The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Purdue University researchers about $1 million to develop growing techniques for organic hemp production.
Legal, commercial growth of hemp is set to start next year with farmers eager to get into the market.
Purdue University agronomy department head Ron Turco says the research will help create a base-level understanding of growing hemp.
“You can apply this right into other production systems,” says Turco. “There’s not gonna be–the boundaries not very hard between hemp and organic hemp and semi-organic, which is traditional production.”
Turco says while some growing methods will apply to all farmers growing hemp, organic growers will face differences including fertilizer types and weed management.
One of the challenges farmers will face is the absence of pesticides approved for use on the plant. Purdue Extension hemp specialist Marguerite Bolt says it could take a while for any pesticides to be federally approved. She says exploring natural methods for treatment will benefit both organic and non-organic hemp farmers.
“It can take quite a while for official label changes and so it’s important to look at some alternative management strategies that we can use instead of applying a pesticide even when they are available,” says Bolt.
She says the grant will also support continued outreach including field days for farmers and others wanting to learn more about hemp.