The University of Florida/IFAS’ two-year Industrial Hemp Pilot Project yielded interesting findings, though further research is needed.
Variety trials showed some promising aspects of hemp genetics for grain and flower production in Florida. Key factors impacting genetics that will also determine the crop’s success include planting date, fertility management and pest control.
Many varieties exceeded the 0.3% total THC threshold that is allowed. Invasiveness does appear to be a potential concern. Caution is recommended for growers.
“From our research, including the on-farm trials with growers around the state, we have found that hemp can grow in Florida but there is more work to be done on the way to a viable crop,” said Zachary Brym, UF/IFAS agronomy assistant professor and hemp pilot project lead scientist. “There are a variety of environmental and management factors that influence hemp productivity that we need to spend more time understanding. We’ll keep up that work as long as there is support to do so.”
The pilot project started in the spring of 2019 after federal and state legislation established an industrial hemp pilot program with research and education priorities that support hemp cultivation.
The project’s three primary goals were to assess hemp variety suitability for Florida, develop management strategies for Florida and evaluate the invasion risk of hemp throughout the state.
Hemp research and education efforts continue beyond the end of the two-year pilot program. This includes the online hemp research workshop and the newly established cultivar approval program that provides science-based evaluation of industrial hemp varieties. The approval program is led by Brian Pearson, assistant professor of crop management at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in partnership with Roseville Farms.
“We worked alongside many industry partners with the common goal of increasing hemp knowledge for growers across Florida,” said Brym. “We are excited to share the findings from that work, and we are thankful for their support and collaboration over the past two years and into the future.”