Is hemp in Indiana’s ag future?

 

INDIANAPOLIS — Hemp — its economic opportunities, research goals and benefits — took center stage Nov. 9 at the inaugural Indiana Industrial Hemp Symposium.

More than 50 people met to network and listen to speakers, which included the state chemist and seed commissioner, Robert Waltz. The program was put on by Indiana Hemp Industries Association.

“It’s an exciting time to be involved in the state’s agriculture industry,” Waltz said. “Hemp was here hundreds of years ago at our nation’s founding. It’s been re-established in the past couple of years as a new crop.”

The Indiana Legislature adopted the Industrial Hemp Law in March 2014. A year later, researchers at Purdue University were issued the first permit to begin growing the crop.

“The regulation in Indiana is set up to do two things — first to facilitate the research component … the second phase requires us to adopt administrative rules,” Waltz explained.

“The intent is not to create barriers, but the infrastructure should be supportive of activities, holding accountabilities and providing information for the product to be grown. The licenses are currently granted only to researchers. We’re not dealing with efficacy, medical issues, etc. — that’s not our charge.”

While the crop still is in the research and development stage of production, in the future there will be production-scale regulations, Waltz said.

Industrial hemp is restrictive to plants with less than 0.3 percent THC dry weight.

Future licensing of industrial hemp, in production scale, will include agricultural hemp seed licenses and handler licenses, Waltz said.

“For a university, we are moving at warp speed,” said Kevin Gibson, botany and plant pathology professor at Purdue.

“We had our first meetings in the fall of 2014. We went on to internal discussion, crafted a research plan in the summer and late fall, we got licensed, put a seed order and planted in the summer of 2015.

“It’s been a remarkable achievement and pace. The permitting process is not trivial. The difficulty for us in the process was working with the seed supplier in Canada. There weren’t difficulties within the state or DEA, just getting seed in the state.”

Successful Trials

The trial plots of hemp were successful, in spite of flooding early on and difficulties purchasing seed.

Researchers planted two varieties of industrial hemp: Canda, a high-quality oilseed, and Alyssa, a dual-purpose fiber and seed. Fifty pounds of hemp seed cost $666, which is comparable to sweet corn prices, Gibson said.

Yield results were:

* Canda: 1,241 pounds per acre of seed, 172 pounds per acre of oil.

* Alyssa: 1,281 pounds per acre of seed, 253 pounds per acre of oil.

The average THC content was 0.11 percent, well under the 0.3 percent limit.

“We planned a very active research season,” Gibson said. “We had experiments set up where we looked at two cultivars, different nitrogen rates, organic and conventional systems. We looked at disease, we brought in a weed scientist.

“One of the challenges we have to work on is harvesting and processing ... We think that, with good conditions and proper management, we can get quite high yields from industrial hemp.”

Purdue researchers already are planning for next year.

Plans For 2016

* Screen larger number of cultivars under organic and conventional conditions. Include some fiber varieties in trials.

* Examine response to planting date and nitrogen.

* Assess disease issues, potentially including seed treatments.

To learn more, visit www.inhia.org.

 

Erica Quinlan can be reached at 317-726-5391, ext. 4, or equinlan@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Quinlan.

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