Does Industrial Hemp Use Less Water Than Corn?

Industrial hemp is a water-saving crop that does well in dry climates. Corn, on the other hand, is not water-saving and does not do very well in dry climates. However, when you look at the water requirements of hemp and corn, (per acreage) the latter uses less water to grow.

Why is this so?

Industrial hemp requires 25-30 inches of rainfall per year. Corn requires slightly less rainfall (20-25 inches) per year. This may sound contrary to what many people believe; that industrial hemp uses more water than corn. But this is not a case of “the facts speak for themselves.” Many other factors need to be taken into consideration before a judgment is passed.

As you hold that thought, let’s clarify another point of contention.

Does Industrial Hemp Need Irrigation?

As much as industrial hemp is praised for its drought-resistant abilities, the yields are significantly affected when there is no irrigation. Three-fourths of American farmland could grow high-quality industrial hemp under irrigation.

If you overlook irrigation you will still be able to grow industrial hemp. However, the harvest will be minimal and you will not derive as much value for your effort.

Impending Water Crisis In The US

A report published by the World Economic Forum in 2019 highlighted an impending water shortage crisis in the US. This was termed as the “fourth-largest threat to civilization” that is going to affect many sectors of the economy. Farming will be affected in a big way. To avert this, it is imperative to come up with water preservation measures to ensure sustainability.

Industrial Hemp Versus Water: Which Crop Saves More Water

80-130 gallons of water are required to produce 2.2 pounds of dry fiber. Lighter soils will require more water as compared to medium soils. On the other hand, a bushel of corn would require about 3,000 gallons of water. This is the equivalent of 127 gallons of water to produce one pound of corn. The takeaway is that it takes twice the amount of water to produce 1 pound of hemp to produce 1 pound of corn.

Industrial hemp farming was legalized in the US by the 2018 Farm Bill. This agricultural act reclassified hemp as agricultural produce. Industrial hemp is a versatile crop and can be used for different purposes. This includes:

  • Source of fuel
  • The raw material for making biodegradable plastics
  • Construction
  • Cosmetics
  • The raw material for making paper
  • Paints
  • Biomass

Corn can be used industrially to manufacture:

  • Corn oil
  • Glue
  • Cornmeal and starch
  • Biomass

Unlike corn, industrial hemp has numerous uses that can be exploited to generate revenue. An acre of industrial hemp may generate up to $90,000 in revenue. Corn, on the other hand, generates a mere fraction of this; $ 700 per acre. More value is extracted from the 130 gallons of water that are required to produce 1 pound of hemp as compared to the value that can be extracted from 1 pound of corn.

Considering the water shortage problems that America, and the world generally, is facing a lot of effort needs to be channeled towards water preservation. More usable hemp can be produced with less water. Also, the hemp produced can be used in different ways to preserve the environment and natural resources.

Hemp is the largest biomass producer and yields more fiber per hectare than any other plant source. Corn produces 4 tons of dry biomass per acre while hemp yields 7 tons. This means that you are getting more biomass from hemp and consequently putting less demand on the environment for biomass.

Industrial hemp requires a significant amount of rainfall or irrigation to thrive. However, the value extracted from one acre of industrial hemp far supersedes the value extracted from one acre of corn. Therefore, it is accurate to claim that industrial hemp uses less water than corn; all factors taken into consideration.