French and Polish hemp varieties stand out in Australian trials

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French and Polish hemp varieties stood out in initial hemp cultivation trials in Australia, according to development corporation Agri-Futures Australia.

Reports are coming in from hemp trials now ongoing in all six Australian states and the country’s Northern Territory to capture key performance data focused mainly on food and fiber production.

Year one results from Hamilton, Victoria showed that grain producers Ferimon 12, a French cultivar, and Polish variety Henola performed best. In other trials, Ferimon 12 and Canadian variety CRS-1 were the best performers at sites in Maaoupe, in Australia’s Limestone Coast region of South Australia, and Henola was reported to have outperformed all other varieties in Loxton, South Australia. Ferimon 12 also produced the highest grain yield in trials at Manjimup, Western Australia, according to the initial reports.

Trials everywhere

Under the Industrial Hemp Varietal Trial (IHVT) program, South Australia and Western Australia are hosting two sites each, with single sites in Tasmania, Victoria and the Northern Territory. Trials are also underway in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland.

Researchers are recording performance in yield and quality and looking for optimal planting windows under varying soil and weather conditions around the country. IHTV said the program also seeks to explore end-use products, sustainability and “the regulatory environment.

‘Coordinated approach’

“Providing a coordinated approach across trials in different regions of Australia and providing access to comparable data will enable growers to make informed decisions on-farm,” said Mark Skewes, IHTV national coordinator.

“This is a huge opportunity for Australian agriculture to produce an environmentally sustainable multi-purpose crop that can be used for everything from food to fabric and even building materials,” said Olivia Reynolds, investment Senior Manager in the AgriFutures Australia Emerging Industries Program, which recently announced a $2.5 million investment to advance hemp industry research over the next five years.

Fields shrink

The need for the IHVT was identified in the Australian Industrial Hemp Strategic RD&E Plan (2022-2027) commissioned by AgriFutures last year. That report estimated the Australian hemp industry could grow to surpass AU$10 million (~€6.5 million) by 2026.

Total hemp fields in Australia for the 2019-20 growing season reached an estimated 4,200 hectares, but contracted to 2,300 hectares in 2020-21, according to the strategic plan. Most fields are planted for food, with just 3% planted for fiber, AgriFutures reported.

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