opportunities and risks of hemp cultivation


Front TE publication

Growing hemp has tremendous potential ecological benefits but governments, the industry, and farmers must guard against conventional cultivation methods with synthetic pesticides and synthetic fertilisers becoming the longer-term norm in this sector.

Textile Exchange (TE) makes that call in a new (July 2023) report titled Growing Hemp for the Future.

In the report, TE underlines the special potential of hemp: its cultivation can help improve biodiversity, better soil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, hemp is good for bees, offers farmers more marketing opportunities, is able to purify contaminated soil and is a suitable rotation crop.

Currently, it is grown almost everywhere without synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. But, warns TE, will this remain so if the cultivated area continues to increase? TE points out that some countries already allow the use of pesticides listed as 'dangerous' on hemp, which incidentally does not necessarily mean that they are actually used.

The same concern is with regard to the use of fertilisers. Precisely because hemp is a nitrogen-loving plant, this could involve the risk of farmers using synthetic fertilisers.

TE admits that this is not the case for now, but warns in advance that regulations would have to be put in place regarding pesticides, fertilisation and agricultural practices. "Otherwise, hemp could become an input-intensive crop with the same greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from agricultural poisons or fertilisers as is the case with other natural fibres, such as cotton."