Industrial hemp could provide a $3 million a year boon to South Australia, Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said as he recently surveyed pilot projects in the state.
“Based on current predictions, it is anticipated that within five years an expanding industrial hemp industry in South Australia could have a farm gate value of $3 million a year,” said Whetstone, who lauded the state government’s recent decision to grant growing licenses to South Australian farmers.
Minister tours pilots
Whetstone toured two industrial hemp projects, one in the Kybybolite municipality, and a second site about three hours north in the town of Loxton, in the Riverland region of South Australia. Researchers are testing factors related to hemp cultivation and harvesting. The pilots are among the first in South Australia.
Similar research is going on at the two sites, which have slightly different conditions, according to Mark Skewes, who is leading the projects with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI). The research is intended mainly to help farmers understand when to put hemp in the ground for the best possible yield, and to get indicators regarding whole-crop harvesting.
Research under way
A team from the University of Adelaide is studying the nutritional value of the grains, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is to study the quantity of fibre within the grains.
Hemp is also being grown for human consumption at the projects, something that was illegal in Australia until last year.
Preliminary research results show differences in plant size between plants observed at the two sites. Skewes said that’s due to more dense soil at the Kybybolite site; and more arid weather at the Loxton site resulted in bigger plants, Skewes added. Both sites are regularly irrigated.