Italy Has Taken to Growing Hemp
Since the time of the Roman Empire, Italy has always had the perfect conditions for growing hemp. Before synthetic fibers became popular, hemp was grown in Italy for the production of linen, paper, sailcloth, rope, and other fabrics. Now it seems that Italy is rediscovering the power of hemp. In the town of Taranto, locals are using hemp to detox the soil of heavy metals.
But how did the soils around this town get to be so contaminated? One of Italy’s top producing steel factories is located here. For a period of 50 years, the steel plant has been releasing heavy metals into the air and the surrounding soil. For some time, farmers have been unable to graze their cattle within 12 miles of the mill for fear of contamination.
In fact, in 2006, the town was declared bankrupt despite being home to oil refineries and steel plants. Today, Taranto is ranked as the third most polluted city in the world. Thanks to hemp, the town will not remain so for long.
Environment cleaning benefits of hemp
The farmers in Taranto have decided to confront this environmental pollution disaster by planting fields of hemp. You may not know it, but hemp has the ability to efficiently absorb large amounts of pollutants from the soil. After absorbing heavy metals, it neutralizes them in its roots thus removing them from the soil.
Under normal circumstances, it is not possible to break down the heavy metals in the soil. They just remain in the soil waiting to contaminate the food and water sources for ages to come.
Where else has hemp been used to clean the environment?
I’m sure you have heard of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 in Ukraine. It was hemp that was used to effectively clean the soil of the nuclear waste. Hemp cleans the environment through a process known as phytoremediation which simply means the cleaning up the soil and environmental contaminants using plants.
It was in the 1990s when hemp was proven to be one of the best phytoremediation plants by an organization called PHYTOTECH.
One of the reasons why hemp is preferred for environmental cleaning is due to its fast-growing ability. It is, therefore, used to overhaul the environment in a very short time. Sometimes, the contaminants may have traveled deep into the soil. Hemp roots can go up to eight feet underground thus removing every trace of heavy metals from the soil. Unlike other plants, hemp has a very high tolerance level for soils with heavy metals. You will rarely see it showing signs of stunted growth even in soils like those of Taranto, which are heavily polluted. In this town, over 100 farmers are planting hemp on their land.
But phytoremediation is not the only reason why farmers in Taranto are planting hemp. Many of them expect to use it as a fiber, fabric, fuel, and a superfood. It seems in a few years, these farmers will not only have a much cleaner environment but fuller pockets. That’s tantamount to killing two birds with one stone. Who wouldn’t want that?