Hemp Cultivation in Australia
The situation in Australia:
Australia is growing hemp for research purposes in several states. Their results have been discouraging, in part because they are using Northern Hemisphere seed cultivars from France. Seed cultivars from India and Chile will be analyzed to determine if they can be adapted for use in Australia. (see John Dvorak article)
Application for Authorisation to Grow Hemp
Hemp Agronomics Western or South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania
Facts Links Australia
Clickable Map Australia
Australia, Eucalyptus and Hemp
In many countries around the world, the impact of decades of neglect and thoughtless exploitation of the natural environment is beginning to show. Australia is one such country. Despite much rhetoric to the contrary, it remains that our country continues to suffer severe degradation of the land, air and water due to thoughtless agricultural, forest and water management policies.
Australia enjoyed unparalleled prosperity for decades, based on the production of wool and wheat. The agricultural base has broadened to include sugar cane, many fruits and cotton for domestic consumption and export. The fragile soils of the Australian continent were not suitable for chemical methods of farming, neither were they able to withstand the impact of imported domestic cattle and sheep. Intensive herbicide and pesticide dependent cultivation methods lead to high costs and decreasing returns.
One of the most profound problems has been that of water management. Even though Australia has lush tropical rain forests in the north-east, it is the driest continent on earth. Large scale damming of rivers and sinking bores for irrigation have led to severe salination due to evaporation, concentrating trace amounts of salt present in artesian water. This has been compounded by clearing of tree cover. The most shameful aspect of policy here is to allow the clear-felling of old growth forest to be chipped for Kraft paper.
The roots of Eucalyptus trees reach deep into the subsoil to extract water. After clearing of trees, the water table rises, bringing buried salt to the surface. In some parts of the inland river system thousands of hectares have been permanently lost to a smothering layer of salt. Excess phosphates from chemical fertilizers have entered the waterways. With flow rates seriously reduced by irrigation, the protective flushing effect is lost and there have been several outbreaks of toxic blue green algae.
Fortunately, there have been small improvements. Forward thinking people have formed a "land care" organization to plant trees and practice more sustainable farming. There is a growing movement in Australia to introduce fiber hemp for the production of fabric and paper, as well as developing a ligno-cellulosic ethanol fuel industry. Despite recent developments in Europe and England, where fiber hemp cultivation under license is in progress, little cultivation is taking place. The legislative power to regulate hemp is held by each state government. Modest progress has been made in Tasmania by the "Hemp for Paper" Consortium.
In New South Wales, the most populous state with the most suitable agricultural land and climate, there has been a complete refusal by the authorities to allow fiber hemp trials, despite the support of Universities, agricultural firms and farmers. Economic projections have indicated that hemp will be a highly profitable crop, provided we can convince the government to follow the United Nations policy on fiber hemp and permit industrial scale trials.
Andrew Katelaris, Bio-logical Products, 3 Luton Place, St. Ives 2076, Sydney, Australia.
A question somebody could help HempCyberFarm with:
17. Are there two growing seasons per year in tropical zones with 12-12° latitude?
From John in Australia.
Do you know more about this? e-mail me at Matthew@HempWorld.com
Hemp facts and links related to Australia:
New Laws Clear Way for Hemp In Western Australia
A key economic development agency of the South Australian Government
Research Road. Nuriootpa SA 5356
P0 Box 246, Nuriootpa SA 5365
Telephone (08) 85686400 Facsimile (08) 8568 6449
international Code +618 http://www.pi.sa.gov.au
Trent potter, SARDI, and John Hannay, PISA
Until the late nineteenth century industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) was the world's largest agricultural crop and the most traded commodity. It was grown for the production of fiber and seed. because of its fiber strength, it was the preferred source of fiber for the manufacture of rope, fabric and paper, while oil was extracted from the seed With the mechanization of cotton processing, cotton became the main fiber source. At the same time the decline of sailing ships decreased the market for rope and canvas sails. This decline continued in the 1930s with the introduction don of synthetic fibers such as nylon.
During the past decade there has been a resurgence of interest in hemp, particularly in Europe for the production of paper, particle board, fiber glass replacement products, geo-textiles, environmental matting and textiles - Both industrial hemp and marijuana are forms of Cannabis sativa L. The important difference between them is that Industrial hemp has a low narcotic level, too low to produce any psychotropic effect.
Industrial hemp is a tail, annual herbaceous plant with a deep tap root, growing to a height of 1 to 4 m high depending on variety and growing conditions. It has a single slender main stem and when grown at commercial crop densities the stems are generally unbranched. Stem thickness varies from 4 to 20mrn in diameter.
Hemp is normally dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female plants, but monoecious varieties have been bred. The seed is small, brown to grey in color and has an oil content of about 35% and a protein content of 28 %.
The stem fibers can be divided into two very different types of fibers, the bark or bast comprising the outer stem tissues and the core or had consisting of the inside stem tissues. The bark or bast contains primary and secondary bast fibers, which are thick walled, have a high cellulose and a low hemicellulose and lignin content. Primary bast fibers are 50-mm long, while secondary bast fibers are shorter, being about 2mm long and are more lignified. Primary bast fibers are about 34pm and secondary bast fibers about l7pm wide.
The bast composition is approximately 67% cellulose, 13% hemicellulose and 4% lignin. East comprises 30-35% of the stem dry matter. As the bast is the most valuable component for paper or textile production bast fiber quality is of prime importance. The woody core fibers or hurd are thin walled (average 2jm) and short (0.ssmm) and have a chemical composition which resembles hard wood being approximately 40% cellulose, 20% hemicellulose arid 20% lignin.
Paper production requires high quality bast and hurd fiber containing a long fiber length, a high cellulose content and a low lignin content Hemp is used to produce specialty printing and writing papers or as an additive to strengthen and improve quality in wood and straw based paper manufacture.
In 1991 the Tasmanian Government was the first Australian state to grant a research license enabling evaluation of the agronomic and market potential of a viable industrial hemp industry. Industrial hemp research is currently being conducted in South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.
In SA research commenced in 1995 to determine the agronomic potential as well as the processing and market potential of industrial hemp- To enable the potential of industrial hemp under SA conditions to be evaluated a research license has been issued under Section 56 or the Act to the Yorke Regional Development Board with the research being conducted by South Australian Research and Development Institute and IAMA Technical Services.
The trials were conducted under stringent security conditions and in accordance with an agreed trial protocol. South Australian Trial Program Three trials were to be sown, at Turretfield Research Center in die lower North, Kybybolite in the South East and Arthurton on Yorke Peninsula Five French hemp varieties were to be sown at six weekly intervals between May and October.
All trials were grown under dryland conditions except for Kybybolite where trials were irrigated. The trials at Arthurton and Turretfield were unsuccessful as June and July sowings flowered too early and produced negligible plant growth. sowings in October did not emerge due to dry son conditions.
At Kybybolite five varieties of French hemp were sown over a range of sowing dates:
The site had been prepared before winter and 2.5 t/ha of lime had been incorporated to raise the soil ph to about 6.
Plot size was 8 rows at 18cm row spacing by 10 m long and 4 replicates were used.
Buffer plots were sown on either end of each time of sowing subplot. The experimental design was a split plot with time of sowing as main plots and varieties as subplots.
Sowing rate was adjusted for seed size and germination percent and seed was sown about 2 cm deep.
At sowing DAP at 144 kg/ha was applied and after emergence additional nitrogen at 50 kg/ha was top-dressed on all plots.
Irrigation at about 25 mm per week was applied by a travelling irrigator, higher water application rates could not be used because the different times of sowing meant that small seedlings were often present.
Plant emergence was similar for all varieties with about 200 plants per square meter being achieved. At harvest, the outside 2 rows on either side of the plot were discarded and the inside 4 rows were cut at ground level and weighed. A subsample of 1 kg was kept, and oven dried to deterrnine dry weight.
The trials have confirmed that industrial hemp is a short day plant suited to spring sowing. Attempts to sow the crop in winter were unsuccessful as plants grew to only about 30 cm high before flowering- These sowings occurred in 2 June and 10 July and conditions during winter were very wet. Plants flowered during September and early October and these sowings were destroyed.
The crop appears to be best adapted to either irrigated areas or areas where summer crops are traditionally grown, Under irrigation, mid to late spring plantings gave the best growth.
Results from Kybybolite showed that total dry matter yields of October and November sown hemp ranged from 9-10 t/ha for the variety Futura 77 down to 5 t/ha for the variety Ferimon. The other varieties produced intermediate yields.
Futura 77 produced the highest yields at all harvests and appears the best suited variety of the five under test. Hemp sown after November and before October grew poorly so that the optimum sowing date appears to be between October and November.
The 10 t/ha produced in this trial compares quite favorably with yields obtained overseas. The only areas in SA where industrial hemp may warrant further evaluation as a dryland crop are in the mid and lower South East.
Factors aftecting growth and yield; Attempting to sow hemp before October was un-successfull because the plants flowered early and produced little dry matter.
Sowings during October and November produced substantially more growth because plants had a longer period from emergence urdi the start of flowering. December sowings again resulted in more rapid flowering and reduced plant growth.
The variety Futura 77 produced the most dry matter at all sowing dates, while all other varieties produced less. In order to produce higher levels of plant growth it may be necessary to grow varieties that flower even later than Futura 77. Similar results have been found in Tasmania (S. Lissonpers.comm.).
Weeds presented few problems in hemp production when sowings occurred in October and November. plants grew rapidly and smothered weeds to produce a weed free stand. However, in earlier sowings, weeds competed with hemp. Grasses were I tilled with normal grass herbicides with no evidence of damage to the hemp, however broadicaf weeds could not be controlled. Insect pests had little effect on hemp growth- Lucerne flea required control in early sowings at all sites but later sowmgs at Kybybolite were unaffected.
Soil conditions appeared to have little effect on emergence at Kybybolite. Likewise overhead watering also seemed to be adequate for plant growth. However, in Victoria, plant growth was severely reduced by waterlogging in irrigation bays (D. Pyc, pers-comm.) and obviously waterlogging could be a severe impediment to hemp production.
In the trial at Kybyholite the plants were grown with similar nutrient inputs to a well grown canola crop, however no nutrition trials were conducted so perhaps yields could have been further increased with higher inputs. plants were not to be allowed to set seed in the South Austrahan trials so that seed yield can not be estimated.
However studies in Tasmania have suggested that gross returns of $1000-1200 per hectare are possible from producing oil from hemp seed.
Hemp as a marketable crop
The Yorke Regional Development Board feasibility study on end-use and market potential identified the high cost of processing equipment as the main limiting factor.
They conclude an industrial hemp industry in the medium term would not be viable as hemp products would not be competitive against products made from other fibers e.g. wood or cotton.
There is strong community interest in industrial hemp from environmental groups. A hemp conference was held in Melbourne in December 1995 to identity the issues that need to be addressed before a hemp industry is established.
Post farm gate processing needs further investigation and development. Fuelled by this enormous community interest further industry research and development may be possible despite the lack of apparent viability of a hemp industry.
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*Industrial-Hemp has no psychoactive properties following definition of the European Economic Community (EEC); THC content is less than 0.3%. In general, low THC-seed varieties without psychoactive properties are those that have a THC content of less than 1%. (See also No-THC Hemp-seed.) THC= Delta-9 TetraHydroCannabinol.
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