Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have planted 150 hemp plants on the college’s East Campus, according to a report by the Lincoln Journal Star. The plants are the first legal hemp crop in the state following a 2014 decision by Congress to allow the cultivation of the plant for research purposes.
The UNL researchers had applied to the DEA for permission to import hemp seeds in February, but had to wade through red tape, including reinforcing the floor below where the seeds are stored with metal due to DEA fears that someone could break through the wood and steal the seeds. The researchers were able to secure the seeds for the pilot program from Canada and Italy. Tom Clemente, professor of biology and one of two researchers leading the project, also collected native seeds from fields and ditches in Seward and Lincoln counties.
The trial is focused on genetically engineering hemp to use its leaves and stalks for use in industrial plastics and lubricants. The pulp and fibers left over would be used to make paper and cardboard materials.
“You want to maximize the number of products you’re making per acre,” Clemente said in the report. “When you’re just selling biomass, it’s tough to make a buck off that.”
According to the Hemp Industry Association and Hemp Business Journal, in 2015 the retail hemp market was work $573 million and the plant is used in more than 25,000 products.
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