2017 Industrial Hemp Pilot Program
1. This informational piece, provided by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), describes the industrial hemp pilot program that was ushered in by the passing of Minnesota Statue 18K in 2015.
2. Under federal law, industrial hemp is still treated as marijuana (a Schedule 1 controlled substance), because both are varieties of Cannabis sativa. To support the pilot program, quote – the MDA obtained a Schedule 1 Importer Research Registration in January 2016 – unquote.
3. Licensed pilot grows ranged in sized from 60 square foot research plots to industrial 200+ acre tracts.
4. In 2017, 1,210 acres of industrial hemp was grown using 46,017 lbs. of seed imported through the pilot program.
5. Approximately 70 days into each grow, MDA inspectors took plant samples and used High Performance Liquid Chromatography to determine the THC content. Quote – The average delta-9 THC concentrations across all sample was 0.0115 percent, well below the 0.3 percent threshold – unquote.
6. Planting takes place from the middle of May to the first week of July and is typically performed with a seed drill in tilled and dragged soil approximately 1⁄2 inch deep and 1⁄2 inch apart.
7. Approximately half of the pilot grow sights employed the use of fertilizer, primarily in the form of animal manure, but synthetic forms were also used. In one instance, the hemp seed showed high sensitivity, quote – to residual herbicides from previous seasons that was still present in the soil – unquote.
8. Fields with tight spacing and early germination where observed to have little weed density even without the use of herbicides.
9. Although a few insect and mold species were present in a few of the fields, none had such an impact as to decrease yield.
10. Most plants mature plants were about four and a half feet tall at harvest, but there was a wide variety including plants as short as two feet and as tall as twelve feet.
11. Most harvests took place between the end of September and the First week of November, with an average growing span of, quote – 112 days – unquote.
12. Grain yield for 2017 averaged 1,334 pounds per acer with some fields producing as much as 2,000 lbs.
13. Plots grown for seed averaged between 1,000 and 1,250 pounds per acer, while grows intended for floral harvest yielded between 50 and 500 pounds per acer.
14. One licensed grower chose to combine harvest the grain followed by harvesting fiber, quote – they reported a fiber yield of 1.07 ton per acer – unquote, in 2016.
15. One of the pilots who chose to harvest the floral material, quote – dried it and chopped it into a fine consistency…and are in the process of extracting cannabinoids – unquote.
16. A conclusion shared by many of the pilot growers was that harvest was more difficult and time consuming than other cultivars due to the fibers tendency to clog equipment. Handlin of the seed and grain also presented unique challenges.
17. An additional challenge faced by the current industrial hemp market is the lack of an established consumer market. At the time of writing, none of the pilot growers had sold any of their produce which is though to be due to a lack of market exposure and limited buyer experience with industrial hemp. Additional market outreach will be required to create a viable hemp demand.
Source: Industrial Hemp Pilot Program Annual Report. Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
Review by: SP
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