generates less waste; the creamy colour also means that it does not require as much bleaching.

 

Hemp paper is also considerably easier to grow and requires far less resources. The quantity of paper that trees can generally create over a 20-year cycle over 4+ acres is the same as the amount of paper that hemp can make in one acre.

 

Like what I mentioned earlier, the entire world would face an onslaught of agriculture and energy crisis if climate change continues to disrupt our traditional ways of life. The switch over to renewable and clean energy is not going to be clear-cut and there will be hiccups during the transition. One way to ease the switch might be to rely on short term methods like bio-fuel.

 

Asian food staples like rice might also be affected by climate change. No matter how much Asians like their rice, it is important to explore other types of more resilient food sources.

Copyright © 2022 Zeng Han-Jun. All Rights Reserved.

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