Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hemp proving to be potentially lucrative, multi-use crop

By Richard Gast
Source: pressrepublican.com

Last month, Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences hosted an Industrial Hemp Summit — a first for New York state.
The summit, held at the Biotechnology Building on the Cornell campus in Ithaca, brought farmers, researchers, manufacturers, legislators, economic-development advisors and investors together to lay out strategies for, and address challenges to, building a comprehensive, dynamic hemp industry in New York state.

Industrial hemp has tens of thousands of uses, which span a wide range of markets. Among them are as grain for food (human, pet, and livestock); oil for food, cosmetics and personal-care products; industrial oil; and as oil and straw/fiber to replace fossil fuels.
Its straw/fiber form is also used in making rope, twine, cloth, geo-textiles, paper, carpeting, animal bedding, biodegradable plastics, plastic composites, building materials (i.e. fiberboard, insulation, ceiling tiles and hempcrete) and canvas.
What’s more, hemp is a rapidly renewable resource material.
It is inexpensive; grows quickly in most climates; has dense, fast-growing stalks, which suppress common weeds; and requires little fertilizer and pesticides.
As new and emerging opportunities for feedstock are introduced, demand is anticipated to grow.

The 2014 U.S. Farm Bill legalized the growth of hemp for research by Departments of Agriculture or higher-education institutions, in states where it has been approved by law.
In New York, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell) and State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-Big Flats) sponsored legislation that created a pilot program.
That became law in December 2015, making New York the 19th state to legalize industrial-hemp trials for research.
Cornell University and SUNY Morrisville were issued research permits in 2016.

Cornell University professor Donald Viands teaches plant breeding and quantitative genetics at CALS School of Integrated Plant Science and develops cool-season, perennial forage cultivars with higher yield, forage quality, and multiple disease and insect resistances.
He was tasked with researching the performance of industrial hemp cultivars and initiating a study into optimal planting protocols for hemp in New York.
His trials compared different seeding equipment to determine the best practices for sowing hemp seeds in New York soils.

At last month’s Hemp Summit, the state announced an expansion of the Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program to include private farms and businesses.
SUNY Sullivan and Binghamton University were authorized to grow and research hemp, and six private farms and businesses were also issued permits, bringing the total number of hemp research sites across the state to 10.
A $400,000 state award to support researchers at Cornell’s Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva was also announced.
Cornell researchers will be exploring practices for growing varieties of hemp in different soil types and in various locations around the state and will assess hemp seed quality for germination and weed contamination.
The state also announced that a Hemp Technical Team, comprising three Cornell Cooperative Extension educators and a State Department of Agriculture and Markets liaison, will be established to support optimal growing and processing of industrial hemp.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said the state would seek a permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration to import seeds internationally and create a seed-distribution site and that private growers will be able to pursue permits as well.
To qualify for private research, a company would have to have a business plan and reach a research agreement with an institution of higher education.
Ball believes that, by increasing testing and research, and teaming private industry with those in the academic arena, industrial hemp could develop into a New York agricultural staple.
Beginning this summer, CALS researchers will hold field days at research farms for growers to look at hemp varieties for oil and fiber production.

“New York state is poised to take on hemp in a big way, and CALS stands ready to partner with growers to help in this new endeavor.” said Christine Smart, professor of plant pathology and interim director of the School of Integrative Plant Science.
Beginning this summer, CALS researchers will hold field days at research farms for growers to look at hemp varieties for oil and fiber production.
Smart also said demonstration trials could be expanded in future years to grower farms, to test how varieties do in other locations.
“Introducing a new crop presents agricultural challenges that must be addressed in order for growers to make optimal decisions on the farm," Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch dean of CALS, said.
Cornell researchers in the School of Integrative Plant Science are poised to develop solutions that New York farmers need to make industrial hemp a meaningful addition to our vibrant bio-economy.”

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