The Roundup -

Producing Hemp Discussion by Dr. Chengci Chen at MonDak Ag Days


On Thursday, March 12 at 9 a.m., Dr. Chengci Chen, cropping systems agronomist and superintendent at the Sidney Eastern Agricultural Research Center, will be informing MonDak Ag Days attendees on producing hemp.

Industrial hemp farming has become increasingly popular in Montana; farmers that are growing hemp are seeing both a demand and profit increase, while farmers who have never grown hemp before are rushing to plant it in their fields.

The production of industrial hemp in the United States was made possible in Dec. 2018 when President Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill into law; the legislation removed hemp from the government's controlled drug category, stimulating a surge in demand for cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical that is derived from hemp plants. This enables Montana farmers the opportunity to include an additional crop choice to their rotation plan with potential for a high return.

Industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa L. and is of the same plant species as marijuana. Hemp, however, has lower levels of the psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, while marijuana has over 30% THC.

Variety selection, environment, and agronomic management can affect the concentration of CBD. As industrial hemp has not been grown in the United States for many years, data available from the earlier research is not suitable for today's agriculture. Because of this, scientists and researchers have started implementing trials of hemp at the Montana State University Eastern Agricultural Research Center, Sidney. Chen and Dr. Apurba Sutradhar, postdoctoral research associate; have been working on the hemp trials in an effort to see how profitable hemp can be in eastern Montana. "Our goal is to adapt hemp as a mainstream and/or rotational crop for industrial application. The main objective for this research project is to optimize cultivation practices for eastern Montana. We are evaluating germplasm, agronomic parameters, production/harvest for use as fiber, grain, and CBD, nutrient management, and performance of hemp under eastern Montana conditions," explained Sutradhar.

Chen explained that he would be evaluating variety response to seeding date and plant spacing to tissue CBD concentration. Chen said, "Precise data is not available on the size of the potential market of industrial hemp in the United States. However, current industry estimates report that United States retail sales of all hemp‐based products may be nearly $500 million per year."

There is a lot of excitement in the farming community because hemp is seen as a high-return crop. Many farmers around the country are struggling to make ends meet, and hemp just might be the crop they need to increase profits.


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