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Science

Hemp research projects set: Researchers evaluating varieties, best management practices

Marguerite Bolt checks hemp plants during the 2019 growing season. With the wet growing season in 2019, Bolt says about 3,000 acres of hemp were harvested in Indiana. For 2020, 192 licenses have been issued to growers in Indiana for 6,000 acres.
Marguerite Bolt checks hemp plants during the 2019 growing season. With the wet growing season in 2019, Bolt says about 3,000 acres of hemp were harvested in Indiana. For 2020, 192 licenses have been issued to growers in Indiana for 6,000 acres.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Choosing hemp seeds for the 2020 growing season is an important aspect of growing the crop.

“Even if they’re from outside of the state, seed sellers need to have an Indiana seed permit license to sell seed in Indiana with the intended destination and the amount of material transported,” said Marguerite Bolt, hemp specialist for Purdue Extension.

“It is common to see false certificates of analysis, they are common across the country,” Bolt said during a Novel CBD Production webinar, hosted by Purdue University, University of Illinois Extension, University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension and Michigan State University Extension.

“One way to vet any company that you are purchasing from is to call a third-party lab,” Bolt said. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so be wary, do your homework and look into companies.”

In 2019, Indiana growers registered to plant 5,300 acres of hemp, 4,000 acres were planted and a little over 3,000 acres were harvested, Bolt said.

“It was a really wet year so that was a definite issue,” Bolt said. “And some growers wanted to do research so they had no intention of entering it into the marketplace.

“We had a couple of people direct seed for cannabinoid with not a lot of success,” she said. “It was wet, they had issues with germination and then weed management was a serious issue.”

For 2020, Bolt said, 192 licenses have been approved for farmers to grow hemp in Indiana that total 6,000 acres.

“We have a requirement that research has to be conducted with an institute of higher learning, so they have to work with faculty or with county Extension educators,” Bolt said.

“We have a checkbox on our application that states you have reviewed varieties grown in Indiana,” she said. “And if they have a history of going hot you’re aware of that and you’re assuming that risk if you decide to purchase that variety and plant it.”

Illinois

In Illinois, the plans for 2020 include large-scale, grower-led research trials for hemp production across the state and collaborating with labs on the U of I campus to do cannabinoid profiling, said Phillip Alberti, U of I Extension commercial agriculture educator serving Jo Daviess, Stephenson and Winnebago counties.

“There are a lot of varieties from different companies which are not performing the same because they are not the same,” Alberti said. “We will be doing sampling throughout the growing season to determine cannabinoid development at flowering, looking at flowering duration, days to flowering, insect and disease pressure and overall plant yields.”

According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the state issued 651 hemp growers licenses for the 2019 season.

“There were 7,000 acres planted and 5,200 acres harvested since quite a bit of hemp was left in the field,” Alberti said. “As of March, 623 cultivation licenses have been approved for 2020.”

Wisconsin

A little over 1,200 growers in Wisconsin were licensed to grow almost 17,000 acres of hemp in 2019, but only 5,000 of those acres were planted, said Shelby Ellison, assistant faculty associate, Department of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“From half to two-thirds of that was harvested,” she said.

The Wisconsin researchers are evaluating dual purpose hemp varieties for grain and fiber at two locations.

“We are studying different seeding rates and nitrogen rates,” Ellison said. “And we are conducing variety trials on 15 varieties.”

Michigan

Many of the hemp varieties grown in Michigan last year came from Canada, said James DeDecker, director of Michigan State University Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center.

“Stand establishment was a challenge with direct seeding,” DeDecker said.

“Last year, we had 541 growers for 32,000 approved acres, and we approved 389 processor/handler licenses,” he said. “Our department of agriculture tested 820 samples last year, and 84% of them were below the 0.4% THC.”

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