Certified EU hemp varieties finding fertile ground in U.S. Midwest

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A growing number of hemp farmers across the USA are sourcing certified European hemp varieties as American growers begin a shift into food seed and industrial outputs from the hemp stalk.

European seed distributor Hempoint said it shipped cultivation seed to nine states this year. More importantly, the Czech-based company said it provided six fiber hemp varieties to the Midwestern Hemp Database, a cooperative research initiative among universities in key farming states.

“These states have great potential for food and fiber production,” said Robin Destiche, Operations Manager at Hempoint, which has been a distributor of EU hemp planting seeds since 2013, and has been shipping seed to the USA since 2015. “It’s already well established that European grain and fiber varieties perform well under soil and climate conditions in this part of the country,” he said.

Midwest trials

“The Midwest trials are being run by an experienced group of researchers who are excited about hemp and working to establish more public data regarding the growing conditions and potential yields, which is wonderful to see,” Destiche said. A growing number of inquiries from state and regional hemp associations and the expansion of research organizations studying hemp also reflect American interest in European varieties, he added.

The European catalog of certified seed varieties comprises predominantly fiber and grain cultivation seeds as European research and development in hemp genetics has generally been confined to those outputs. Only one CBD-rich strain is among those with official standing in the official EU list of hemp varieties.

European seeds easily meet the 0.3% THC limit for hemp under U.S. Department of Agriculture rules because they are bred for the EU THC limit of 0.2%. That means U.S. farmers have a lesser chance of their crops going “hot.”

Early shipments this year

Seeds from Hempoint went to Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois this year. Several of those states also have established or are in the process of setting up fiber processing operations in addition to having ongoing research initiatives.

Destiche said staple EU fiber varieties Futura and Santhica, both French, “make the most sense for American farmers’ pocketbooks at this point.” Futura 75 is a prolific fiber producer but can be dual-cropped for flowers. Futura 83, meanwhile, is often harvested for its fiber and seed. The Santhica family of genetics yields flowers relatively high in CBG but those varieties are primarily sown for fiber.

Destiche said Hempoint recently signed an agreement with HEMP-it of France, Europe’s biggest cultivation seed producer and one of the biggest in the world, that will allow shipment of container-size orders of about 20 tons to North America as early as December this year.

Hempoint currently has access to 40 tons of Santhica 27; 30 tons of Santhica 70; 130 tons of Futura 75; and 50 tons of Futura 83, Destiche said.

Fields filling in

Virginia-based Shenandoah Valley Hemp, LLC (Pure Shenandoah) took shipment of a full container of European seed from Hempoint this year. The company is growing primarily for fiber but will run trial harvesting of seed, said Jake Johnson, Cultivation Director.

“The season has been good so far. We started off dry but have gotten good rain recently and the stands look great and fields are starting to fill in,” said Johnson, whose company will harvest hemp from fields totaling 400 acres this year. 

Johnson said Pure Shenandoah is now solidifying contracts with buyers of its fiber-based output primarily from the hempcrete building sector and farmers looking for animal bedding. “We have a lot of interest in our material,” Johnson said. The company is in the process of installing a fiber processing line and expanding existing extraction facilities.

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