Hemp for Land Remediation in PA
Contamination of land and water is a continuing problem for both our environment and economy. Here in Pennsylvania we have three separate programs within the DEP for dealing with abandoned coal mines, land recycling and brownfields. Hemp can be very useful in dealing with contaminated and otherwise useless land. Conventional practices in the remediation of contamination usually involve expensive processes such as land filling or incineration of soil. Phytoremediation uses plants to accumulate certain metals in plant biomass to accelerate contaminant breakdown.
Hemp, while not known to be the ‘best’ crop for phytoremediation of contaminated soil, does hold a distinct advantage over other crops used for this purpose. Most crops grown on contaminated soil have no value outside the remediation itself, where as the stalks and seeds of hemp are still a useful crop which can be used for building products, paper, insulation, biofuel and other non-food grade products.
It also has the advantage of having a greater adaptability to different soils and climatic conditions while being an effective rotational crop which can improve soil quality. All of this is in addition to the fact that hemp requires little to no irrigation or pesticides to grow effectively.
Hemp has also been recognized as having a high capacity for phytostabilisation. Phytostabilisation uses plant structure to stabilize contaminants reducing the bioavailability and mobility of the contaminants in the soil, preventing them from entering the food chain or groundwater.
Pennsylvania’s large amount of land in need of reclamation is a perfect platform to conduct hemp research while improving the soil, environment and economy by returning many acres of land to productive use.