USDA approves hemp farming in Iowa

Nutritional hemp seeds will soon be grown in Iowa (via flickr). 

Julia Poska | April 6, 2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved Iowa’s hemp production plan last week. The move opens the door for Iowa farmers to begin growing the crop, often praised for its environmental advantages.

Hemp is a strain of the cannabis plant that contains very low levels of the psychoactive compound THC, which is more highly concentrated in marijuana.

Proponents of hemp often promote the crop based on its environmental footprint. Hemp grows well nearly everywhere with relatively low water, pesticide and fertilizer demands in comparison to other cash crops.

The national rise in hemp growing has been largely fueled by demand for CBD, a compound increasingly used in foods and personal care products for its alleged calming properties. The various parts of the hemp plant can produce a wide range of other products, as well, however.

Hemp seeds and milk provide plant-based protein. Hemp resin can produce petroleum-free plastic. Hemp fiber can make paper with a smaller environmental footprint than wood paper and textiles with a smaller footprint than cotton.

Industrial hemp cultivation and products are not legal everywhere however, posing regulatory challenges for those wishing to trade the crop.

The new Iowa law should become official Wednesday, when it’s scheduled to be published on the Iowa Administrative Bulletin, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch. The USDA  indicated that Iowa farmers would be allowed to grow 40 acres of hemp, with THC levels below 0.3 percent.


Hemp advocates announce 6th Annual Hemp History Week


A hemp field in the United Kingdon. (Wikimedia)
A hemp field in the United Kingdon. (Wikimedia)

Nick Fetty | November 7, 2014

Farmers, hemp advocates, industry leaders, and other groups have scheduled the 6th Annual Hemp History Week to take place June 1-7, 2015. The theme of 2015’s event is Sow the Seed which aims to increase the acreage of hemp crops on U.S. farms.

Hemp is an “environmentally sustainable crop [which] helps restore nutrients to soil via phytoremediation, and does not require chemical inputs of pesticides and herbicides to flourish.” Hemp can be used to produce a wide range of products from healthy foods (hemp is high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 as well as vitamin E and iron) to auto parts. According to the North American Industrial Hemp Council, Inc., more than 25,000 products can be made from hemp.

The hemp plant is able to grow “in a variety of climates and soil types, is naturally resistant to most pests, and grows very tightly spaced allowing it to outcompete most weeds.” Research also suggests that in regions of the Upper Midwest and the South, hemp fiber can be a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to wood for producing paper.

During the 2014 legislative year, Iowa was one of 29 states (along with Puerto Rico) that either introduced or passed legislation to legalize industrial hemp. Nineteen states “currently have laws to provide for hemp pilot studies and/or for production as described by the Farm Bill stipulations.” The federal bill – signed by President Obama earlier this year – allows some farmers to legally grow industrial hemp however the plant is unlikely to take root in Iowa anytime soon.


Hemp-based electrodes show promise

A ball of hemp twine, one of the plant's many uses. Photo by Emilian Robert Vicol; Flickr
A ball of hemp twine. Photo by Emilian Robert Vicol; Flickr

According to new research recently presented at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting, hemp may be able to increase the amount of energy that can be stored in supercapacitors.

Supercapacitors store energy, similar to the batteries that power many electronic devices. Unlike batteries that may take hours to transfer their energy, supercapacitors reduce this time to mere seconds. However, they can only store a fraction of the energy that batteries are able to.

Researchers are trying to solve this problem by building electrodes out of different materials. Graphene has been used in the past, but it is expensive; the researchers found that hemp bast, a fiber taken from the plant’s inner bark, is a much cheaper alternative. They heated the hemp fibers to rearrange the carbon atoms, resulting in 2D nanosheets that were used to construct electrodes. The final product was highly successful, performing “far better than commercial supercapacitors.”

Hemp, a variety of the Cannabis plant, is used in a wide variety of products, including food, paper, cloth, and oil.