University of Florida Has High Hopes for Hemp

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By Breanna Kendrick

The University of Florida will be researching hemp to determine its potential to be grown as a crop in the Sunshine State.

Industrial hemp is Cannabis sativa, which is the same species as marijuana. However, there is a very important difference. Industrial hemp is required to have less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, a psychoactive substance).

The hemp research will take place in four different locations ranging from Homestead to Quincy.

Robert Gilbert, professor and chair of the agronomy department at the University of Florida, gave the analogy that a Dachshund and a Great Dane are the same species, but you manage them quite differently. The same goes with hemp and marijuana. Due to the low THC levels in hemp, it’s a very different plant from marijuana.

The industrial hemp project will involve three main objectives:

  • To examine what varieties of hemp will grow well in what areas of the state
  • To look at different management practices for growing hemp
  • To find ways to reduce invasive risks of the hemp crop

“Our goal, along with our objectives, is working to help develop a profitable and sustainable hemp industry,” explains Gilbert. “We want to learn more from the growers who are interested in growing the crop — what their interests are. And we also want to learn more from different industries that want to market and sell the crop.”

There is a lot of enthusiasm from growers about hemp as an alternative crop for Florida. This has to do with the multiple uses for the crop because it can be grown in the field and in greenhouses. Hemp can be used for fiber production or chemical extracts such as cannabidiol oil, which has pain-relief properties.

“One thing that we need to do for this project is a multi-level educational effort on what hemp is and what it is not,” says Gilbert. “That has to involve our growers, law enforcement, faculty at the university and the general public.”

“I think it’s important to state that the university’s goal isn’t just to work for two years on hemp and the pilot project and then that’s it. Our goal is to work to develop an industry that lasts for 100 years in Florida and work with them (growers) throughout that time,” explains Gilbert. “We’re very excited about the start of this project, but we need input from growers and others on their interest in hemp so we can design the best pilot program possible.”

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