Hemp Fibre and Seed
First up Fibre
Fibre comes from the stem and branches of the plant and has had a long history and uses, within different cultures, which has spanned thousands of years. There are many benefits to the environment when we grow Hemp. From carbon storage in our soil and plants to help as a rotation crop to produce greater yields of mainstream agricultural crops, up to the hemp fibre.
The Chinese and Egyptians used fibre for many purposes thousands of years ago, and recently (within the last 200-300years) Settlers from Europe used the Fibre for essential products such as paper, clothing, sacks, tents, tarps, sails for ships & large ropes for anchors and mooring. Some Settlers were fined if they did not grow cannabis, because the hemp plant delivered so many benefits for practical items and the end products would last a long time and where able to withstand a lot of environmental conditions.
When we think of Fibre from the hemp plant we need to think of it as having two main elements:
- The woody core – Hurd
- Stringy outer of the plant – Bast Fibre
Hemp ‘Hurd’ is used as an absorbable animal bedding and in Australia, hemp hurd is mainly used today in construction to build sustainable eco-homes. This is done when the hemp hurd is chopped into pieces and combined with lime, fine building sand and water to create a beautiful healthy natural home.
Hemp homes provide some amazing advantages:
- It is a breathable material
- It has amazing energy efficiency potential
- Hemp Homes maintain a steady temperature
- A healthy environment for you and your family
- Sequestrates CO2
- Low cost to build – if you get a little help from your friends
- Low waste
Hemp Bast Fibre is still used today in many practical items & with the help of machinery and other advancements with technology, we can now blend other materials with hemp to make new innovative approaches to value-added products.
Fibre is one of the strongest natural fibres with many advantages:
- It’s one of the strongest natural fibres
- Less stretch, so clothing retains its shape and longevity
- Its softness with increases use
- Anti-bacterial properties
- Excellent breathability
- High abrasion resistance
- Resistant to mould and mildew
- Superior UV blocking attributes
Some examples of our clothing now being blended with cotton, high-end car companies using hemp-based composites and plastics for interior door panelling, dashboards, body moulding and hemp-based textiles for interior upholstery, as well as Lego have made a pledge that by 2030, the 60 billion blocks that the company manufactures each year will be replaced by hemp.
Once again in history, the hemp seed has been found to be a part of cultures dating back to the pharaohs in Egypt, when they have found intact hemp seeds within burial sites. The Seeds are used for agricultural propagation and as well as a food source.
Hemp seeds develop on the Industrial Hemp plant in the last half of the plant’s life. The seeds are generally the size of a ‘red lentil’ with a hard outer shell and a soft inner. The taste is a pleasant nutty taste.
Hemp Seeds need to be looked at in 3 parts. Meaning if you split the seed into thirds:
- One-third would consist of Hempseed Oil
- One-third Flour
- One-third Protein.
This seed has a fantastic balance of constituents for our body. Basically, all the properties within the hemp seed work with our bodies and are easily assimilated.
There are not many natural foods that can boast a combination of Omega 3,6 and 9, with all the required amino acids, vitamins, minerals, protein and Fibre. There are claims that this little seed and its constituents can help with brain function, boost heart health, reduce inflammation, improve skin condition and the list goes on.
Growing Hemp – Myth-busting
When growing Hemp there are a few myths out there. Three that come to mind are that it doesn’t use as much water, that hemp fixes nitrogen back into the soil and that you don’t need pesticides and herbicides. Well, the answer is yes and no. The water issue is dependant on your soil quality, landscape, gradient and a range of other factors.
Nitrogen-fixing is another misunderstood factor. If you are growing for a fibre crop and cut this crop in the field and leave this there for a week before, then yes roughly 50% of the nitrogen in the plants will leach back into the soil but generally speaking Hemp is not a nitrogen-fixing plant.
Lastly that Hemp does not need pesticides and herbicides! This is very situational and determined on how the farmer wishes to farm. We grow organically, but there are caterpillars and other bugs and vermin that love Hemp seeds. These bugs ‘generally’ don’t have an impact on the economic factor when growing, but lately, farmers are using pesticides to discourage these bugs. Birds, however, can be a major problem. Once a few birds find a hemp seed crop, they can tell all their bird buddies and next season you could have a consistent bird problem around harvest times.
In our next chapter, we’ll look at the flower of the Hemp plant and what this is being used for.
Check out the SLOW journal for more amazing article and ways to live a slower life