THE HEMP PLANT
The Basics of the Hemp Plant
THE HEMP PLANT
Hemp is a tall, annual, erect herb with slender canelike stalks and compound leaves. Flowers produce a resin that contains the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp seed is used for food and other products and is the raw material for industrial hemp fibre, which is made into clothing, rope, paper, cordage, and other materials. Hemp is a regenerative crop that can grow back faster than it takes to harvest, improving soil quality and structure.
Hemp requires good drainage, but it can tolerate waterlogged conditions and is adapted to a wide range of climates. It grows best in rich, well-aerated loam soils with high organic matter content and requires a well-drained, slightly acidic environment with adequate fertility for rapid germination and establishment. Hemp is a dioecious plant, and both male and female plants are needed for production. Plants can be grown as either a fibre or grain crop, and a variety of cultivars have been developed to meet specific market requirements.
Once cut for fiber, the hemp plant undergoes a process called retting, which allows moisture and microorganisms to break down the bonds that hold the stem together. This process can take 4-6 weeks and must be closely monitored to prevent over-retting and rot. Once the stems have been sufficiently retted, they are dried to less than 15% moisture content and baled for storage.
The retting process can also be done in a factory setting through the use of specialized machinery. The machinery breaks the hemp into three streams; bast fiber, hurd fiber, and green microfiber. The hurd fiber is used for cordage, while the bast fibers are used for textiles, including linen and canvas, as well as other coarse fabrics such as sacking and burlap.