Hemp is set to play an important role in a major water quality improvement project in the US city of Decatur.
The City of Decatur received a federal grant of $9,883,117 from the US Department of Agriculture for its Lake Decatur Water Quality Initiative.
Decatur Lake is a 1200 hectare reservoir located in the town of Decatur, Illinois. Created in 1920, the lake was built as a water source for the city. Since then, the lake has experienced significant silt problems, requiring costly dredging. Much of this silt comes from agricultural lands within the watershed.
In 2018, the City of Decatur completed a four-year dredging project that increased the lake’s storage capacity by 30%. The cost of this dredging: 91 million dollars.
Hemp, which can be grown at high density, has a deep root system, which helps stabilize soils and reduce the amount of waste washed away by rain.
As part of a pilot project supported by the National Hemp Association (NHA) and the Hemp Innovations Foundation (HIF), hemp will be planted in targeted sub-watersheds and land plots.
“This effort will accelerate the hemp industry in Illinois and demonstrate the positive environmental and economic benefits,” the NHA states. “We strongly believe that hemp can become a viable crop in the Midwest and be effectively integrated into an agricultural system largely dominated by corn and soybeans. »
The overall project aims to reduce up to 50% of sediment and 20% of nitrate nitrogen flowing into Decatur Lake each year. Reducing nitrogen fluxes into the lake is also very important because high nitrate levels promote algal blooms, which can starve aquatic environments of oxygen as algae die and decompose. Some types of algal blooms are also toxic to humans and other animals.
The Illinois Hemp Growers Association welcomes the approval of the RCPP Lake Decatur Water Quality Initiative Plans.
“The grant for this project provides an opportunity to showcase hemp as a proven ally of farmers and the environment,” said Rachel Berry of the Association.