Does Hemp Absorb CO2?
Does Hemp Absorb CO2?
Let’s start this article off with the obvious - most of the living organisms we can see around us in our lives have some sort of relationship with Carbon.
All of our life forms on Earth are carbon based. We are made of ‘star stuff’, it’s one of the building blocks of the universe around us, and the 4th most abundant element in the Milky Way Galaxy, after Hydrogen, Helium and Oxygen. Not only are we made from Carbon but we inhale it and utilise it in many different bodily functions.
Hemp is no different, and as a fast growing crop requires a huge amount of carbon - namely carbon dioxide or CO2. As you may have already learned in school, or online, all plants use carbon dioxide in the photosynthesis process, mixing it with sunlight to form sugars and expelling oxygen as a by-product. These sugars are used for growth, and the cycle continues, forming a large hemp plant with a thick stem, large leaves ready to be used for an abundance of applications.
So obviously hemp does absorb CO2, but why is this especially important in the case of hemp? Well, biological studies into the plant name it as extremely carbon neutral, or in some cases able to capture and store carbon in its stalks, simply through the process of growing and leaving behind a very solid product that doesn’t rot away. Hemp’s natural durability, therefore, makes it even easier to capture and store carbon in products which we might need made from the stalks. Plus, the leafy matter can be composted right back onto the fields.
According to this study, One hectare of industrial hemp can absorb 22 tonnes of CO2 before it is harvested. Hemp's rapid growth (a plant grows to 4 metres in 100 days) and also the density at which it can be planted makes it perfect for capturing CO2. Hemp doesn’t mind competing for space with other hemp plants, in fact we’ve bred it to encourage the close planting of crops to ensure they stretch upwards towards the light instead of becoming more squat and leafy and bushy. Planting them together means the light is taken up more quickly and plants must quest upwards for nutrients.
But the utility of hemp doesn’t end there. It has one more secret weapon which can help us with carbon capturing - an ability to crop twice per year, something very few other crops have. To put it simply, hemp is a cold weather plant, and a hot weather plant. It has very little problems with weather and temperature and whether there is ample rainfall. It grows. It’s called ‘weed’ for a reason, it’s hardy, and doesn’t mind being a little bit chewed on by insects.
For farmers growing hemp, theoretically one can start an early crop of hemp in the spring, harvest, and then quickly plant a second crop which can be harvested again by early winter. With climate change making winters milder recently, this means plants can be harvested as late as December, before the January and February cold really settles in. This technique is extremely useful to capture carbon, simply because you double your capture from an already CO2 loving plant.
So to conclude, hemp is pretty useful for storing carbon, as long as you don’t waste the stalks by letting them rot away. But this isn’t even a problem at all - as hemp materials are becoming a desirable material for construction. Check out our article in the coming days...