For the last two years, hemp in the United States has become a major market for CBD oil. But, for centuries around the world, people grew hemp for its fibers. The stalk of the hemp plant, called the hurd, is full of long fibers. When separated and processed, they can produce a wealth of products from auto parts to pillowcases, but it all started with fiber.
The history of hemp fiber
Humans have processed hemp for fiber for centuries. The first paper ever created came from hemp fiber. Mark Twain, the Gutenberg Bible and the Declaration of Independence were all originally published on hemp paper. Hemp made so many appearances throughout history because of how easy it is to grow and process into useful items. This accessibility is even leveraged today through several environmentally-friendly and economically-viable marketplaces.
Bast vs hurd fiber
Hemp plants give us two types of fiber, each with unique uses. Bast fibers are the long fibers covering the outside of the hemp stalk. These get spun into rope and clothing, pulped into textiles, and molded into plastic. When bast mats get infused with resins, the resulting plastic can replace fiberglass car parts. These new parts are lighter, and recyclable.
Hurd fibers come from the woody stalk of the hemp plant. You can transform it into rough paper, particle board, animal bedding, and hempcrete. The recipe for hempcrete is as simple as mixing four parts mulched hemp hurd with one part water and lime. The resulting creation is lightweight and provides solid insulation.
Both types of fiber carry natural advantages that make ideal crafting materials. For instance, hemp requires less water to grow than cotton. When spun into shirts, it retains its shape longer and breaks down less. One acre of hemp can produce as much paper as five acres of trees. Hemp-based concrete distributes heat better than normal concrete.
A guide to hemp fiber processing
All hemp produces usable fiber, but there are some tricks if you want to grow hemp specifically for fiber. First, the seeds need to get densely placed when planted. This will cause the stalks to grow taller and thinner, making for longer fiber strands and more fiber overall. Experts say that harvesting should take place seventy to ninety days after seeding. This allows the hemp to flower, but not yet produce seeds, which can toughen the fibers.
After harvesting, the hemp needs to “rett” or have time to break down. You can do this by leaving the stalks in the field to accumulate dew. This process can take a month or longer, so for faster results, submerge the hemp in warm water for 5-15 days.
Next, you need to break the stalks. A once labor-intensive process, breaking the tough hemp stalks is now simplified with the use of decorticator machines. The bast fibers are then separated from the hurds before getting washed, combed, and spun.
Begin cultivating hemp for fiber today
While it might make financial sense to grow hemp for CBD, those stalks still contain valuable fibers. Because you can process all hemp plants into fiber, why not make a few extra products while growing your hemp? To help figure out the best strategy for processing your hemp, turn to the experts at Arbor Vita8. Our seed-to-sale array of services means you’ll get knowledgeable guidance from the moment you decide hemp farming is right to you. We’re even able to connect you with the right manufacturers when it’s time to sell your refined products. To learn more, contact us today.