In recent years, the increasing need for renewable resources and sustainable materials has fueled a renewed interest in natural plant fibres. Actual markets of natural fibres are dominated by cotton that, on average, accounts for over 75% of the global natural fibre production. Cotton poses particular concern with regard to sustainability as it has one of the worst environmental footprints of any crop, with particularly high demands for irrigation and agricultural chemicals.
In contrast, hemp is a highly productive crop with low demand for water and agrochemical applications. The overall objective of MultiHemp is to advance the scientific and technical research needed to consolidate and expand the market of hemp renewable materials. Specific objectives are:
1) A substantial gain in understanding the physiological and genetic basis of the hemp traits that are considered of paramount importance for the production of biomaterials, biochemicals and bioenergy;
2) Develop hemp genotypes with enhanced traits suitable for diverse cultivation environments and a wide array of actual and innovative industrial applications;
3) Characterization of hemp varieties that are commercially available or in the phase of registration to identify their suitability for specific end-use destination;
4) Advances in agronomic practices;
5) Develop a modular bio refinery, in which market forces will dictate the flow of raw material into differing product options;
6) An integrated sustainability assessment including Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and a techno-economic evaluation for the whole production system from breeding till end product marketing;
7) Dissemination and exploitation activities will be applied to raise the awareness of the versatility and sustainability of industrial hemp.
The task of DLO will be on the development of tools for the breeding of new hemp varieties, which is at the core of TKI T&U.
The output of these project include the generation of breeding tools for the development of new varieties of hemp that are suitable for a bio refinery, thus multipurpose hemp varieties. Such multipurpose hemp varieties will allow a cost effective production of hemp in Europe, and thus a sustainable and environmental friendly alternative fibre crop for textile.