In Italy it has been legal to grow hemp plants with a THC level below 0.2% since 2016. This has been a welcome change in the law that has helped many farmers who had been struggling to grow wheat crops that can compete with the prices of much cheaper imported grain.
Many farmers have also been suffering with poor soil quality from over-farming, resulting in swathes of desiccated farm land. Those that have turned their hand to growing hemp crops instead are now seeing a dramatic reversal in their fortunes, and are also seeing a bright future growing a very sustainable crop.
Land coversion rates increasing
Since the landmark law change in 2016, Italy has now seen land dedicated to growing hemp rise from 400 hectares (1,000 acres) in 2013 to 4,000 hectares today.
The sharp rise in hemp production rates has demonstrated that the native farming communities are capable of accepting change, and are willing to diversify into new fields to seize fresh, new opportunities for the farming economy. The growth in hemp cultivation has also seen a positive boost to local employment levels in farming communities.
The change in the law to allow hemp plants to be grown for non-pharmaceutical use has also enabled a lot of new ideas and innovative ways to use the crops being grown. These include using the plant for industrial use, eco-friendly furniture and building materials, hemp paper products, but also to create food items such as hemp flour to make pasta, biscuits and pastry products, as well as hemp oil and vegan ricotta cheese.
Producing new hemp-based food lines has also meant local artisan food producers have been able to launch new product lines and employ extra staff from their local communities.
Hemp plants regenerating the land
Italy has a temperate climate, but in the Catenanuova countryside summer temperatures can reach the mid-40s. This has not helped with the desiccation of the soil, but it’s not just the summer temperatures that are the issue here.
Years of monoculture have taken a devastating toll on the land and the soil structure. Italy is suffering from major soil erosion and desertification in areas that have been over farmed. It is not just happening in Italy of course, but all over the world too.
However, a switch to the cultivation of hemp from wheat can really help to restore exhausted farm land. Diversifying crops can help to regenerate less fertile ground. It is an old way of rotational farming that used to be practiced way back in Roman times, and going back to the old ways can be a proven way of saving the land and the agricultural sector.
Returning Italian farming back to it’s ‘roots’ can be seen as a good move. Italy used to lead the world as hemp producers, before the introduction of synthetic materials caused a decline in demand for hemp material for clothing and other fabric products. Now after 60 years, hemp is having a major global revival with demand escalating for more eco-friendly hemp products in place of plastic and nylon micro-fibre materials.
Fact of the day: The UK is the largest grower and exporter in the world of marijuana for medical use.