One harvest yields seed, rich in valuable proteins and best suited for healthy human nutrition, and the carbonaceous straw, which can be processed into nature-based carbon sinks like e.g. building materials or biochar. Without accounting for and using the straw in the LCA of seed harvesting, the crop performs about the same as its competitors. However, if the straw is accounted for and becomes a carbon sink in its end use, ensuring the longevity of the positive climate performance, the crop becomes "self-offsetting", and even in standards of true cost accounting, a substantial contribution to the climate can be attested.
Reforestation (woody biomass), build-up of Soil Organic Carbon (Humus Layer), and the pyrolysis of biomass to store the resulting carbon in the form of a long-term stable substance are the three key elements for the future. Coupled with stricter regulations to reduce emissions, we can (still) manage to decarbonize the atmosphere to the extent necessary to reduce the global temperature increase to tolerable levels.
When a plant dies at the end of its life cycle, its biological decomposition begins and the absorbed carbon returns to the atmosphere. To prevent this, the biomass can be pyrolysed - a thermal treatment at a minimum of 400 °C and the absence of oxygen. In addition, the pyrolysis process generates energy that may be used in the form of heat or possibly electricity. Depending on the type of plant, volatile components that are outgassed during pyrolysis can be refined into fuels or used as oils and chemical raw materials.
With promising results we have already conducted pyrolysis tests with hemp straw. Due to homogeneity and fast growth, Hempstraw is significantly promising input material for the biochar industry, creating additional value for the environment and farmers wallets. Utilized as a soil conditioner in agriculture or as a filling additive in concrete, the absorbed carbon ends up in a permanent carbon sink and up to 3 tons of CO2 per ton of biochar are permanently sequestered.
Our soils are among the largest nature-based carbon sinks around. Unfortunately, many soils have already lost 50-70% of their original carbon content. It is possible to partially recover this loss through better land-management, such as intercropping, little tillage, or minimized use of chemical substances.
Hemp is ideal for these regenerative practices, since the low maintenance crop even provides soil conditioning properties. In comparison to conventional crops, the cultivation is much more climate-friendly. However, quantification of soil organic carbon is still in its infancy. Nonetheless, it is already clear that our global agriculture needs a drastic system change and that traditional conventional farming practices have no space in the vision of an environmentally and climate friendly agriculture that still feeds the world in 2050.
The removal of carbon from the air through photosynthesis. Large plants with a high wooden content are able to store a particularly large amount of carbon. In this case, one often speaks of re- / afforestation.
However, industrial hemp comes with an at least equal potential as a nature-based carbon sink, due to its woody stem and rapid biomass growth. Besides the fact that Hemp grows faster than trees, the cultivation simultaneously allows us to feed the world with oilseed that are rich in valuable proteins and unsaturated fatty acids.