Could hemp be the plant that saves the planet? It is the best soil contaminant cleaner, and that includes radioactive waste.
Is there anything hemp can’t do? The mostly outlawed plant, one cultivated by George Washington at his Mount Vernon home, can be made into fabric, paper, and fuel, but now scientists have discovered a more subtle and astonishing use for cannabis sativa, saving the planet from our waste. Hemp can even get rid of radioactive soil contaminants.
Industrial hemp, the common name for low-THC varieties of cannabis grown for non-medicinal related uses, has been shown to be extremely adept at sucking up harmful chemicals from the soil, allowing former radioactive spill sites to become fertile once again.
How Do They Clean Up Contamination?
Remediation is the process of fixing ordinarily unusable soil sullied b my heavy metals or nuclear material. It involves showing designer chemicals into the earth that “eat up” the poisons. Think of is like using a magnet to collect tiny bits of metal floating in a glass of water.
All of that happens naturally and much less expensive through the process of phytoremediation. In phytoremediation, the roots of plants like hemp or mustard, dig deep into contaminated soil and through their natural growth process, and suck up the harmful chemicals right alongside the beneficial nutrients that remain. These polluting elements completely leave the ground and the plant stores them, usually within the leaves, stems or stalks.
Phytoremediation with Hemp
Scientists in Colorado State University (CSU), including Elizabeth Pilon-Smith, have spent decades pondering how plants can help clean the soil. This link to a CSU student summary of hemp phytoremediation gives a nice review of that we know so far, including links to peer-reviewed studies on the subject.
There is always more research coming in, but hemp has been thrust into the phytoremediation spotlight because it has a few generic perks that makes it ideal for the job:
Hemp has a Long Root System
This plant can grow to eight feet below the surface, giving soil a deep clean.
Hemp is Inexpensive
Hemp is far less expensive than chemical remediation. Growers can harvest it for use as a cash crop. Further, hemp in use removing the fertility-killing elements cesium and cadmium also serves as fuel. This fuel powers biomass engines. Perhaps the best use is turning this hemp into insulation or paper.
Using Hemp to Clean Radioactive Soil?
Hemp has now been successfully, and famously used as a way to clean radioactive soil. Some of the most famous uses are the worst environmental disasters of the modern era. The nuclear accidents in Chernobyl, Ukraine and Fukushima, Japan may benefit from soil detox thanks to industrial hemp. Scientists. Working in Chernobyl in the 1990s reported that hemp, along with mustard, are able to remove heavy metals from the soil.
For one plant to be able to clean up the most hazardous material mankind has ever created is simply amazing. Cannabis is literally saving the human race from itself.