Farmers Use Industrial Hemp to Repair Contaminated Soil

Industrial HempWe’ve heard it over and over again, but in some cases, hemp is literally healing the earth.

In Taranto, Italy, a sheep farmer is growing hemp to rid their soil of harmful toxins so they can use land that has long been deemed un-farmable.

Vincenzo Fanaro never thought he would grow cannabis, “For generations, our family produced ricotta and meat,” he told CBS News. Unfortunately for Fanaro and his family, their farm was only a mile from one of Europe’s largest steel plants. Years of chemical runoff had slowly poisoned the ground, and also negatively affected the sheep that lived on the grass that grew there.

The toxins were discovered by the Italian government in 2008, and sadly Fanaro was forced to put down his entire herd of sheep. The loss of over 600 animals was only the beginning of his problems; the land had been so ravaged by the chemicals it looked like it would never again be able to sustain enough vegetation for grazing. Enter science, as a process named phytoremediation, the use of plants to clear soil contaminants, gave Fanaro and his farm a new lease on life.

Fanaro used cannabis plants because of its fast growing root systems that allow it to remove the toxins out of the ground and into the plant itself. It can then either be stored within the plant, or it can convert it into a harmless chemical. Fanaro says he has no plans to harvest the cannabis crop, and is simply using it to clean the soil at his farm.

The same process was used in Chernobyl, Ukraine after the catastrophic nuclear reactor disaster in 1986. Scientists were able to use cannabis to some effect, but due to the immense damage done to the soil, the cleanup will still require decades to completely remove the radiation from the earth.

Fanaro is optimistic that he will be able to return his farm to its previous glory, and hopes that one day he will be able to grow commercial crops on his land again.

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