The Role Of Hemp In Sustainable Agriculture

by Teagan Riddy

Conventional agriculture contributes to the climate crisis by causing deforestation, biodiversity loss, soil degradation, environmental pollution, and increasing carbon emissions [1]. Sustainable agriculture, in contrast, potentially combats the aforementioned ills of farming. Benefiting the climate and biodiversity requires a keen understanding of modern technology, plant breeding, and raising crops in traditional ways that have endured over centuries. The reason tradition is important, is traditional agriculture exemplifies sustainable agriculture[2]. Sustainable agriculture is farming that is both environmentally friendly and profitable for farmers, with the goal of long-term benefits for forests, climate safety, and human rights [2]. 

Environmental benefits of hemp 

The hemp plant (C. sativa) offers  a range of environmental benefits including carbon drawdown [3]. These are opportunities for hemp to play a role in making agriculture more sustainable. Hemp crops capture carbon at a faster rate than the rate of growth of most forests [4]. Paired with low emissions farming and soil conservation, the crop is valuable as a store of carbon. As a construction and fiber material, hemp can store carbon indefinitely. Furthermore, manufacturing products with natural hemp reduces the CO2 emissions from petroleum-based plastic products used for the same purposes. Although forests require less management, hemp farming typically stores carbon at a faster rate than forests do. 
Unsustainable farming practices strip soil of its nutrients, resulting in land degradation and lower yields. Hemp is a deep-rooting crop that protects soil from erosion and naturally resists most plant diseases [5]. This demonstrates how hemp can be beneficial for agricultural purposes while also helping to heal the environment. To emphasize this, many crops require synthetic fungicides, pesticides, and other farm chemicals, the majority of which are harmful to the soil [6]. [5]. Thus, hemp cultivation is suitable for organic farming. 

How can consumers support sustainable hemp farming?

The fact that hemp is so environmentally friendly means that cooking oil made from hemp seeds is one of the most sustainable types of cooking oil. Therefore, one way that we can support sustainable agriculture is by purchasing hemp seed oil rather than any other types of oils. We should avoid using palm oil because it significantly contributes to deforestation and biodiversity loss [7]. This shows that making this simple switch to hemp seed oil can help to reverse the climate crisis and benefit the environment. In addition to hemp seed oil, buying more hemp products such as hemp protein powder, hemp milk, hemp clothing or even hemp body lotion will give profit back to the farmers, which gives an incentive for them to continue cultivating hemp, increasing its beneficial environmental impact.
Unfortunately, hemp has received some negative stigma due to its close association with marijuana. Therefore, another way that we can support sustainable agriculture is to raise awareness about the many environmental benefits of hemp so that people avoid misconceiving the plant as negative. As a result, more people will start to purchase hemp products, which will increase profits for farmers and make hemp farming more widespread. 

[1] Chakravarty, S et al; 2012, Deforestation: causes, effects and control strategies, Global perspectives on sustainable forest management, 1, ISBN 978-953-51-0569-5.
[2] What is Sustainable Agriculture?, Rainforest Alliance,, accessed on 28th July 2022.
[3] ly, K et al; 2022, Cannabis/Hemp: Sustainable Uses, Opportunities, and Current Limitations, Springer, Singapore,
[4] The Environmental Benefits of Hemp, East Yorkshire Hemp,, accessed on 29th July 2022.
[5] Piotrowski, S., & Carus, M, 2011, Ecological benefits of hemp and flax cultivation and products, Nova institute, 5, Carus/publication/267766816_Ecological_benefits_of_hemp_and_flax_cultivation_and_products/links/5522b3030cf29dcabb0ed920/Ecological-benefits-of-hemp-and-flax-cultivation-and-products.pdf 
[6] Edwards, C (Ed.), 2013, Environmental pollution by pesticides, 3, Springer Science & Business Media, ISBN-13: 978-1-4615-8944-0.
[7] WHAT IS THE MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY COOKING OIL?, Clarify Green,, accessed on 29th July 2022. 

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