The Pa. Department of Agriculture approved 16 research proposals this week that will seek to demonstrate the value and viability of industrial hemp cultivation in the state. The projects were approved under the new Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program, which the department launched in December.
"Industrial hemp has a long history in the U.S. and in Pennsylvania, but it has been missing from the landscape since the mid-20th century," explained state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. "As a result, we have missed out on many economic opportunities."
Redding said hemp could offer farmers tremendous new opportunities, but the first step was to demonstrate the potential of the plant through research projects.
The 16 accepted proposals:
• Allegheny/Westmoreland County, Commonwealth Alternative Medicinal Options (CAMO), to track seed and stalk yield, plant nutrients and general development under Pennsylvania growing conditions.
• Armstrong County, Academic Sciences of Pennsylvania LLC, to compare seed quality and yield under different growing conditions (planting and harvest dates, nutrients, irrigation and spacing).
• Berks County, Rodale Institute, to evaluate potential benefits of industrial hemp as a cash or cover crop for weed control and soil health.
• Bucks County, Delaware Valley University, Doylestown, to compare four hemp varieties for plant height, seed yields, and insect presence under Pennsylvania growing conditions.
• Centre County, Penn State University, to compare six varieties under different growing conditions (planting dates, seed densities, tillage regimens and nitrogen levels); track plant height, yield, disease and insect impact to develop draft production recommendations for the commonwealth.
• Dauphin County, Royal Beverage, LLC / Dba Orgaceutical Corp., to compare at least four cultivars growing under Keystone State conditions
• Franklin County, Destiny's Agro Farm, Inc, to compare at least four cultivars for visual qualities, fiber content, and seed yields.
• Lehigh County, Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council (Lehigh University), to isolate and identify hemp components with antimicrobial activity under laboratory conditions.
• Lehigh/Lycoming County, Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council (Lehigh University), to evaluate use of hemp for erosion control and phytoremediation of heavy metals; study absorption and distribution of contaminants within the plant.
• Lehigh County, Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council (Lehigh University), to test plant material for use in biomanufacturing nanosheets as a matrix for quantum dots.
• Lycoming County, Global Industry Standard LLC, to measure invasive potential to spread to areas where it was not planted.
• Lycoming/Montour counties, Pennsylvania Hemp Company, LLC, to compare seed varieties under different growing conditions (sowing, harvesting, growth, wellness, and yield); explore fiber uses, seed use for culinary oil, and end-user markets.
• Mifflin County, Justben Agriculture, LLC, to compare five varieties for end use for human consumption and biofuel; stalk material will be pelletized for fuel or used for animal bedding.
• Berks/Lehigh/Montgomery County, GenCanna Global, Inc, to measure protein profiles, growth and yields under different growing watering conditions; study storage stability; and explore local processing options.
• Perry County, Perry County Land and Cattle Company, to measure weight gain in cattle with/without seed meal supplement; process seed into oil; use hemp stalks for cattle bedding.
• Schuylkill and Bedford counties, AgriLogic PA LLC, (Cheyney University, Lehigh University), to track growth of fish (largemouth bass and rainbow trout) on diets with/without added hemp; compare weight gain, feed efficiency, protein digestibility, and fish health/nutrient proteins.