We at Signature Products already knew that hemp is a superhero when it comes to agriculture and cultivation. For example, hemp needs very little water, can grow almost anywhere due to its robustness and does not need pesticides. But probably the most important aspect for our topic today is that the roots of hemp produce certain compounds that increase microbial diversity in the soil, which can ultimately improve soil health.
Thanks to a new study conducted over three years in New Zealand's Marlborough wine region conducted by winemaker Kirsty Harkness and viticultural researcher Mark Krasnow, the New Zealand wine industry is undergoing a remarkable transformation.
The study discovered that hemp does not compete with vines as a companion plant, even when grown in close proximity. Instead, it not only enhances the quality of the wine produced, but also improves the health of the vineyard soil. The grape juice from vines growing near hemp plants had a richer population of indigenous yeasts, resulting in higher quality wine than grapes grown without hemp.
One of the key findings was that hemp proved to be an excellent cover crop, especially in areas where other mixed crops had previously failed to thrive. Remarkably, hemp took root in the Sauvignon Blanc vineyards without the need for additional watering - a feat that other cover crops could not accomplish. In addition, the deep roots of hemp loosen the soil and thus combat the frequent problem of soil compaction damaging the roots of vines.
Beyond these immediate benefits, the research also showed a positive effect on soil composition in the vineyards. The soils showed higher levels of organic matter and total carbon, especially in the deeper layers (40-80 cm), suggesting that hemp promotes carbon sequestration in deeper layers of the soil profile compared to other cover crops.
This potential of hemp could be even further enhanced by combining hemp with other cover crops such as clover for nitrogen and buckwheat for beneficial insects. This synergy could significantly improve the quality of the grapes while reducing the need for excessive inputs and water consumption, as well as supporting bee populations, reducing diesel consumption and so ultimately reducing overall costs for vineyard owners.
The study emphasises the transformative potential of incorporating hemp into agricultural processes. In addition to the positive effects on the soil and other crops, hemp offers farmers a second income alongside their other agricultural products.