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Industrial Hemp Takes Root

Industrial Hemp Takes Root
(Wherever you plant it)

Something special happened last May.

Before we get into all that, let me ask you this: how much do you enjoy weeds? Not that kind of “weed”, but the type that sprouts from your yard and driveway that you have to constantly pull out from the ground, and despite your best efforts to control this stuff, it will keep coming back. No matter where it is, it will grow anywhere. Well what if I told you that those weeds could provide fuel, medicine, building materials, paper, and even healthy food? You would probably want to plant them everywhere and anywhere in an attempt to capitalize on it’s amazing benefits.

Well, like I said, last May something special happened.

On May 12th, Murray State University made history by becoming the first entity of any kind on the country to legally place industrial hemp seeds in the ground as part of a statewide trial. That in itself is amazing, but one of the more important tests taking place, (and perhaps the most exciting) was the testing of industrial hemp growth in no-till conditions. Thus far it’s been a success.

“Right now, that’s where are best plantings are. They’re shoulder high in places and they were only waist high a week ago,” said Dr. Tony Brannon, dean of MSU’s Hutson School of Agriculture. “One of the reasons we think that’s happening is because of better germination made possible by it raining real, real hard a few times since they were planted. It really got packed in where we worked the ground.”

Dr. Brannon does admit that it is still very early in the process, but the results so far seem to confirm a widely-held belief that the plant is very tough to harm and could, in fact, grow in any type of soil.

No-till farming is a type of planting specifically designed to prevent soil erosion that does not involve plowing an entire field and revealing all dirt. With no-till farming, the planting procedure involves cultivating over existing grasses or crop residue, requiring careful placement of the seeds. The benefits of having such a crop are limitless. If industrial hemp can be used for bio-fuel, medicine, and health foods, it would be absolutely perfect to be able to grow this plant in any type of soil, giving farmers and researchers and endless supply without compromising farmland used for our food.

“Really, we’re not treating it any different from most of our other crops. You just put it in the ground, try to help it grow the best you can and see what happens,” said Jason Robertson, MSU’s farm manager.

Industrial hemp has a growing time of 90 to 120 days depending on what it’s being used for. The shorter growing times would be to harvest the seeds, while the longer growth periods are used to obtain the fiber.

With research being done to determine exactly what the limits of industrial hemp are, the hope for the future seems bright, despite the fact that some government organizations are still trying to control the situation by seizing hemp seeds and throwing as much red tape as possible at industrial hemp farmers and researchers. With a useful crop like industrial hemp being researched at almost every level now, it’s only a matter of time before we start to benefit from everything it indeed has to offer us.

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