LANGDON, N.D.- The long-dormant U.S. industrial hemp industry is enjoying a resurgence — and results from a Langdon, N.D., test plot could spur more interest in the crop.
“It’s a start. But there’s still a lot of research to be done,” says Bryan Hanson, a researcher at the North Dakota State University Langdon Research Extension Center.
He was involved in the project, in which 12 industrial hemp varieties from three countries were planted in small plots and evaluated this past growing season at the Langdon center. Key conclusions include:
Industrial hemp appears to be adapted to the Langdon region.
Grain and fiber yields were comparable to research data from Canada, where the crop has been grown for a number of years.
French varieties, planted later than varieties from Canada and Australia, had lower grain yield, but higher fiber yields. The Australian variety, planted the latest of the 12, was the tallest and the greatest fiber yield, but didn’t produce grain.
Seed mortality is a big issue in hemp production and not well understood. More research is needed.
Other studies to identify the best varieties and crop production practices are needed.
Industrial hemp once was widely grown in the U.S., and was treated like other crops by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But for decades, growing hemp wasn’t allowed without a permit from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the DEA’s last such permit, for a quarter-acre experimental plot in Hawaii, expired in 2003.
Industrial hemp supporters say U.S. farmers should be able to grow it. They argue that it has many positive uses and, unlike its cousin marijuana, can’t be smoked to get high.
Supporters won a big victory in the 2014 federal farm bill, which allows states that have legalized hemp to set up pilot growing programs. North Dakota is among the states that have done so, with research at the Langdon center an important part of the program.
Hanson says he’s optimistic about industrial hemp’s potential in North Dakota.
He also recommends patience.
“It’s going to take time to learn more about this crop,” he says.