General Info About Hemp Fiber
What is Hemp?
Hemp is a bast fiber plant similar to flax, kenaf, jute and ramie. Long slender primary fibers on the outer portion of the stalk characterize bast fiber plants. The primary hemp fiber is attached to the core fiber by pectin - a glue-like soluble gelatinous carbohydrate. The primary hemp fibers can be used for composites, reinforcements and specilaty pulp and paper. The wood-like core hemp fiber can be used for animal bedding, garden mulch, fuel and an assortment of building materials. Hemp also produces an oil seed that contains between 25 - 35 % oil by weight, which is high in essential fatty acids considered to be necessary to maintain health.
Hemp is an annual plant that grows from seed. It can be grown on a range of soils, but tends to grow best on land that produces high yields of corn. The soil must be well drained, rich in nitrogen, and non-acidic. Hemp requires limited pesticides because is grows so quickly and attracts few pests.
In southwestern Ontario, the hemp when grown for fiber is ready for harvesting when the plants begin to shed pollen in mid-August. To harvest hemp for fiber specialized cutting equipment is required, however equipment as simple as a side bar mower is suitable. Once the hemp fiber crop is cut, the stalks are allowed to cure (rett) in the field to loosen the primary hemp fiber from the core fibre. While the stalks lay in the field, most of the nutrients extracted by the plant are returned to the soil as the leaves decompose. The hemp stalks are turned and then baled with existing hay harvesting equipment, using either large round or square balers. When planted for hemp fiber, the yields range from 2 to 5 tons of dry stalks per acre.
Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa L. Due to the similar leaf shape, hemp is frequently confused with marijuana. Although both plants are from the species cannabis, hemp contains virtually no THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana. Hemp cannot be used as a drug because it produces virtually no THC (less than one per cent), where marijuana produces between 5 - 20 % THC.