Hemp crops adapted to the hot climate Top End | Liverpool City Champion
The Northern Territory is investigating whether its warm winter could provide an edge in Australia’s emerging industrial hemp market.
Hemp is an environmentally sustainable crop that can be used in thousands of products, including building materials, textiles, and beer.
NT growers may be well positioned to grow dry season fiber crops to supply southern states which typically grow hemp in the summer.
“Hemp is a promising new agricultural sector in the territory that will help improve the economy and provide diversification opportunities for our farmers,” said NT Farmers Managing Director Paul Burke.
High-end cultivation trials are underway to determine which variety of low tetrahydrocannabinol cannabis plants is most suitable.
They contain less than one percent THC, which means the seeds can also be used to produce foods without psychoactive effects when consumed.
Researchers are evaluating how plants perform in the tropical NT climate and how much water and nutrients they need.
Early results suggest that high-end growers potentially produce two crops per season, doubling their harvests and farm income.
One variety tested yielded between 2.0 and 4.8 tonnes per hectare, which compares favorably with yields in other states, including Tasmania, which produces 40% of the national crop.
The durable hemp fiber and inner core of the stork or hurd are used to make textiles, ropes, paper, and building materials.
The seeds are a nutritious source of omega 3 and plant protein that can be used to produce oil, flour and milk, or as whole grains.
Low THC plants are also used in sunscreen, shampoo, soap, biofuels, animal feed, insulation, and car trim.
In total, there are over 15,000 industrial uses for low THC hemp in the recycling, automotive, textile, furniture, food and beverage, paper, construction, agriculture and personal care.
The NT government legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp in 2019, with a license required to grow, supply, and process the plant.
Around 2,500 hectares of industrial hemp were produced nationally in 2020.
Australian Hemp Council President Tim Schmidt is supported by the NT government’s investment in research.
“There is a huge potential; the land has a lot of sun and heat, the plant grows very quickly, so you can have efficient production,” he said.
“He has a great future.”
But he warns the industry is in its infancy in Australia and more focused research is needed to realize its potential.
“We are starting from a very low base and we have to deal with it so that we can compete on a global scale,” he said.
Mr. Schmidt says NT growers will also have to invest in specialized and expensive processing equipment or face high transportation costs to move the bulky crop to other jurisdictions where it can be refined.
Hemp is a fast growing annual herb. It thrives in temperate, subtropical and tropical climates between 15 and 27 ° C with at least 600 to 700 mm of rain per year.
The plants grow 1.5 to 5 meters with a stem up to 4 cm in diameter and a deep taproot.
Hemp is believed to originate from the Himalayan highlands. China has cultivated it for its strong fiber since at least 8000 BC.
Associated Australian Press