$2.5 million backs newly formed hemp research initiative in USA

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Academic researchers and hemp companies have joined in a public-private partnership to address challenges faced by the U.S. hemp sector, backed by $2.5 million in matching funds from the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) .

The Hemp Research Consortium is intended to carry out research among university research teams and industry partners, according to the initiative’s director, David Suchoff, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University.

“We will be able to address many of the challenges faced by this industry and help to accelerate it forward,” Suchoff said of the consortium, aimed at “creating a safe harbor for growers and industry to de-risk investments in hemp development while contributing to the overall growth of hemp commerce.”

Addressing barriers

“Two of the major barriers to be addressed by the initiative are the financially risky nature of hemp currently, much of which falls on the shoulders of growers, and the lack of research resulting from decades of prohibition in the USA,” FFAR said in a press release.

Initial research priorities include breeding and genetics; hemp production systems; pest and disease management; novel product development and engineering; and workforce training, according to FFAR. Insights developed by the consortium will be made public through scientific publications and data-sharing, FFAR said.

“Due to previous restrictions affecting hemp, little information is available on production practices that can help hemp farmers match the success of other crops,” FFAR said. “Hemp must make up ground through dedicated genetic research and breeding to provide growers with locally adapted varieties that can meet regulations on THC levels. While there are several potential applications for hemp, their success requires developing a market chain and demand and infrastructure for processing the crop.”

Researchers are eager

Larry Smart, professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell, said the consortium will link his university’s hemp breeding program with end-users for seed-to-sale solutions. “Our students are eager to apply the latest genomics technology to hemp breeding to quickly improve yield, uniformity and stability of hemp varieties to benefit growers while meeting the needs of companies that want to use hemp in sustainable product development,” Smart said.

Congress established FFAR in the Agricultural Act of 2014 to leverage public and private resources in scientific and technological research, innovation and partnerships critical to enhancing the USA’s farming economy.

Participating in the consortium are Agilent Technologies, Cornell University, IND HEMP, International Hemp, North Carolina State University, Oregon CBD, The Scotts Company, University of Kentucky and U.S. Sugar.

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