Hemp could prevent harmful algal blooms and cyanobacteria
Researchers from the US state of Florida are studying how hemp plants could contribute to the fight against toxic algae, a persistent global phenomenon on the American coasts but also the Caribbean coast. Microalgae are on the rise throughout the world. According to a collection of data from Unesco, observed between 1990 and 2010 in Japan, South Korea, Hong-Kong, in the Adriatic Sea and the Baltic, in the Netherlands, in Oman, in India and in the Indian Ocean. All coastal seas are now affected.
Steven Edmonds, founder of Hemp4Water and professor of political science at Valencia College in Orlando, has partnered with researchers at Florida State College for this initiative. The group said it would test hemp growing mats in Florida's waterways to check their potential to remove nutrient pollution that feeds toxic blue and red algae in the tides.
Seaweed, a serious problem
Scientists have found that decades of agriculture, development, and canal dredging have overloaded Lake Okeechobee, the state's largest body of freshwater, and other Florida waters with the nutrients that fuel them. toxic blue and red algae from coastal waters. Researchers suggest that hydroponic hemp rugs could provide a source of hemp fiber in addition to cleaning water.
A severe outbreak of tidal red algae in southwest Florida in 2018 hit the fishing and tourism industries. In 2016, blue algae left harbors full of dead fish in the Indian River Lagoon along the Atlantic coast. And in 2013, a severe red algae bloom in southwest Florida killed more than 240 manatees, prompting Edmonds to seek a solution.
“I know that hemp growers spend a lot of money to create a supply of water rich in nitrogen and phosphorus because cannabis needs it”, said Edmonds at UPI. “It just makes sense to try this.”
Health problems from harmful algae cost the nation $ 22 million annually, according to a report from the University of Florida. Toxic algae, which wash up on beaches, causes foul odors and kills marine life.
Hydroponic hemp as a toxic remedy for algae
Martin Ecosystems, a company in Louisiana, donated grow containers and floating mats for the research project, in which hemp plants are placed on a bed of soil and clay, held by the mats. Plant roots hang down in the water, sucking up the nitrogen and phosphorus that are naturally present. Research will show how much of these two nutrients each plant gets from the water. Researchers will then calculate how much can be cleaned by larger plantings.
So far, the project has not been funded, but help has come from staff at South Florida State College. The college got involved when Kendall Carson, an agricultural specialist there, laid her head on the water-cleaning abilities of hemp at a conference. She was looking for ideas for her research.
Carson said students in biology, agriculture and environmental studies help grow plants and process data. A chemistry professor plans to publish an article on the results.
“You can grow hemp and clean the water systems and harvest it and put it to good use,” Carson said. “If everyone with a house by the lake had a hemp mat, they could harvest it and clean the water.”
Hemp plants have been used repeatedly to clean polluted waters and soils, research might be useful, more large-scale studies would be needed.