One of the great thing about Cannabis is the wide variety of uses it has further what makes it a true boon to permaculture is its function stacking as a crop
Grown for the seed it can be pressed for oil, the leftover solids used as animal feed, and the fiber used for building and clothing. The massive biomass is seldom paralleled by anything else in nature. The root systems are massive, and build biomass quickly. another stack when used properly in rotation. This crop is currently illegal to cultivate in the United States and is heavily regulated throughout the world.
Let's not forget the huge advances cannabis growers are funding in aquaponics, indoor gardening, and mini greenhouses! There are stores popping up everywhere that sell "self-contained growing systems" with lights, automatic irrigation, and a light-blocking tent to surround it for $2000. Tell me those are for tomatoes! The would only fit about 2 tomato plants! And, since the DEA looks at electric bills now to find the growers, I guess they'll be making remarkable advances in alternative energy as well!
There's a fellow around here that is part of a permaculture group. He also very openly uses cannabis (the THC kind). It's kind of off-putting to people who don't condone illegal drug use. Back in the day I dated someone who used and found out as I was getting pulled over for running a light that this person had enough on him to get us all thrown in jail. I've never looked at it the same way again. Tho I do support the use of non-THC cannabis for fiber, etc.
Yes, many of the greatest minds in horticulture have picked this plant to obsess over and with good reason. It is amongst the oldest domesticated crops known to man. It is also likely one of the most heavily bred and selected, but unlike many crops which have been heavily bred it is still extremely genetically diverse with wild types growing on at least five continents. The tech innovations are neat I guess but personally I find them to be generally trending in the opposite direction from what I feel is optimal. Sunshine is free if fickle.
Of course this innovation is often a reaction to avoid pitfalls created by those arrogant and foolhardy enough to insist on legislating the great bio diversity we have inherited into 'good' and 'bad' subsets of nature. Creation seemed to work just fine on its own and without us. I won't comment to much more on laws because I think that making something living and natural against the law is ridiculous and silly. I could see laws being made regarding the buying and selling of just about anything though. Especially to minors.
Edited to change around the order a bit in hopes of making my thoughts a bit more cogent
So moving from the potential harm of the plant real or imagined back to its ability to function stack in a permaculture system or industrial agricultural setting, and keeping in mind this recent talk I watch on bio-char (Thread with video link here) which talked about the ability of various crops and their carbon sequestering potential.
Now regardless of what one might think about anthropogenic climate change and atmospheric CO2 - clearly when talking about restoring the productive capabilities of the soil carbon is going to be a key component. Either through natural biological breakdown or through the addition of char. As I believe I have mentioned, Cannabis is amongst the all time champs of biomass (carbon) production.
And so, in theory with a couple years of eased governmental regulation and proper investment and application one could potentially grow a crop which could be harvested and used for all of the following purposes from a single harvest/planting simply by planting a properly hybridized variety and letting it grow to maturation before harvesting. The marketable yields would be as follows.
1) Medicine. There has been enough research done now on CBDs that I feel quite confident in giving it that label.
2) Seeds. To be used whole as a human food source, or pressed for high quality oil with the remaining mash used as livestock feed
3) Fiber. The outer portion of the stem is threshed and used to make textiles or paper produces sequestering carbon on a medium timescale
4) Hurd. The woody core of the stem is used for Long term Carbon sequester either by being used as a building material or charred to produce both a fuel and bio-char fertilizer to be re-applied to the field.
There are of course nearly endless products that can be made with this plant using chemical processes. If anyone has a full list please feel free to post it. But the above serves as a general Idea. The rest of the plant (its vast root system) is left to be reincorporated into the soil and planted with the next crop in succession. From seed to harvest this crop only takes up field space for 1/3 of the year.
Here in Rhode Island, cannabis is legal for medicine and it looks like soon it will be legal for recreational use as well. What a high value crop!
One frustrating thing is how to grow it legally here it must be grown indoors. This means a tremendous energy usage. Lights, fans, water systems...it's really too bad. I knew some farmers who have this as part of their diversity of income. I would not be willing to put so much electricity into a crop. Even if I had solar panels and wind turbines it would be wacky to use the electricity generated to give plants light and air flow!
There is apparently a type of cannabis that is about the best leafy healthy vegetable that you can eat and it doesn't get you high, which is why boring people like me get excited about it and stoners fall asleep talking about it. GO vegetables! I'm ok with legalization, as long as it's done carefully and well. Maybe then we can get this type of vegetable. All the people I hear advocating about it are very straight conservative health nerds, so it must be real.
I really want to cover crop with cannabis. The farm I work at has great soils but really really intense weed pressure (Weed Pressure - also the name of my future acoustic stoner metal band). I think a good thick planting along with perhaps a once through weeding would allow these guys and gals to shoot up way above the weed layer. They get well over ten feet tall. A dense shady canopy to be sure. I could see repeating this fairly frequently to try to shade out weeds and gradually reduce the insane weed seed bank. Ideally a variety with a good seed set could be grown and pressed for local cooking oil. I am working on a scale where I think about such things. So a profitable cover crop. If we really really wanted to go buck wild it'd be really interesting to get one of the older tractors hooked up for wood gas, get a chipper, and see how long a tractor would run charring a field worth of chipped stalks. Mix the char with the compost and keep flying. Yeah. Seriously, this legislating nature shit needs to cease. The fact that farmers can get subsidized to buy and plant lab grade genetic freak show seeds and yet get arrested for planting a seed which is the legacy of thousands of years worth of healthy co-evolution is totally fucked.
Do you put wood chips into your soil? I would think that excess weeds would happen with a soil that was dominated by bacteria rather than fungi. Do the specific weeds tell you what is lacking in your soil?
I get weeds too but I eat most of them.
At home I use a great deal of woodchips. But I am referring in the above to my work. The land has been cultivated intensely for a very long time. Hundreds if not thousands of years of Broadcast Burn Agriculture followed by a Hundred and Fifty years of being put under the plow. The seed bank must run 4 feet deep and we still practice what I think most here would consider to be fairly conventional tillage practices. The worst pressure seems to be coming from a nightshade and lambs quarters, due in large part I am sure to the relative frequency of soil disturbance. I try not do eat the nightshade. Though after some days it is almost tempting. We do not add wood chips. It's a sandy loam with a high char and organic content. Char soils are really strange. I've never dealt with one before. The watering alone is all different and they really really need a good rain or soaking otherwise it all just hangs out in the first couple inches. I actually think that the woody vigorous roots of the cannabis plant would be a great carbon pathway to introduce into the soil for the fungi. It may even be an occasion where the Mold Board is useful to flip a large amount on carbon 18 or 20 inches down where it wont be bothered for a few seasons and hopefully retain some moisture.
That's a really interesting situation. I hadn't thought about the effects of biochar on watering and drainage. I have thought previously about deep rooted plants allowing the water to go deep. Nature has a way of making things work, and when we remove nature, we have to go back through like a detective and figure out why it doesn't work now. I love how we can learn interesting chunks of information even when we arent' particularly trying to.
Glad to see this being discussed. Since first reading up on the permacultural uses of hemp, I have always wanted to work it into the mix in a pasture setting. I would love to see if browsers like goats would find it appealing, because it grows like, well, a weed. Add to that the benefits of seed in the diet of the livestock that browse/graze the land, and I could see myself working to naturalize it there.
I think the only place that you could squeeze the maximum value out of the plant would be in a pasture setting. I know the idea of function stacking is appealing, but honestly, the methods and varieties for the different functions are quite different. If you are producing hemp for the bast fibre, for instance, plant spacing is much closer to reduce branching (less branching equals better quality and quantity of bast fibres). If you are producing cannabis for its pharmaceutical properties, not only are there vast numbers of strains for specific medicinal and recreational properties, the flower buds must be harvested without pollination to achieve best potency, which obviates the possibility of getting seed from the same plants. Which ignores the fact that there are strains of hemp that have been bred specifically for their desireable oilseed-producing traits as different from smoking cannabis as a cultivated plant is from a wild one.
It's like sheep. I would love multi-purpose sheep. Or goats. But the fact of the matter is, a dairy breed will likely outperform any multi-purpose breed in dairy. A fibre breed will do the same in fibre. The more functions you try to extract from the same stage or life cycle of any individual, the smaller the quantities or qualities of those stacked functions will yield (with exceptions; stacked functions that reinforce each other are obviously another matter).
So while you might get a yield of seed from your fibre crop, it might not be good seed except to plant your next fibre crop, nor might it be good for the fibre you seek to produce to leave it growing that long (I don't know, my focus hasn't been on hemp bast production). If you let your medicinal cannabis get seedy, you will lose potency. If you space your oilseed hemp closer to yield more bast, you will get less branching and a decreased seed yield because of it, and the bast you harvest won't compete with the stuff grown primarily for fibre.
Does this mean I won't have a dual-purpose breed? Of course not. I would love a dairy/fibre breed that clears brush and leaves me a decent carcass at the end. But I will be resigned to the fact that I will only get two of these, realistically, and I won't likely get as much milk, or fibre, or meat as I would like. But I will get brush cleared, and nutrients cycled through their manure. A real triple-purpose would be quite the feat of animal husbandry, if it is even possible.
So be aware that, as with many other function stacking situations, trying to squeeze everything out of every situation might sound great, but you may be doing your efforts a disservice by trying to stack competing functions.
Let them specialize. Have oilseed hemp. Have fibre hemp. Have medicinal cannabis. Use the closely-spaced fibre hemp as a windbreak. Use the oilseed hemp canopy to shade out persistent unwanted volunteers, or experiment in companion planting as shade structures for shade-loving crops. Enjoy the medicinal cannabis. Don't stress about stacking every little function just because you should be able to, theoretically, at least in principle, you think.
And for God's sake, keep the seeds separate. (hahaha)
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
On the seed thing, the most expedient way for landlords to deal with unwanted production, is to occasionally dust the place with pollen from fiber hemp. This pollinates all of those female plants, thus sabotaging the resultant marijuana.
Something as simple as a cordless car vacuum, could be used to gather pollen. This is an income opportunity, and for many like myself. It would also be serving the public good.
It's legal to buy and smoke marijuana here. I don't want anyone growing it at my place, without permission, and I don't want them growing it in the large tract of forest adjacent to me. Experience has shown me that this activity brings with it thieves and those who would dump garbage. I'll bet if I planted a few fiber hemp plants, at all of the sweet spots, near me, I could seriously bugger with their ability to get a useful crop
If the legislation passes, it will soon be legal here to grow 4 pot plants per adult. But not hemp. Makes me think of a joke where the person says "officer, I didn't know it was hemp, I thought it was marijuana I was growing." (I think you need to be in our current political climate to find that as funny as I do)
This is fine by me because hemp doesn't grow like a weed here, it takes a fair bit of water and soil nutrients in my climate. Whereas flax does grow like a weed here with zero water needs (when planted early in the spring). Flax also produces a finer and stronger fibre than hemp. Hemp is good for outerwear, but for next to the skin clothing, I'll go with linen.
As for stacking functions with a bast fibre crop, most of my experience is from linen, but most work with hemp as well.
- the fibre plant is grown close together to encourage long, non-branching stems. This decrease seed yield, but doesn't stop it. There will be some seeds and although too immature to get a good germination rate, it can be used for food and oil. The oilseed cake can be fed to livestock or perhaps dried and ground into some sort of flour.
-the boon (chaff) from processing fibre can be used as bedding (so long as there aren't long strands in it) for animals. It also makes fantastic mulch - one of the only mulches that work in my climate.
-tow (or short fibres left from processing the fine stuff) for a long time was considered a waste product but now is prized. This can be used for fibre making, cob, making textured yarns, towels, outerwear, and a whole range of things. Flax tow can be 'felted' together - it sticks to itself in certain conditions - to create linings for hanging baskets instead of having to import coconut or peat. Lots of different things.
-it doesn't grow well with friends, but being planted so close together, the fibre crop often shades out weeds and reduces the weed load in the soil. It works well with a grain crop rotation but does better if that crop rotation includes animals grazing in the fallow times.