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Researchers at the University of Louisville’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research have planted a 40-by-40-foot plot of hemp in order to research its viability as a fuel source, according to a Louisville Business First report. The project is one of eight by Kentucky universities focused on using hemp as an energy resource.

“Hemp is cleaner and cheaper to produce than coal, oil or other resources,” Mahendra Sunkara, director of the Conn Center and a professor of chemical engineering, said in a press release. “It could solve many of the nation’s future energy needs while providing a new, lucrative cash crop for Kentucky farmers.”

The team is also interested in the manufacturing possibilities of hemp fibers, which can be used for a variety of applications including, paper, textile, clothing, and plastics applications.

Andrew Marsh, assistant director of the Conn Center, said he hopes the research will help “eliminate the stigma that is attached to hemp,” noting that the crop will be used to educate the public on the overall benefits of industrial hemp.

“When people learn the characteristics of the crop and understand its potential for economic development, we think they will become advocates for its production,” Marsh said in the release.

Researchers at the University of Kentucky harvested the state’s first legal crop in 70 years in 2014. In April, the state Agriculture Department announced the approved participants — 167 individuals and farms total — for the state’s Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program.

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