About the Project
The UVM Extension’s Northwest Crops & Soils Program started an industrial hemp research program in 2016. The 2014 Farm Bill has allowed academic institutions, like UVM, to legally develop research programs to evaluate industrial hemp as a commercial crop and we see that as a great opportunity in an emerging market. Without publicly available research, farmers are unlikely to gain crucial production knowledge and will be left out of this market opportunity. Farmers in the region already face huge challenges from unpredictable weather, low commodity prices, and increasing pest and disease pressure – industrial hemp has the potential to diversify their production and increase economic resiliency.
Industrial hemp is a historical crop. It is estimated that hemp was first cultivated in China between 4,000 and 6,000 years ago, making it one of the first cultivated crops. It was brought to the U.S. in 1645 and was a major crop until the 1940s, used in making paper (it is said that the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were printed on hemp paper), cloth (the first U.S. flag and first pair of jeans were made of hemp), and ropes and sails used by the U.S. Navy. Currently, hemp is being used for cosmetics, foods, fiber, building materials, biofuel, and soil remediation. The North American hemp market is currently estimated at over $400 million in retail sales and growing at about 10% per year. Clearly, there is demand for hemp and we would like to help farmers and processors in Vermont and throughout the Northeast evaluate this opportunity and promote sustainable practices for this agricultural crop.
Our Hemp Trials
NEW 2016 Research Trial Reports
Under the leadership of agronomist Dr. Heather Darby, we are currently implementing hemp research trials to:
- Evaluate varieties best suited to our region—
- We are looking at more than 10 hemp varieties this year.
- Evaluate ideal seeding rates—
- Using two varieties (Anka and CFX-2), we are investigating seeding rates of 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 pounds per acre.
- Determine optimal planting dates for our northern growing conditions—
- Our planting date x variety trial is looking at 10+ varieties planted at 5/26, 6/2, 6/12, and 6/17.
- Assess weed, pest, and disease pressure—
- In addition to routine pest scouting, our weed control trial is investigating weed pressure when hemp is planted at standard spacing (7.5″), wide spacing (9″), and band seeding (5″ seed spread and 6″ between bands).
We will be posting our first year’s research results at the end of the year.
Please click on the image below to take a virtual tour of our hemp trials — you’ll see our first year’s progress from obtaining our first seed and establishing the plots to observing plant growth throughout the season.