By Ernie Neff
Brian Pearson, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences assistant professor, discusses diverse research into production practices for the future growth of industrial hemp in Florida. He addresses fertilization, irrigation, pests and the light needs of the plant. Pearson works at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka.
Pearson says there is “a lack of information” about hemp production. “Here’s a plant that has not been well researched for a number of years … So we’re starting really from scratch in a lot of different areas.”
The plant requires “a good fertility program,” according to Pearson. “Our next focus is really trying to make sure that our applications are appropriate and that we don’t end up having any deficiencies or toxicities. We do see quite a bit of variability with some of the varieties.”
Pearson discusses the importance of appropriate irrigation for hemp, noting efforts to avoid both over-irrigation and under-irrigation.
The plant requires a lot of light, so Pearson and other researchers are working on the plant’s light needs in Central Florida. Supplemental lighting is being used to keep plants in a vegetative state to prevent premature flowering.
“There are over 200 pests identified that like to feed on hemp,” Pearson says. “So that’s something that is a concern.” There are currently no insecticides registered for use on hemp in Florida, so researchers are trying to determine the efficacy of some products “to see how they work to address pest pressure.”
Pearson spoke at the first Florida Industrial Hemp Conference and Exhibition held Nov. 3–5 in Orlando. The conference was attended by approximately 450 people wanting to learn more about this new crop for the Sunshine State.
In this interview with Southeast AgNet’s Tacy Callies, hear more from Pearson about University of Florida hemp research:
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