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Industrial Hemp for Bioremediation

Industrial hemp is very healing to the natural environment around us. Hemp is one of the best plants for use in phytoremediation (healing the soil with plants).

In 1998, Consolidated Growers and Processors (CGP), PHYTOTECH, and the Ukraine’s Institute of Bast Crops, used a process called “phytoremediation.” Phytoremediator plants help remove contaminants in soils. It can also be used to remove radioactive elements from water, clean up toxic metals, pesticides, solvents, explosives, gasoline and toxins from landfills.

So, guess which one is considered one of the best at that task?

You may have guessed it…industrial hemp.

Hemp extracts toxins and pollutants from the soil and groundwater. Hemp absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) and accumulates the toxins in its tissues and root systems, but remains undamaged. This makes hemp effective at eliminating toxins such as metals, pesticides, solvents, explosives and petroleum from the earth without the need to remove any of the contaminated topsoil. This process helps leave a clean, balanced and nutrient-rich soil, which can then be safely used for agriculture or improving surrounding areas.

“Hemp is proving to be one of the best phytoremediative plants we have been able to find,” said Slavik Dushenkov, a research scientist with PHYTOTECH, regarding industrial hemp being planted to help clean up and stop further soil contamination near the Chernobyl site.  http://www.cannabisoils.ca/hemp-as-a-phytoremediator/

Contamination of land and water is a growing concern for the health of the environment. Conventional practices in the remediation of contamination usually involve expensive processes such as landfilling or incineration of soil. Phytoremediation uses plants to accumulate certain metals in plant biomass or accelerate contaminant breakdown.

Hemp is a suitable crop for phytoremediation of contaminated soil because, although hemp is not considered a hyperaccumulator (A hyperaccumulator is a plant capable of growing in soils with very high concentrations of metals, absorbing these metals through their roots, and concentrating extremely high levels of metals in their tissues) it is able to remove significant quantities of contaminants which are generally stored in its roots.

In many studies hemp has displayed a very high tolerance to contaminants. It also has a greater adaptability to different soils and climatic conditions and has added benefits of being a rotational crop which can improve soil quality.
Also related to phytoremediation, hemp can be used as a “mop crop” to clear impurities out of wastewater, such as sewage effluent, excessive phosphorus from chicken litter, or other unwanted substances or chemicals. The well known mangroves of Florida perform a similar role:

Mangroves protect both the saltwater and the freshwater ecosystems they straddle. The mangroves’ complex root systems filter nitrates and phosphates that rivers and streams carry to the sea. They also keep seawater from encroaching on inland waterways. https://www.amnh.org/explore/science-bulletins/bio/documentaries/mangroves-the-roots-of-the-sea/why-mangroves-matter

Barrier planting & Erosion control


Hemp can be used as an effective erosion control method: fiber blankets produced from agricultural fibers such as hemp are used to combat weeds and to prevent erosion on and around newly constructed berms and steep highway banks by motorways. Hemp fibers greatly accelerate the establishment of vegetation. Over time, the natural fiber will decompose completely and vegetation coverage it created reduces erosion. Typically, blankets are used for the following applications: slope protection, channel and ditch linings, reservoir embankments and spillways, culvert inlets and outfalls, dikes, levees and riverbanks. Strong hemp fibers combined with a biodegradable cellulose backing is a sustainable alternative to products made with polypropylene scrim (synthetic plastic fibers).