By LeeWEpstein

June 12, 2020


Researchers in the U.S. state of Florida are studying how hemp plants could help control toxic algae, a persistent problem on both coasts of the state.

Steven Edmonds, a professor of political science at Valencia College in Orlando, partnered with researchers at Florida State College on the project. The group said it will test the cultivation of hemp mats in Florida’s waterways for their potential to eliminate nutrient pollution that feeds toxic blue-green algae and red tide algae.

Algae, a serious problem

Scientists have discovered that decades of agriculture, development, and canal dredging have overloaded Lake Okeechobee, the state’s largest freshwater body, and other Florida waters with nutrients that feed toxic blue-green algae and red tide algae in coastal waters. Researchers suggest the carpets could provide a source of hemp fiber in addition to cleaning the water.

A serious outbreak of red tide algae in southwest Florida in 2018 has hit the fishing and tourism industries. Blue-green algae in 2016 left harbors full of dead fish in the Indian River lagoon along the Atlantic coast. And in 2013, a serious bloom of red tide algae in southwest Florida killed more than 240 manatees, prompting Edmonds to look for a solution.

How can hemp destroy toxic algae?

I know that hemp growers spend a lot of money to create a water supply rich in nitrogen and phosphorus because cannabis needs it,” Edmonds told UPI. “It just makes sense to try this.

Scope of research Martin Ecosystems, a company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, donated grow containers and floating mats for the research project, in which hemp plants are placed on a bed of soil and clay, supported by the mats. The roots of the plants hang down in the water, naturally sucking up nitrogen and phosphorus. The research will show how much of these two nutrients each plant takes out of the water. Researchers will then calculate how much can be cleaned up by larger plantings.

Health problems caused by harmful algae cost the nation $22 million a year, according to a report from the University of Florida. Toxic algae, which settle on beaches, cause foul odors and kill marine life.

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