The hemp industry needs a robust certification system that will give growers more confidence in their genetics purchases, according to a study from the University of Georgia’s Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics (IPBGG).
Genetics suppliers should also start using unique names for each of their hemp genetics products to help clarify options on the market, the researchers said in the report, “Genomic and Chemical Diversity of Commercially Available High-CBD Industrial Hemp Accessions.”
“Not only will this help clarify the market, it will also allow each company to capitalize on branding their own unique varieties,” doctoral graduate Matthew Johnson and Associate Professor Jason Wallace wrote in the report, which was published this month on Frontiers in Genetics.
The research found that many of the 22 hemp varieties studied expressed THC and CBD levels inconsistent with those stated on certificates of analysis (COAs). Several had more THC, and less CBD, than levels indicated on those certificates, which breeders and brokers use to market the genetics.
The research team bought commercially available hemp genetics and grew them in a controlled greenhouse. Probing the plants to see how closely they are related, the researchers found that while some showed similar genetics, there were cases in which plants from the same batch showed little relation or none at all.
“Given the variability we found both among and within accessions, some sort of standardization is needed so that producers can be confident in the material they receive,” the researchers wrote. Hemp farmers risk plants going over the federal 0.3% THC limit, which in most states means they must be destroyed. Low CBD levels mean less of that popular compound can be extracted.
The inconsistencies are due to hemp’s having been illegal throughout the second half of the 20th century, Johnson and Wallace suggested, with what little breeding that did take place having been carried out in the shadows. The problem is compounded by the pace at which the hemp industry is currently moving, according to the authors.
“High demand has resulted in the industry developing faster than the research, resulting in the sale of many hemp accessions with inconsistent performance and chemical profiles. These inconsistencies cause significant economic and legal problems for growers interested in producing high-CBD hemp,” the report warned.
Varieties studied in the report
READ: Full report – Genomic and Chemical Diversity of Commercially Available High-CBD Industrial Hemp Accessions