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10 Things to Know About … Hemp

10 Things to Know About … Hemp

There has been a very rich history of hemp research within Teagasc. Teagasc was preceded by an organisation called An Foras Taluntais, which was formed in the late 1950s. From very early on in the history of this organisation researchers were interested in the potential of hemp.

Barry Caslin, Bioenergy Specialist at Teagasc, tells us more on this week’s episode (Monday, 28 November) of the TV programme 10 Things to Know About … Hemp on RTÉ One at 8.30PM.

10 Things to Know About … HempBarry Caslin, Teagasc Bioenergy Specialist, on this week's episode of the TV programme ‘10 Things to Know About … Hemp’, Monday, 28 November on RTÉ One at 8.30PM

There has been a recent surge of interest in hemp production globally. Industrial hemp can be legally grown in Ireland under licence from the Department of Health for a range of uses, including for fibre, food and feed. The varieties of hemp permitted are listed in the EU’s ‘Common Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species’.

There have been three different areas of research of hemp in Ireland, which included the use of hemp fibre for paper and textile production in the 1960s. The second area looked at hemp as Medium Density Fibre board (MDF) material. More recently, the research focused on hemp as an energy crop. All this research was geared towards the agronomy of hemp - although there were different uses of hemp in mind.

Barry Caslin explains: “Hemp is a multifaceted crop delivering flowers, seeds, fibres, shivs, leaves and roots. The crop can replace synthetic plastics and fibres with natural biodegradable forms. Depending on the method of harvesting, an individual hemp plant can provide raw material for several end-users, providing farmers with several income streams from the same plant. Fibre is used today for paper pulp, insulation and building material and as a composite material in the automotive industry. The shivs, the woody inner core of the stem, are used for animal bedding and construction; while hemp seeds and hemp seed oil have a high nutritional value. “

“With that being said, the hemp Industry has been unable to get a hold in Ireland due largely to a lack of infrastructure for processing. With the recent renewed interest in hemp worldwide it is important to look at the barriers faced by farmers with a view to unlocking the prize that an Irish hemp industry can offer,” Barry Caslin adds.