Dec 22, 2021
Heartland Awarded USDA Grant to Study Industrial Hemp’s Effects on Soil Health

Heartland Industries has secured a grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Heartland’s ‘Hemp4Soil’ program was selected as the recipient of a $360,000 grant over three years to develop the soil innovation program. This grant will allow Heartland to partner with farming communities in more than 10 states to advance research on soil health and carbon sequestration.

The associated research will investigate the benefits of industrial hemp in a crop rotation, providing actionable conclusions that will impact the future of farming.

The Details of Hemp4Soil

Heartland’s Hemp4Soil program will quantify the impact of adding hemp and regenerative farming practices into crop rotations. Heartland will be working with farmers across at least 10 states including Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia.

Many of these partner farms are considered “underserved.” The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) includes provisions that address the unique circumstances and concerns of these socially disadvantaged farmers. Many who begin farming with very limited resources, and/or are classified as veterans. The Heartland team is actively expanding our research program for all farms interested in participating.

Heartland and their partner farms will incorporate hemp into a soil health management system that has the potential to positively impact multiple aspects of soil biology:

Actionable Outcomes from Hemp4Soil

Carbon credits have been historically associated with renewable energy markets like solar, wind and EVs. Although soil is one of the most powerful carbon sequestration methods available, a small change in farming practices (tilling) can undo all the hard work done to remove the carbon from our atmosphere. Soil sequestration projects like Hemp4Soil, have been overlooked as an opportunity to access the carbon credit markets.

The results of this study will be the most sophisticated accumulations of carbon data associated with regenerative farming practices to date. The Heartland team intends to utilize the data collected from this grant to better understand the possibilities of carbon farming with industrial hemp as a rotational crop.

By quantifying the chemical use reduction, soil health improvements and carbon sequestration, our team will be able to identify an actionable path forward with future business units to support the future carbon markets. As the price of carbon increases around the world (Reuters is expecting it to reach 100 Euros by the end of the year) there is a substantial economic opportunity for farmers and corporations who begin adopting sustainable business practices.

Industry 5.0 will be driven by sustainable practices across entire enterprises, and carbon value will be the bedrock to drive this adoption. As organizations race to understand how to meaningfully act upon carbon opportunities, Heartland will provide access to educational tools and data to ensure they’re able to make calculated, constructive decisions.

What’s Next?

Over the next 3 years, this USDA grant will help Heartland collect the most comprehensive dataset on the impacts that industrial hemp has on soil and carbon sequestration. Eventually, this data will lay the framework for Heartland’s strategic plan to make a significant impact on the developing carbon markets.

Beginning in early 2022 we will utilize 100-200 acres in 10 states over 20 farms. Our methods will include soil health and carbon baseline profile via Haney testing, as well as identification of previous practices, crop & soil types, and climate information.

Over the course of the program we will track, measure, and record the following for three years and compare to baseline:

  • The change in farming practices
  • The change in soil health measured through Haney Soil Health testing
  • The change in carbon via dry combustion carbon sampling
  • The change in pesticide and herbicide application per acre
  • The change in fertilizer application
  • The change in irrigation

By quantifying the impact on soil health, carbon sequestration, and input conservation related to growing Hemp with regenerative practices over the three year period, we expect to deliver data that supports our thesis of:

  • Improved soil health
  • Increased carbon sequestration
  • Improved farm performance
  • Increased Hemp yields
  • Improved biodiversity
  • Reduced harmful additives (herbicides, pesticides, fertilizer)

Ultimately the company’s goal is to demonstrate hemp cultivation with regenerative practices is a scalable Climate Smart Ag solution that improves soil health and sequesters far more carbon than the traditional methods in use today.