For much of the last century Hemp was vilified for its reputation conspiratorial with Cannabis, and, unfortunately, the fear campaign waged by western policies pigeon-holed a crop of high economic potential, as a dangerous and dissident drug. Aside from its superiority in the categories of durability, longevity and cost effectiveness, the hemp crop has one of the most varied lists of applications of any commercial crop. For example, hemp could be used as a component for rope, clothing fabrics and building, among other things. A recent study has even shown that the material can be used in vehicular construction!
However, a fairly new idea gaining prominence is Hemp's ecological value, specifically concerning the species that rely on Hemp crops as a foundation for their habitat. A recent study conducted by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has concluded that, as well as the crop's economic potential, it is also a highly valued part of swallow and whitethroat ecology. The study originated as a comparative project to test the environment viability of Hemp against two other popular crops, specifically Oilseed Rape and Field Beans. It was established that, while the birds use all three crops as a hunting ground during their relevant nesting seasons, Hemp was unique in its popularity among survivors as a final roosting ground in the late summer, before their annual southbound migration. On their research farm in Leicester, the GWCT registered flocks, counting in the thousands, of the swallows which then habitat was also in use up and down the country by the aforementioned white throats, who are a common sight on British farms anyway.
Contrary to popular belief, the Hemp plant is also extremely adaptable to different climates and weather conditions. Part due to its recreational popularity, its genus' have been genetically engineered to create varieties suited to any environment. Fortunately this adaptability has made the plant extremely accepting of new environments, provided the right genus is selected. Unfortunately though, this does mean that, in great numbers, it could pose an ecological threat to existing farmlands, similar to the ill-fated Cane Toad introduction in Australia, due to its magnitude growth cycle.
The leading researcher at GWCT, Dr. Chris Stoate, had this to say on the subject:
"We know that hemp has low requirements for inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides, but we need to investigate whether there are any effects on wildlife of a crop that is relatively new to modern farming systems …
… insects, including those used as food by birds, were broadly similar in the three different crop types. Weed cover and weed species did not differ very much between the crops … "
And so, while for now Hemp must still run a gauntlet of precautionary research, the day may not be far away when the agricultural, as well the ecological, community begins realizing the true potential of this crop, be it as a biofuel or as nesting grounds for British wildlife and, with any luck, it 'll able to shake off the manacles of reputation and form part of the backbone of a sustainable future.
Source by Joshua Ellison