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Heartland is Awarded $360,000 USDA Grant to Study Industrial Hemp’s Effects on Soil Health

Heartland Industries is proud to announce that their team 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 3 years to develop their soil innovation program. This grant will allow Heartland to partner with farming communities in 10+ states to advance research on soil health and carbon sequestration.

The associated research will be one of the most sophisticated programs in action that investigates the benefits of industrial hemp in a crop rotation, providing actionable conclusions that will impact the future of farming.

One of Few Winning Submissions

In the world of grants, not many institutions (outside of traditional research facilities) actually obtain funding. When the awards do go to private companies, it’s because the program submitted is a perfect fit for the grant objectives and offers exceptional returns – both scientific and societal. Heartland’s Hemp4Soil program checked all of these boxes. Heartland was one of 19 projects awarded and the only hemp program chosen by the USDA.

Out of 77 applicants, the NRCS allocated $15 million to conservation partners across the country for the new projects under the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. CIG is a competitive program that supports the development of new tools, approaches, practices, and technologies to further natural resource conservation on private lands.

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.

  • Reduce the need for herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides.
  • Reduce the usage of water.
  • Increase the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered in the soil.
  • Accelerate soil remediation by removing toxins from the soil.
  • Increase the nitrogen content of the soil.
  • Naturally replenish nutrients that are typically added into soil.
  • Increase the yields of other crops that are grown on the same acreage in following years.
  • This project will test the impact of hemp and regenerative farming practices on soil that is used to grow traditional row crops like corn, soy, and wheat

Why Hemp?

Up until late 2018 we simply couldn’t use hemp. It’s production (cannabinoid and industrial) had been illegal at the Federal level until the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which removed it from the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances.

Interestingly enough, industrial hemp has never contained even moderate levels of THC (less than 0.3%!), however it remained on this list. The recent legislation finally makes it legal to utilize this incredibly versatile crop.

Since growing Hemp is now a viable natural-based way to help stabilize climate change and improve soil health, Heartland chose it as the most formidable climate solution available. Industrial hemp also has significant benefits when combined with regenerative farming practices including:

  • Hemp is one of the fastest CO2-biomass conversion tools available on the planet. It is proven to absorb more CO2 per acre than any forest or commercial crop.
  • Hemp is far more efficient in sequestering carbon. From the 1916 USDA Bulletin 404: 1 acre of Hemp = 4.1 acres of trees, and it takes far longer for those trees to grow to maturity (up to 50 years as opposed to hemp’s 90 days!)
  • Hemp is a top 5 crop for biodiversity.
  • Hemp is carbon negative, actually sequestering more carbon (1.63 mt/acre) than required to cultivate and harvest (1 mt/acre).
  • Hemp is a mycorrhizal plant with deep roots that accelerate Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi relationships, producing Glomalin at more substantial rates than other crops. Glomalin is proven to trap and retain more carbon longer.
  • Hemp requires no pesticides or herbicides as it naturally repels pests and insects. Hemp is very resilient and can be grown in a wide temperature range
  • Hemp needs much less water than traditional crops like corn and soy.

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.

Hemp4Soil Has Benefits Beyond Soil!

Heartland’s business model is focused on bringing a more sustainable material to manufacturers and to the markets at scale; that material is industrial hemp! The Hemp4Soil program focuses on regenerative farming practices and sequestering carbon, all which are good for our environment and overall sustainability. But we won’t stop there.

Unlike cover crops that are grown simply to improve soil health (with little or no regard to usefulness beyond the initial growth cycle), industrial hemp has multiple uses downstream in the value chain post-harvest. Yes, it sequesters carbon and increases nutrients in the soil, but it can also be processed into raw materials that supplant older, less eco-friendly resources.

Our man-made surroundings are built from a variety of raw materials that have to some degree, positive or negative environmental impacts. Those materials include plastics, metals, fibers, resins, wood, and concrete. Heartland Industries is built on the belief that we can provide North American manufacturers with economical, sustainably sourced alternative raw materials that can be efficiently and seamlessly integrated into modern manufacturing processes.

These bio-based materials can be incorporated into most product and construction processes to reduce costs, adverse environmental impacts, and to raise the environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) profiles of our customers. Beyond the Hemp4Soil program, Heartland Industries is creating a U.S.-based, scalable hemp supply chain designed for manufacturers who understand that sustainable materials are the future of the industry. Hemp-based raw materials are cost-efficient, ecologically friendly substitutes that can make products stronger, lighter, and more sustainable.

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 wil 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)

The Heartland team also expects many long-term benefits of the project to pervade long after the program completion:

For Farmers: Improved decision making, standard procedures development, and farm performance

For Government: Data supporting Hemp as a viable climate-smart ag solution to battle climate change, elevating policy maker’s attention to Hemp

For Underserved Farmers: Enable them to adopt a new crop (Hemp) into their rotation and increase yields/profits

For the USDA/NRCS: Actionable data demonstrating Hemp as a viable solution for soil conservation

For Academia: Augment current studies on hemp and pave the way for future hemp-based research

For the New Industrial Hemp Industry: Feed a data-starved nascent industry with the information needed to elevate hemp to a standardized raw material, accompanied by the roadmap to create robust industrial hemp supply chain.

Ultimately our goal is to demonstrate hemp cultivation w/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. At Heartland, we strive to be the most sustainable company on the planet!

About Us

Heartland is a biotech company that engineers hemp fibers as additives for plastics. Their team is building America’s first reliable industrial hemp supply chain to provide renewable additives for plastics manufacturers and resin suppliers. As an industrial hemp material processor, they work with farmers and manufacturers to ensure the product consistency of bio-based additives that can be used in raw material supply chains. Heartland’s materials help companies use stronger, lighter, cheaper, and more sustainable plastics.

Join us in making a world out of hemp.

Heartland Team