Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Crop That Could Replace Coal Harvested in Kentucky

Not just as an energy source, but as the provider of good jobs from field through factory. Hemp could be the game-changer in Kentucky and the nation, and the first giant step toward making it so was taken yesterday.

The first legal hemp harvest in Kentucky in 70 years has begun. University of Kentucky researchers on Tuesday cut their test plot, which will rest in the field for a couple of weeks.

The 10-foot stalks will stay on the ground at Spindletop Farm while they break apart — a process called "retting," said David Williams, UK College of Agriculture agronomist. "Microbes break down the tissues of the stem ... The outside tissues form the bast fibers and the inside form the hurd fibers."

The 13 varieties sown this spring at UK will be evaluated for fiber and seed production. Other universities around the state, including Murray State, also planted test plots.

"It was a good growing season for many crops, not just hemp," Williams said. "Precipitation was excellent this year and more than adequate for growth. The only downside to the growing season was that we planted a little bit late, but I don't think that had much effect on the crop."


Comer said in a statement that this first UK crop "will yield significant data about production techniques, which varieties do best in Kentucky and which of the many uses of hemp are most likely to succeed here."

The KDA hopes to expand the number of growers next year and is pursuing processors.
Kentucky was once a national leader in hemp production before the crop was outlawed along with marijuana because it is botanically similar, although industrial hemp has negligible amounts of high-inducing chemicals.

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