The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded Indiana’s Purdue University a $1 million grant to study organic hemp production. The research will be led by Kevin Gibson, a professor of botany and plant pathology who said understanding organic farming methods for hemp are especially important because there are, currently, no pesticides that can be used legally for hemp production.
According to the university, it’s the first grant awarded by the USDA for the study of organic hemp cultivation.
“There’s certainly tremendous interest and tremendous opportunities, but the reality is that this is a crop we haven’t grown on significant acreage for 70 to 80 years. The knowledge base to be successful needs to be developed.” – Gibson in a statement
Additionally, Gibson said, the researchers will explore “how hemp might fit in rotation with other crops, how it might fit into a soil conservation system, and how cultivars and the timing of planting will affect growing success.”
Don Robison, the seed program administrator for the Indiana State Chemist’s Office, said understanding organic methods for hemp cultivation is “crucial because the large pesticide companies aren’t going to race to develop chemicals for the hemp industry because it will be a drop in the bucket compared to crops like corn and soybeans.”
Earlier this month, the National Industrial Hemp Council and American Farm Bureau Federation asked the Environmental Protection Agency to approve 10 pesticide applications for hemp production. Those applications came from Argo Logistic Systems, Marrone Bio Innovations, and Hawthorne Hydroponics. Those products are already legal for use on outdoor crops and “contain active ingredients for which EPA previously determined the residues will be safe under any reasonably foreseeable circumstances.”
The USDA released its draft rules for the federal hemp industry this week; there is no mention of pesticides in those rules.
Earlier this month, the agency awarded $500,000 to Virginia Tech and University of Tennessee, Knoxville researchers studying the transport of pollen from genetically modified hemp and switchgrass.
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