Hemp 101: A primer on nature’s most amazing plant

The hemp plant is one of nature’s true miracles. Few plants can be harnessed to make such a diverse range of products that are critical to everyday life. And no mass-produced crop has even a fraction of the ability to clean the air of carbon dioxide like hemp. It is a plant that gives back to the air what it takes from the earth to grow. And its harvest cycle is significantly shorter than other crops, taking only four months from planting to harvest, making it one of the fastest-growing, industrial crops. 

In today’s global economy, where businesses are increasingly looking for ways to produce goods that create less waste and inflict less impact on the environment, hemp is a natural alternative to petroleum, lumber, and other non-renewable or non-biodegradable goods.

From paper to rope, clothing to cosmetics, and biofuel to plastics — hemp has the potential to change the face of raw goods manufacturing forever. It makes one wonder why it’s taken so long for the modern global economy to take advantage of its potential. The truth is – most of the rest of the world has been manufacturing industrial hemp for some of the most basic and widely used consumer goods for hundreds of years. But its production in the United States has a more complicated story. 

History

The world has long known the benefits and uses of hemp, and long capitalized on them, going back thousands of years. Evidence shows that hemp originated on the Asian continent, originally used to make paper, rope, and clothing. It is also believed that hemp was the first industry of human civilization. The crop was first brought to the West by Spanish voyagers, who cultivated it in Chile starting in the 1500’s. When settlers first came to the American colonies, native tribes were already growing the crop. Up until the early 1900’s hemp was an industrialized crop used all over the world for numerous goods and products. Asian and European countries widely produce it to this day but, because of legal barriers, the United States banned hemp decades ago and only recently legalized it again, putting us way behind the industry globally. 

Hemp in the United States

Hemp was long an agricultural staple in the Americas before it was banned in the early 1900’s. Prior to that, hemp was used in colonial America to make rope, lamp fuel, paper, and even medicinal treatments, among many other products. Hemp was a widely grown crop in the 18th and 19th century United States. At one point colonial farmers were legally required to use a portion of their farmland for hemp. However, in the early 1900’s attitudes toward hemp among Americans began to sour as communities grew averse toward the negative impact of marijuana and lumped hemp in the same category as its narcotic cousin – even though they are two different plants and industrial hemp cannot be used to produce recreational drugs. 

The hemp industry steeply declined following the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which all but killed demand for hemp goods since society largely and erroneously equated hemp to marijuana. There was a brief resurgence in hemp production with the onset of World War II while the U.S. military was in critical need of goods that could be efficiently produced with hemp – like paper. After the war, the decline of the industry continued as alternative products from fossil fuels became more affordable and the stigma against marijunana increased. 

A bill passed by Congress in 1970 – the Controlled Substances Act – shut down hemp production completely, in spite of the fact that hemp was a non-narcotic plant. Hemp remained a banned crop for nearly 50 years until 2018, when a provision in the 2018 Farm Bill allowed farmers to again plant hemp for commercial purposes.

Hemp structure and uses

The desirability of the hemp plant has surged in the United States for several reasons, primarily because of increasing concern about the impact of non-renewable, non-biodegradable, and petroleum-based products on the environment. More and more companies are making carbon-neutral pledges and seeking to adapt their business models to transition to renewable and biodegradable goods, creating the perfect opening for hemp’s resurgence in the United States.

Hemp is an ideal and promising alternative to synthetic materials due to the unique structure of the plant. Its three main components can all be processed into numerous products within various industries, and serve as a common-sense replacement. 

The three main parts of the hemp plant are the flower, the grain, and the fiber. 

The flower is the part of hemp that is utilized in the CBD market. It is processed by a method called extraction and is largely used in CBD products for several therapies including sleep aids, muscle relaxers and more. The flower is also used in numerous body care products and pharmaceuticals. 

The grain is processed by hulling, pressing and crushing and is primarily used in animal feed, supplements, and cosmetics. 

The fiber is processed by a method called decortication and is used to make paper, pulp, and cardboard, insulation and paneling, and bioplastics.

In summary, hemp is a raw good that can be used to produce almost every type of product that Americans depend upon in their day to day lives.  As the demand for renewable goods increases, it will become more and more affordable to manufacture raw goods from renewable sources like hemp, making it a lucrative crop for farmers to grow and manufacturers to buy. And even beyond the promise it holds as a suitable alternative to non-renewable, petroleum-based goods, the plant itself is an ideal crop for the environment. 

Hemp as the solution to reducing carbon pollution

Not only does hemp outperform other renewable sources in terms of its raw good potential, it also is one of the best industrial crops for the environment in terms of how it responds to the soil and the air. 

Hemp sequesters a remarkable amount of carbon dioxide from the air – 1.6 tons of carbon for every ton of hemp – a much more effective rate than trees. Additionally the nutrients from the hemp plant enrich the soil in which it grows, and because the root structure extends up to nine feet deep, farming land where it grows is regenerated, strengthened, and better equipped to sustain a wide range of crops. Furthermore hemp is naturally resistant to pests so doesn’t require harmful pesticides, and it grows with minimal effort, not requiring additional fertilizers.

All of these aspects also make hemp a good crop for farmers. And because hemp has a relatively short harvest cycle – only 4 months – farmers can easily include it in their crop rotations.

Delta Ag’s Innovation

Hemp is a workhorse crop all on its own, cleaning the air and providing a key ingredient to the raw goods that can help sustain an endless number of industries with zero carbon impact. But Delta Ag is taking hemp even further with cutting-edge innovation. 

Delta Ag’s unique and proprietary processing methods make it the first and only company to produce hemp at scale, from genetics to seed and all the way to the supply chain. Delta Ag hemp is grown by Delta Ag farmers, harvested by Delta Ag equipment, and fully processed at Delta Ag facilities into various raw goods of the utmost quality, ready-made to enter the supply chain and be distributed to manufacturers. 

Delta Ag’s business model is one of a kind, bringing a level of quality and efficiency to hemp production never before seen. It is the raw goods solution of the future and paving the way for American businesses and industry to make their goals of carbon neutral and carbon negative production a reality faster than they could have ever imagined. 

 # # #