The North Carolina Industrial Hemp Pilot Program is ending.
Since it began in 2014, approximately 1,500 licensed hemp growers and more than 1,200 registered processors have come on the scene in North Carolina.
Effective January 1st, 2022, all hemp production in North Carolina must comply with the USDA Domestic Hemp Production Rule and farmers must hold a USDA-issued hemp license.
On this episode of Farms, Food and You we talk to NC State Extension specialist David Suchoff about what we learned during the pilot program about growing hemp, this budding industry, and its roadblocks.
With the 2018 Farm Bill clearing the way legally, many farmers in North Carolina began cultivating industrial hemp. Hemp has more than 50,000 uses between the stalk, roots, leaves, flowers and seed. Farmers took to their fields and greenhouses to grow three varieties:
· floral — cannabinoid hemp varieties primarily grown to extract CBD used as a nutritional, pharmaceutical and dietary supplement.
· fiber which is used for textiles, pulp/paper, and fuel;
· finally grain which is used for food and nutrition.
NC State Extension played a major role in researching floral hemp over the past few years. David Suchoff explains:
So if we’re focusing first on floral hemp, the research that we do, we try to address some of the key questions or issues that our farmers have. You know, the question that always comes up, especially with the new crop is which variety do I plant? And so one thing that we do is we do variety trials, and this is another one where we do it in, in the different regions, because we want to understand if there’s differences in how the varieties, you know, produce or perform in one region versus another. And so there, we’re just developing, um, good data to get to our growers in terms of recommendations for, you know, if you live in the coastal plain, you should grow a variety X because it produces this much. And so on. Um, other research that we’ve been conducting is looking at developing a better understanding of THC production in the field.
THC production is vital for growers to understand because of laws in North Carolina limiting the amount of THC in CBD products.
So, you know, under the law, hemp is cannabis sativa that produces less than 0.3 total THC. If the crop is tested and it goes above that it’s considered non-compliant and it has to be destroyed or remediated, which is something that the USDA is going to require.
And it doesn’t take a lot to go over .3 percent THC. You know, when we first got started, there weren’t a lot of recommendations in terms of when you should harvest the crop. And, what we know is that the longer you let the crop flower you know produce flowers, the higher the THC goes. And so we have been doing field research to kind of get an understanding of the temporal relationship of THC production, so that we could say, Hey, you know, …….