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Australian researchers studying hemp nutrition for animal feed

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Researchers in the Australian state of Tasmania are studying the nutritional value of hemp for animal feed as they look to expand opportunities for farmers.

A team from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) has embarked on a two-year project to explore industrial hemp exclusively as a forage crop for sheep or as a dual-purpose crop – for both grazing and seed production.

“Up until now, this is the only research that has been conducted regarding the nutritional value of hemp for animal feed in Tasmania,” Dr. Beth Penrose, who is leading the study, told miragenews.com.

Five varieties studied

The researchers are probing five varieties of industrial hemp to see how genotype, grazing time and environment affect the nutritional value of the plants. “We also want to find out the impact that grazing has on the yield of hemp seeds, and whether it could potentially increase the yield and the overall value of the crop,” Penrose said.

TIA, which is is a joint venture of the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government, is setting up trial sites at its Forthside research facility in North West Tasmania and at a commercial property near the town of Cressy. As grazing of industrial hemp is not legal in Tasmania, the trials will simulate grazing patterns by cutting the crop at different heights, the researchers said.

Support from THA

The project is funded by the Tasmanian Hemp Association (THA) and AgriFutures, a development agency that supports research and development with a focus on new and emerging industries and rural communities.

“New relevant research . . . will help foster a profitable industrial hemp industry for Tasmanian farmers,” said Tim Schmidt, President of THA. “With Tasmania currently supplying over 80 per cent of Australia’s hemp seed for food, and having assisted in establishing a good industry foundation in the State, the THA is pleased to be able to support TIA and UTAS with growers funds.”

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