Conserve Water: Swap Cotton for Hemp?
Such is the call from South Australian leader of the Democrats, Sandra Kanck. And given the vast quantities of cotton irrigation water extracted from the once great, but now dying Murray and Darling river basin, it would seem, at face value, to be a great idea. Only problem being I don’t recall ever seeing any figures that would indicate hemp is radically more water efficient than cotton. Yes, hemp has much going it, like yield has been quoted by various sources as being two to three times greater than cotton, using significantly less synthetic pesticides, while being an ideal rotation crop. But a trawl through my library of hemp books (which generally trip over themselves in their eagerness to list hemp’s positive properties) failed to elicit this water comparison. A government report in the late ‘90s concluded hemp for fibre would be feasible in Australia ... if the costs of retting (separating fibre from stalk) could be reduced. Otherwise hemp would remain roughly a quarter more expensive than cotton. Retting (rotting) uses water to soak the hemp stems. Even if the cost issue could be resolved (steam explosion was suggested as an alternative) the average hemp fibre is about twice as thick as cotton fibres, making it suitable only for medium weight textile products. It should be noted though that, unlike the US, most Australian states have, at least, sanctioned trial hemp crops, to test commercial feasibility. Ecofibre in Queensland remains one of the most active businesses in this area. Via ::ABC Online. (That govt report can be found here in full.)Pics found at Ecolution.