Italian farmers are planting hemp to decontaminate polluted soil

By Emily Gray Brosious of

“Phytoremediation describes the treatment of environmental problems, often contamination with heavy metals, through the use of plants that help mitigate the contamination without the need to excavate the offending contaminant(s) and dispose of it elsewhere,” she explains.

It’s a relatively new technology that’s gaining international attention due to its cost-effective, non-intrusive method of “exploiting the ability of certain species of plants to remediate pollutants from contaminated sites,” Moore said.

While the practice of phytoremediation is in its infancy, and many factors can impact the process, hemp appears to have a high tolerance to heavy metal toxicity and is very good at isolating heavy metals from polluted soil without damaging the plant itself, she says.

Hemp cultivation is legal in Italy, which means farmers like Fornaro that are planting cannabis to help clean their farmland of toxins can use the crops for industrial processing. The toxins don’t show up in the plant fibers.


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