It’s been over 50 years since Kentucky has legally grown industrial hemp. Now, it’s begun again, and the crop is growing quicker and more beautifully than anyone could have anticipated. After a quick battle with the DEA over confiscated hemp seeds, just six weeks since those hemp seeds were planted, the crop has raised to a staggering 5 feet tall.
“Six weeks in, it’s looking just fine,” said UK agronomist David Williams.
The University of Kentucky, who began growing industrial hemp for research purposes, planted thirteen kinds of hemp. The only question is which kind will grow the best, and under what kinds of conditions.
“We would like to find out, at least among the 13 varieties that we’re testing right now, which ones are the best yielding varieties for the climate in Kentucky,” Williams said.
Right now the biggest hurdle for researchers and growers is the lack of rainfall, which doesn’t matter much since the industrial hemp plants are growing at an amazing rate regardless. Growing well in poor soil and climate is something hemp is known for.
“Typically, a crop like this, farmers would not irrigate, and we would like for this information to be as close to reality as as we can possibly keep it, so we won’t irrigate unless it becomes a matter of crop failure,” said Williams.
The University of Kentucky’s 1/10th of an acre is just one of five pilot plots now projected to begin growing statewide.
“We’ve seen a lot of successful reports from our pilot projects,” said Adam Watson, who oversees the hemp project for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
The Department of Agriculture believes the trouble with the DEA last month will have been worth it, because the crop is already getting interest from potential customers.
“The department’s been approached by a number of different processors who are looking for raw hemp commodities to actually utilize or evaluate for use in their own industries. We actually have one buyer lined up for the projects in western Kentucky,” Watson said.
This isn’t a surprise since industrial hemp can be used for anything, from paper, to textiles, to medicine, and even clean-burning fuels.
The plants will be harvested in September, where researchers will have a better understanding of the crop and how successful this pilot plot has been. “There’s just lots we don’t know yet. So, yes, it’s fun. It’s exciting.”