Fiber Wars | Machinery in the Making | Reefer Madness Takes Hold | Hemp Around the Globe | Hemp in the Field


For thousand of years there was such an abundant supply of cannabis growing in the wild that it was unnecessary to actually plant seeds . As villages grew larger and travelling distance to wild patches of cannabis got further, it become apparent that a domesticated crop must be grown. The earliest civilizations could depend upon hemp seeds as a food supply, hemp fiber as clothing, rope, basket and net making material, and the flowers as a medical and spiritual necessity. In essence, this one plant could provide all of their basic needs. Cannabis became the first and most important crop that humanity has ever grow.

Of course, there were many other food and medical plants which were grown in these earlier times, but none were as diversified and hardy as cannabis . It could grow in places many other food crops could not, withstanding severe weather changes and storms. It does not have to be pampered once planted, as it actually killed the weeds around it because it grows faster and taller. To top it all off, if proper dew retting was done, which will be explained later, the remaining leaves and flowers actually put most of the nutrients back into the ground than it took out. This allowed early farmers to grow more than one season of hemp in the same field for about 10 years in a row before there was a noticeable decrease in output as the nutrients get used up.

After a while, other fiber crops began to replace established cannabis markets and products. Although hemp was always used for rope and sailing cloth, with over sixty tons on the U.S.S. Constitution and most other similar warships of the 1800's, slowly but surely, different products like manila, kanef and mass produced cotton, chipped away at hemp's fiber crown. A variety of nutritional foods became available as cities grew larger, creating a diversity of foods and spices never seen before. The hemp seed staple was replaced by more exotic and expensive foods.. After the invention of the cotton gin, hemp use in domestic homes decreased dramatically. Flax remained alive through the 1800's as a cottage industry, used in threads, towels and leave, until it was discovered that its fatty acid composition was an excellent chemical compound for producing paints, varnishes, linseed oil and linoleum. These were traditionally uses of hemp seed oil.

Many people have argued that the cotton industry was the most important factor in the development of the United States through the 17th and 18th centuries. Cotton replaced flax as the highest valued fabric during these times, as the inventions of the fly-shuttle, spinning jenny and cotton gin revolutionized the production of cotton. The production of cotton in the southern U.S. increased exponentially shipping 10 bales to England in 1784 to one -third of a million bales by 1820 to 2 1/2 million by 1860. Thousands of rich, white settlers made millions of dollars upon land stolen from Native Americans using the forced labour of millions of black slaves from Africa.

Hemp was still used for ropes and sails, but the only people who wore hemp clothing and ate hemp seeds were the poor who couldn't afford cotton clothes or imported food. For many reasons, especially in the 1920's, hemp was looked down upon by the upper class as being peasant food and clothing, and this holier-than-thou attitude was embraced by every middle-class person.

Tariffs protecting hemp were passed in 1789, 1816, and 1861, and were successful until 1872 when a duty on imported jute (a.k.a. burlap) was taken away to allow the cheaper raw material into the marketplace. Manila hemp, a relative of the banana and not actually hemp, took over the markets for rope and sail cloth, as it didn't need tarring, floated and was cheaper, even though hemp was better in cold temperatures. Slowly but surely, hemp became replaced by other crops.

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The main problem with hemp was that there was no machine which could break the hurds out of the tough, fiber stock quickly and inexpensively. By 1896, about 300 patents had been issued in the U.S. for that very purpose, most of which were complete failures and none doing the proper job. Otherwise, the opportunity for hemp to return as a premier fiber crop had returned, as the Southern plantations were destroyed during the Civil War, and in 1865 slavery was abolished in the USA, which dramatically affected profits. Since flax was hard on the soil, farmers and businessmen turned to hemp to replace the thousands of tons of imported fibers which had taken over the markets.

The 1890's saw a resurgent interest in hemp. It was eventually grown, with active federal assistance, in Illinois, Iowa, Texas, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kentucky, Nebraska, California, and briefly in the South, where it met too much local resistance to create an industry. Although hemp was not used on boats anywhere near the scale it was before, new markets for twine and clothing were opening up. The demand for good equipment was heard around the country, and people from all walks of life, including Thomas Jefferson, tried their best to invent it. A germ plasma of hemp strains was collected from around the world in an attempt to counter foreign competition in 1912.

The hemp industry expanded quickly, as farmers were in awe of it's rapid growth, the condition it left the field in and the low maintenance it required. As machines were invented to replace the different manual chores in reaping and manufacturing hemp, organizations began to build bigger and better mills. In 1918, Andrew Wright, a researcher for the Wisconsin Agriculture Experiment Station, took over promotion and organization of the hemp industry in that state. He was so successful that the hemp acreage in Wisconsin, and the U.S. for that matter, did not slow down, even though every other hemp producing country in the world was cutting back at that time.

It was discovered in 1916 that the hurds, which until that time were nothing more than a by-product of hemp burned in the mills furnace or used in stables as animal bedding, could be used for paper production. Hemp fiber had been used for centuries to make paper as it was stronger, lighter, more durable, and did not turn yellow or brittle like wood paper did over time. This was a huge discovery, giving even more value to a crop which showed huge potential in other areas. It was also superior to wood in that it was easier to break down, with no bark or knots in it, it uses less caustic soda and does not need sulphite, the worst by-product of wood paper making.

In August of 1917, George W, Schlichten finally finished what he had spent the last 20 years and $400,000 to create : the decorticator. His machine could quickly and easily separate the tough fibers from the hurds, after taking off all of the flowers and leaves, right in the field. Without having to leave the plant cut down in the fields to ret, or using some other process to seperate the fibers from the hurds, the time and energy needed to prepare hemp for processing was dramatically reduced. Retting left the hurds useless, except for as a fuel, and weakened the strength of the fibers. Now with this revolutionary equipment, a better product could be produced. The first hemp sliver produced with this machine sold for $100, more than any other fiber ever.

Literally hundreds of other inventors had failed before him. The labour cost were cut by a factor of one hundred with this new machine, and put all other attempts at making a decorticator to shame. George was ecstatic about the potential for his machine to rejuvenate the hemp industry.

Schlichten was well aware of the potential consequences that would result from this technological breakthrough. He knew it was a crime to cut down trees for paper when there was a cheaper, cleaner and more economical way to do it. He knew also that one day the trees would run out and that we would need this machine in the future. After someone suggested that he'd be hung because of his German name he replied, 'Oh well gentlemen, if you think I deserve to be hanged, you don't need to force me to do it. I am perfectly willing to be hanged. But my deeds cannot be hanged; what I am doing for the country and for the world in general, that cannot be destroyed." He was right.

The first place to process hemp from the decorticator was a spinning mill owned by J.D.Rockefeller, who was so impressed with the result that he tried to buy the patent from Schlichten. He wanted more money than Rockefeller offered. Harry Timken president of the Timken Roller Bearing Company heard about the decorticator and went to see Schlichten. He called it ''The greatest invention of the world'' and set up a meeting with Edward W. Scripps, his partner Milton McRae and Edward Chase, his right hand man. Edward Scripps was the owner of Scripps Newspaper Company, based in San Diego, which had just bought the timber rights to large tracts of land in the Pacific Northwest.

Exactly how it happened, no one is quite sure, but why the decorticator was never introduced to the agricultural community is obvious. This machine combined with the many uses of the hemp plant threatened many powerful industries. The media and paper companies quickly joined forces with the Southern cotton farmers. The cotton farmers had two excellent reason to come down on hemp: first, it was a direct threat to the cotton industry, and secondly, they had allowed their black slaves to grow cannabis on the plantations and were looking for every opportunity to enslave, degrade or condemn black people. Those who held power in these corporations realized that their financial investments were threatened and acted accordingly. They bought the decorticators's patent and did everything in their power to suppress the hemp industry. Slowly but surely, these people convinced the public that the new synthetic drugs, plastics, and clothing were superior to hemp and other natural products. Hemp disappeared from North America.

Certain economic circles heard about the decorticator and figured out the cotton industry, the wood pulp paper industry, and the synthetic chemical industry, would all be put in serious jeopardy if hemp became used en-mass. Schlichten sold his patent to someone who effectively buried it until the mid 1930's, when the patent ran out and decorticator began to appear. In the early 1920's, the Hearst newspapers began running stories about coloured people and Hispanics who were going around raping, robbing and killing while under the influence of a new drug called 'marijuana'. The ''reefer madness'' campaign struck to the very hearts of most Americans and Canadians. These crazed addicts were accused of destroying families, ruining their healthy bodies and minds, thereby making them unfit to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. All other forms of civil disobedience, sexual perversions and social disruption.were blamed upon those addicted to the demon weed: marijuana.

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Marijuana was made illegal in Canada, with the Narcotic Act of 1923, to possess, distribute or cultivate without a license. The newspapers lead the media smear campaign against cannabis. In 1922 a series of articles written by Mrs. Emily Murphy, A.K.A. Jenny Canuck, appeared in Macleans magazine which became a book called ''THE BLACK CANDLE'' . It contained accusations which were bluntly false and unfounded, but Canadians ate it up. Mrs. Murphy was a leader of the Irish Orange Order, a religious sect demanding a pure white Canada, and since racism was very alive in Canada then, her plea was heard and answered. When Mackenzie King passed the laws through government he probably never intended to use it on a white man, he just wanted to control the minorities for the good of the people.

Anyone caught smoking or otherwise ingesting the flowers of cannabis was duly punished. Marijuana was introduced into the public consciousness during the 1920's Reefer Madness Scare. It was stated that this was a "new" drug, a Cannabis sativa plant with a very high THC level which was so addictive, so euphoric, that it was causing poor blacks and Hispanics to rape, murder, rob and steal, not to mention the violent rages it would send anyone into. This is when the current era of prohibition began. For the first time in 1600 years, hemp and marijuana were both being condemned and suppressed for the benefit of those with money, political power and guns. We will look into these issues later in the book.

The resurgence of the hemp industry in the thirties due to the creation of other new products could not stop the wave of power that was gathering forces behind the scene to eliminate cannabis from living memory . It didn't matter that Henry Ford had created a vehicle which burned hemp oil, which sends less contaminates into the air and is very easy on the engine as it burns at a lower temperature than fossil fuels, and most of the car's body was made of hemp fiber, too . Or that in Feb '38 , Popular Mechanics printed an article entitled, "New Billion Dollar Crop", which was the first time a figure that high had been associated with any agricultural crop. It raved about the possibilities hemp had to rejuvenate America's farm steads and industries, especially the fact that hemp produces at least four times the amount of pulp fiber for paper as wood, per acre. But it was too late. Months before in Nov '37, the Marijuana Tax Act had been passed in the USA with almost no debate. Cannabis was once again going to be ploughed under public eye, to be replaced by synthetic materials, pills and processed food.. Except for a brief revival during the Second World War, in a campaign titled "Hemp For Victory", hemp was slowly choked out of public existence, the last crop growing in Kentucky in 1958.

There were numerous special interest groups which were behind the conspiracy, including the Hearst Newspaper Company, timber companies, DuPont Chemicals, Southern cotton farmers, oil companies, and racist fanatics. It is impossible to point the finger at one person or to one particular event. These individuals, companies and industries collectively organized to eliminate cannabis from the marketplace. By stopping any large sales of hemp for use in production of other products, pressuring other companies into buying raw materials other than hemp, stopping all investment in hemp related products or production, stopping private and government research on the growth or production of hemp products and suppressing information about the use and history of cannabis. Everyone involved knew that the flowers of the hemp plants were not the same as those smoked by blacks and Hispanics. They believed that eliminating cannabis was the best way to ensure the health of the economy and their children. However, when the laws were enacted, the only groups opposed to the Marijuana Tax Act were poultry farmers and the medical community. While the doctors were completely ignored, farmers were able to import hemp seed, but only after it is sterilized at a temperature high enough to guarantee the seed cannot sprout.

For a very passionate view of the politics involved throughout this crazy campaign, I point you to Jack Herer's book, " THE EMPEROR WEARS NO CLOTHES".

The politics of how the elitist corporation of America formed from this point, and how resistance to that force has grown up to today, will be discussed later. It is a sad fact that the greed and prejudice which has surrounded this wonderful plant has contributed to the degradation of our forests, air, water, children, families and spirits . Unfortunately, we have also lost all of the species of hemp which had grown accustomed to North America. But efforts to rejuvenate the hemp industry are starting to roll all over the world. Many countries never stopped growing hemp, including Russia, India, China and France. They continue to make cigarette papers, notably Zig-Zag, out of hemp fibers in France, although marijuana use is still frowned upon there. In 1992, world production was 124,000 tons of fiber, a mere one percent of world production of vegetable fiber, and much less than the 1940 peak of 832,000 tons.

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Today, many exiting new steps towards hemp's resurgence are occurring every day. India grows the largest yearly crop right now, although they do not export very much of it, followed by China, who do supply foreign buyers with their cloth and paper, then comes Korea and Romania. In 1994, there was 100,000 tons grown in France, for cigarette paper and cloth. In Australia, the hemp plant is seen as a possible saviour for their agricultural communities, since much land has been lost to improper irrigation and tree farming. A crop grown at the University of Tasmania at Hoburt, in cooperation with the Tasmanian Hemp Company, with stem yields of 8.0, 8.4 and 6.1 tons per hectare, in fields grown at different times of year. After a few improvements yields of 10 to 12 ton/ha are expected. In England, Hempcore has been given permission by the government for experiment with hemp, getting a serious amount of attention from the public and press. They are definitely expanding their average crop size every passing year.

In France, three organizations direct the hemp movement, the Federation National des Producteur de Chanvre (F.N.P.C.), the Commite Economique Agricole de la Production du Chanvre (C.E.A.P.C.) and the Cooperative Centrale des Producteur de Semence de Chanvre ( C.C.P.S.C.). Mr. Jean-Paul Mathieu has been the director of all three organizations for almost two decades and is very optimistic about the economic potential hemp shows in his country. These three groups work as such: the F.N.P.C. researches the breeding of new strains, as well as the agronomy and processing of hemp; the C.E.A.P.C. organizes the relationship between growers, buyers and the marketplace; and the C.C.P.S.C. organizes the growth and distribution of hemp seeds.

It is somewhat surprising how small the hemp industry is in France and how under-developed their harvesting and production techniques are, when you consider that in 1965, a collection of 100 fiber, hemp accessions were evaluated for quality, productivity and feasibility, with the intention to create the best possible fiber crop that could be grown in France. There was no special harvesting equipment developed, and only two factories with the capabilities to process hemp, selling their raw product to paper manufacturers, particle board maker or as pet litter.

The hemp market is in direct competition with the established flax industry, which is perpetuating the slow growth of hemp. They have made some impressive steps toward the development of a T.H.C. free strain of cannabis, although once grown in the field for two consecutive seasons the T.H.C. content rises to normal hemp levels of 0.3 %. There is really no need to develop a THC free strain of hemp since it takes about 1 acre of hemp to grow enough flowers to produce 1 joint.

Isochanvre Construction of France is building entire houses out of hemp, from the basement to the roof trusses and the furniture as well, but this will be discussed in the following chapter. For now suffice it to note that the hemp industry shows a lot of promise in France.

In Holland the future prospects of hemp are even more promising. They are already a country devoted to high value crops and have a much more liberal policy towards marijuana, eliminating many constraints put on hemp by misinformed and disillusioned people. In 1989, Holland began a four year, ten million dollar project on hemp research and development. The program was initially started to deal with a problem the potato industry was having with microscopic nematodes. It was correctly believed that by using hemp in the crop rotation this problem would be eliminated. A hemp growing cooperative and a pulp factory are being organized and formed in Holland as a stepping stone towards full hemp production.

Hungary is a traditional hemp growing country. In the last twenty years the dissolution of the Soviet Union and it's economy has lead to a decline in production. In 1991, there were 6000 ha grown. In 1993 only 300 ha was grown, which was less than half of England's new crop. Since they have hemp harvesting and manufacturing machinery already, it has been a favourite touring ground for American, European and Canadian hemp activists and enthusiasts. Although this machinery is outdated and in need of modern refinement, it works, also the established research organizations in Hungary have developed many excellent strains of hemp. The seeds from Hungary have been grown all over the world these last few years.

In 1994, the Hempstead was the first American company to grow hemp. The site was the old Timpkin ranch, where Schlichten created the original decorticator. They only grew a half acre. The United States Dept. of Agriculture desert research facility coordinated the project and DEA agents regularly checked the fields. The crop went off without a hitch with the hemp sold to interested entrepreneurs before it was ever grown. More hemp was going to be grown in 1995. However, because some states have passed laws allowing the medical use of cannabis, a back-lash towards these people and hemp farmers has slowed down any potential growth in the hemp field. Though people such as actor Woody Harrelson have been challenging the laws which forbid hemp from being grown.

In 1931 the Soviet Union created the Institute of Bast Crops at Glukov, in the Ukrainian Republic and for the last 60 years they have experimented with the breeding, agronomy, mechanization and economy of hemp fiber. The Soviet Union broke up in 1991, when they also began researching flax. They have an enormous backlog of information about hemp. They have experienced, along with the rest of the world, a decline in hemp production. In 1930, for example 140,000 ha of hemp grew in the Ukraine while 500,000 ha was grown in Russia, but in 1993 only 8,000 ha was left in the Ukraine and 35,000 to 40,000 ha in Russia. Those working at the Institute, however, realize that this trend will soon reverse itself. With hemp once again being one of their most valued and treasured resources, they are preparing for the eventual enormous increase in hemp production.

In Canada, Joe Strobel and Geof Kime grew 10 acres of hemp on Joe's farm in Tillsonberg Ont, in 1993, The RCMP came by 3 times to check the THC level. The crop was harvested by an old hay machine and the crop was sold to an American company to process since there was no equipment in Canada in 1993. In 1994, 7 different farmers obtained 11 licenses, including Joe and Goeff, Gordon Schiefele and Claude Pinsonneault in Ridgeton, Ont, Dr. J. Moses in Manitoba, another farmer in Manitoba who was unwilling to release his name due to the prohibition scare, Dr. Slinkard in Saskatchewan, Fiona Briody in Barrhead, Alberta, and one more Albertan farmer frightened of exposure.

In British Columbia, Brian Taylor tried to get a license in Grand Forks, but it was not given to him after being " lied to, mislead, and set up" by officials from the Ministry of Health. After growing an illegal crop of hemp, spelling the word "HEMP" in big letters with hemp plants in a field on the side of a mountain, Brian was arrested. He was the mayor of Grand Forks, after the election in Nov., '96, leading the hemp movement by example. He has since publicly admitted to smoking marijuana and has become involved in the struggle to bring cannabis into the hands of the sick and dying across the country. Brian is now very involved in the hemp and medical marijuana movements.

In 1998 the Canadian Government, via the Ministry of Health, issued hemp licenses across the nation. We owe this change in policy to people like Brian Taylor who have continually and constantly approached the government with information about hemp, raising the consciousness of the community with their open acts of non-violent civil disobedience. In 1999 about 620 of 750 farmers who applied were allowed to grow hemp, with over 1/2 of the 25,000 ha crop grown in Manitoba. More will be grown across the country as every year passes.

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In 1998 the Canadian Government, via the Ministry of Health, issued hemp licenses across the nation. We owe this change in policy to people like Brian Taylor who have continually and constantly approached the government with information about hemp, raising the consciousness of the community with their open acts of non-violent civil disobedience. In 1999 about 620 of 750 farmers who applied were allowed to grow hemp, with over 1/2 of the 25,000 ha crop grown in Manitoba. More will be grown across the country as every year passes.

Hemp seed plants are seeded at rates of between 1 to 24 kg/ha resulting in 5 to 120 plants per square meter. The average hemp crop grown for seed yields between 20 to 30 bushels, 900-1300 lbs, per acre. At current U.S. prices of 20 to 90 cents per pound, this would give the farmer between $375 to $1200 per acre. One must keep in mind that this price is low because the present quality of seed has been significantly lowered, as the government sterilizes the seeds at a temperature of 350 degrees F before being sold on the market. This process destroys many of the proteins in the hemp seeds, rendering them nutritionally impotent and infertile. Good, healthy seeds would sell at a much higher price.

If the seeds are pressed for oil, usually it is about 25% of the seeds weight, 14-21 gallons of oil per acre would be extracted. Selling at prices between $50-100 per gallon, another figure distorted by current market practices, this would give farmers between $700 to $2100 per acre, minimum. The left over mash from this process is very high in protein and could be used as animal food. When hemp is grown for seed the fiber quality is much poorer then when grown specifically for fiber, although it can still be used for many products, including paper. The seeds have traditionally been used as birdseed for hundreds of years, with doves, quails and poultry all devouring the seeds as quickly as possible. In fact, one of the few complaints of farmers is that birds are always in the fields eating the seeds.

Hemp grows best in the 14 to 27 degrees C, although it can survive colder or warmer temperatures. It can grow well between 32 and 60 degrees Northern latitude, a much wider range than most other crops. Hemp prefers humid weather, loving lots of rain during the first six weeks of the season. Once the roots have penetrated into the ground deep enough, hemp can withstand fairly dry conditions, although with little water hemp matures slower, grows less and reduces yield. Seedlings can withstand as low as -8 degrees C for a night or two, while older plants can withstand a frost of minus 5 or 6 degrees. They can also survive severe storms, as Joe Strobel of Ontario found out in 1994, " After a particularly strong storm, all the hemp plants were lying flat. Would you believe that they all came back and stood straight up. That's one strong plant."

Although hemp plants are very resistant to diseases, the following ailments can afflict them: Cuscuta Europaea, "gemeine Seide"; Orobanche ramosa L. branched broom rape; Phytium de Baryanum Hesse, damping off, which will cause "Wurzelbrand"- brown soft lesions on young stems; Peziza Kaufmaniana Tisch., Bacillus cubonianus Macch. will cause many longish, somewhat protruding white-gray spots with a fissured surface, up to 10 cm long; Peronospora cannabina Otth., false mildew, causes yellow spots on the upper side of the leaf and a black-gray mold on the other side; Phyllosticta cannabis Speg., a leaf spot disease; Septoria Peck, a leaf spot disease; Pseudomonus cannabina, stripe disease; Botrytis cinerea Fr., gray mold; Sclerotina sclerotiorum Mass., hemp canker; Macrosporium cannabrium, brown leaf spot; and Fusarium sp., wilt. With proper care and maintenance, all of these diseases can be avoided or eliminated. Most are caused by seed and soil born fungi, or because the soil was wet for too long.

The hemp plant can be attacked by the hemp flea beetle, Psyloides attenuata, the European corn borer, Prausta nubilalis, Grapholita delineata and Ostrina nubilalis. Most of these pests can be eliminated by using the environmentally safe, Bacillus thuringenesis and/or proper crop rotation.

Weeds are generally not a problem, if the crop is planted early enough in the season, as the canopy of leaves smothers all opposition, though if planted for seeds some weeds may creep in. This weedless environment leaves the field in excellent condition for the next crop.

Hemp can be grown continually in the same field, although it is very hard on the soil. Hemp is a heavy feeder, requiring nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potassium every year for an optimum yield. If the flowers and leaves are returned to the soil, either by dew retting or composting after stripping the leaves, up to 70% of the nutrients absorbed by the plant during growth is returned to the soil at the end of the season. The roots make up 10% of the dried weight, the stems about 60%, and the leaves about 30%, so 70% of the plants nutrients are returned to the ground with 40% of the plants weight. Hemp grows best in a 4 year rotation of cereals, clover for green manure (compost), corn and hemp, though a 3 year rotation without clover is also used. Beans can be substituted into this rotation and other crops are being tried around the world according to each areas climate.

The roots leave the soil in excellent condition because they tap deep into the earth, if the soil is loose enough to allow it, bringing nutrients closer to the soil for other plants to use. This also helps break up the soil so as to allow for deeper root penetration in the next year. That, combined with the fact that hemp leaves the field virtually free of weeds, proves that hemp is one of the best crops to grow in an organic vegetable garden and other holistic farms.

Hemp grows best on rich and fertile, neutral or slightly alkaline, well-drained clay-loam or silt-loam soils. Hemp grows best with a Ph level under 5 and will not grow well in still, impervious clay soils or light sandy, gravel-type soils. New strains may be developed which can grow in any climate. A fair amount of water must be available in the subsoil or the crop may need irrigation. Hence, hemp needs the very best of our available farm land, so as to yield maximum results.

Crops Nitrogen Phosphoric Acid Potassium
Hemp 62.7 33.2 101.3
Corn 74.0 11.5 35.5
Wheat 48.0 8.0 24.0
Oats 48.5 8.0 34.0
Sugar Beet 100.0 18.0 157.0
Cotton 29.2 22.5 35.3

As the above chart shows, except for sugar beets, hemp usually uses more nutrients than the other crops, although one must keep in mind that all of these other crops are completely taken away from the field, except for sugar beet tops. So only about 30% of the nutrients which are needed to grow hemp are actually taken if the tops and flowers are returned. Therefore, being relatively easy on the soil, hemp can be grown successively without experiencing the dramatic decrease in yield other crops do. However, 10 consecutive years of growing hemp, without heavy fertilizer, will exhaust the nutrient supply within good soil.

Barn yard manure is an excellent source of the nutrients hemp needs and should be tilled into the soil either before the proceeding crop or in the fall. Spreading manure just before sowing is more likely to cause more harm than good. The most commonly used commercial fertilizer mix being about 6% phosphoric acid 12% potash and 4% nitrogen ( in the form of nitrate of soda or sulphate of ammonia) although obviously different soils, different stains, and different climate conditions may call for different properties of nutrients. The fertilizer can be applied at rates between 75 to 200 Kg of N/ha ,80 to 120 Kg of P2O5/ha and 160 to 200 Kg of K2O/ha, with varying results. The fiber content in the stem decreases once a certain limit in the amount of N is used. Ploughing a field of clover under the year before hemp is planted is an excellent, economical way of fertilizing a crop. If, because of dry weather or poor soil conditions, a crop of hemp grows stunted, it may be best to plough it under or burn it to regenerate the land.

Many argue that growing a large volume of hemp to supply most of our needs would be a disastrous plan since it would use all of our premium farm land. It is true that since we have to grow lots of hemp on prime farmland, we would grow less corn, wheat and other crops. First, since hemp is at least 4 times more valuable than all other crops, farmers and their communities will finally be earning more money, reviving agricultural life in all areas. The other crops will become more valuable because they will be more scarce. Second, if we were to stop eating meat there would be more land and resources available to grow hemp and other foods.

Hemp can also be used to revitalize poor soil, although the yield is directly affected. Much of the land which is turning into desert, either naturally or manually, can be recovered with the right irrigation, fertilizer, correct crop rotation and love. This could work in Costa Rica where the land has been almost completely destroyed, first by clear-cutting rain forest and then by farming the land without proper fertilization or tilling, Hemp is perfect for these purposes because it produces so much biomass in a short time.

Also, the cannabis culture which is growing around the hemp industry is an organic, vegetarian, holistic movement. Hopefully, in a few years, most of the land and energy which is wasted producing meat will no longer be necessary, a trend which everyone should eventually join. The sooner we live on this planet without using chemicals in our food, land, water and air, the faster our environment can recover from the pollution and waste we have scattered everywhere.

All things considered, the hemp strain of Cannabis sativa has proven to be the most beneficial crop known to humankind in it's quest for nutriional food and material possessions, and it will continue to fulfil this role in the future. It is hard to accurately estimate the eventual market value that hemp fiber, hurds and seeds will generate since the demand for hemp products and the development of hemp industrial equipment and technology is still in the very early stages.

One thing is certain, however, and that is farmers and their communities will become much more economically and politically powerful. They will be directly benefiting from the increase in revenue that hemp will bring, and will form tight-knit political alliances across the globe which will protect the interests of small, independant farmers, who will play an important role in the revival of a more natural way of living. Some of this money will be invested in industrial plants within the farm communities themselves, cutting the transportation costs from the field to store.

For now, though, it is imperative that we develop hemp production because of the environmental catastrophes which are looming over our heads. Consider also, that if our federal governments break down, if welfare and unemployment cheques stop coming and Western society quickly falls into ruin, the only plant which we can grow, locally and globally, that will keep us alive, is Cannabis.

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Copyright 1996 by Leon Smith
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