UVM Extension: Development of Industrial Hemp Management Strategies for Commercial Production in the Northeast
Hemp Management Strategies Research
Dr. Heather Darby, University of Vermont Extension
UVM Extension integrates higher education, research and outreach to help Vermonters put knowledge to work in their families and homes, farms and businesses, towns and the natural environment. Faculty and staff, located in offices around the state, help improve the quality of life of Vermonters through research-based educational programs and practical information.
The University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program (NWCS) aims to provide the best and most relevant cropping information, both research-based and experiential, delivered in the most practical and understandable ways to Vermont farmers. The applied and practical research trials are conducted at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, Vermont and at collaborating farms throughout the state of Vermont. The NWCS team conducts a diversity of research projects and holds outreach events to aid and assist a wide breadth of farmers. Throughout the years, the NWCS team has brought together various groups with the purpose of building community and Vermont state agriculture on a foundation of research-based science by evaluating viability of various crops and their practices within our region. Through these means, UVM Extension has provided research-based information to thousands of farmers and technical service providers, with the aim of improving quality of life and supporting our working landscape.
The re-emergence of hemp as a “new” crop with the potential to diversify farm income has led a number of farmers in Vermont to experiment with this crop. Most farmers do not have experience growing hemp and it is also highly regulated by state and federal governments. Hence it is critical that accurate information is available to growers to produce a compliant and profitable crop. Currently there is little research-based information available to growers and there has been much speculation as to the viability of this crop, leading to the importance of establishing best practices for crop production systems as well as the efficacy of various harvest and storage systems. Research from the NWCS hemp program spans from grain and fiber hemp production to hemp flower production for cannabinoids (i.e. CBD).
Under the current pandemic environment, we have been required to pivot certain aspects of our program to reduce in-person contact and redevelop protocols for generating good research results. As an example, we have delivered hemp information to over 100 stakeholders through a 6-part webinar series. We are now preparing for harvest of the numerous research studies. Generally, harvest involves the gathering of our entire team to hand harvest the hemp plants. Harvest is in October and generally, the weather is variable forcing us to conduct the harvest indoors. To meet COVID-19 best practices we need to change the way we harvest and this involves mechanization. Our team will need to purchase 2 pieces of equipment that will allow for a more efficient harvest and less human labor. The first piece of equipment is a bucker (removes the flower buds and leaves from the stem) and the second is trimmer (removes leaves from the flower buds). We have requested permission to use some of our Seedling Grant to go towards the purchase of this equipment. Other grants and donations will pay for the remainder of the cost ($27,000).
Our current hemp related research trials for the 2020 growing season include:
1. Evaluation of the impact of varying nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium rates on hemp yield and quality.
2. Identification of cover crops that perform best in hemp production systems.
3. Variety evaluation to understand best performers (yield and quality) for our region.
4. Evaluation of planting date and plant spacing on hemp yield and quality.
5. Efficacy of biofungicides for control of flower rot.
6. Impact of harvest timing on hemp quality.
These trials are being conducted at the research farm in Alburgh, VT. Data collection has occurred throughout the season evaluating general growth characteristics and pest pressure. Harvest will occur between end of September and middle of October. Results from each trial will be compiled and presented to the farming community during the winter of 2021. For more information on the NWCS program and to learn more about our past research results for our hemp program, among others, please visit https://www.uvm.edu/extension/nwcrops.
Grant Amount: $4,000
UVM Extension integrates higher education, research and outreach to help individuals and communities put knowledge to work in their families and homes, farms, businesses, towns and the natural environment.
Our Mission: Provide and facilitate research, education and outreach with our partners for the people of Vermont.
Project Title: Development of industrial hemp management strategies for commercial production in the Northeast.
Project Description: This project seeks to build on existing University of Vermont research focused on industrial hemp production for cannabidiol (CBD) production and provide Vermont growers with information on best management practices to maximize crop yield and quality while protecting our natural resources.