Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
posted 4 years ago
Not sure where best to post this discussion, so will start in plants. Now that some states are reversing criminalization of the plants deemed "anti social", I think it is time to revisit the history and usage of Hemp. The Chinese have been growing hemp for fiber and medicinal usage for all of recorded history. It grew naturally in North America before eradication efforts in the 50's and 60's. But now that it is losing its devil weed reputation, how can this prolific and useful plant benefit permiculure. Again, this is not about growing a controlled substance. Not the place for those conversations.
I am researching as this goes on, but am curious to tap the collective wisdom of the folks here. Can it be useful as a green manure? How many tons per acre of organic matter might it produce? Do the roots go deep to break soil and mine minerals? Does it have its place as a companion species in a guild? Could it be a pioneer species or early cycle regenerative plant in pasture improvement? What are the permiculture/regenerative agricultural uses of Hemp?
The wild stuff we had as a kid was similar to sun chokes in biomass and root structure but without the tubers. Made really good soil with all the stalk that wouldn't break down making humic structure.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi.
"Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
The University of Hawaii recently completed a hemp research project, successfully growing two varieties of hemp. A seed production type and a fiber type. Now a large commercial farm on Maui is looking into hemp production. Of course, federal regulations may prove too formidable to overcome. We shall see.
I can see many permaculture applications for small farms, homesteaders, and hobbyists. If it becomes available, I'd like to add it to my win crop inventory.
By the way, sunn hemp and hemp are two different species.
It's never too late to start! I retired to homestead on the slopes of Mauna Loa, an active volcano. I relate snippets of my endeavor on my blog : www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
About a year ago I did some digging into the hemp natural building industry and discovered some interesting things. Prior to becoming legal it was shipped into the US from Europe. I think we got the left overs to build homes and there are a few like in Ashville, NC was one of the recent first. American Lime Tech out of Chicago was one that built it and sold the hurd or shiv which is inside the base stock for a premium. From what I understand, since it grows tall, in sand or soil, with little irrigation and pesticides, the shiv has a very high sand (silica) content when combined with lime creates a very strong bond I believe due to the silica in lime but I could never get to the chemistry behind the bond. I think it is more than it is cracked up to be and there are some grasses that are just as strong of high silica. I don't think some straw is far behind in silica content (cant remember which ones) wheat IIRC and people are paying too much especially to ship all the way from Europe. The outside of the stalk also makes a nice loose fiber insulation batt like mineral wool. The problem for farmers here in the USA is the machine to make the separation for mass production is very expensive, I heard in the millions cant remember how many. At the same time I was talking with some CO farmers about designing our own then lost touch so there may be one now. I'm looking forwards to more available shiv and the price to come down. I'll be all over it as a natural building material. The other interesting part of the Europeans is, AMT I visited their plant is they had me believing there is some secret sauce binder that holds the shiv together in a wall casting, or can only be done with hydraulic lime shipped in from Europe which is hogwash! We'll I created my own after talking to some of the bigger lime manufactures that now too have their own "Proprietary Blend" soon to be at a Home Depot near you, and it was not difficult. So the Europeans started flocking over to OR and CO in a last ditch sales effort educating American farmers and builders on how to build hemp homes since they knew they are going to loose the market. I think we can learn from their experience but I was not willing to pay a couple thousand for it plus room and board, it's not rocket science.
Also looking forward to Hempbale House vs Strawbale House forum here on Permies