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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit » Research » Research Project #438146

Research Project: Developing Decision Support Tools to Incorporate Hemp into Existing Farming Enterprises

Location: Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit

2021 Annual Report

Objective 1. Assemble and integrate current hemp related data and collect new data in collaboration with University partners to establish and improve hemp production modeling efforts. Objective 2. Develop modeling techniques that incorporate existing and newly generated hemp agronomic information into decision support tools to help farmers integrate hemp production into existing farm systems.

Industrial hemp is a potentially useful crop for production within the U.S. Various properties and uses for hemp are being explored, some focused on the unique properties of the plant itself (fiber production, protein content as livestock feed), and some focused on the properties of cannabidiol (CBD) for a variety of uses. The goal of this research will be to use existing agronomic information and generate new information, then use modeling techniques to incorporate that information into decision support tools to help farmers integrate hemp production into existing farm systems.

Progress Report
This is a new project that does not currently have a lead scientist. When hired, the scientist will be responsible for modeling research that determines the impact of hemp production in U.S. agriculture. In support of Objective 1, agreements with Oregon State University (OSU) and the University of Kentucky were established to develop research resources. One agreement with OSU conducted research to determine how to incorporate hemp into American agricultural production systems. One effort is to determine the optimal adaptation of hemp essential oil variety types and genetics. Commercial varieties varying in growth habit and end-product quality were grown in replicated plots with 14 cooperating institutions at a total of 16 sites. Plants were measured for standard plant growth descriptors and were terminally sampled and inflorescences separated from stem/leaf and root components. Samples are being analyzed by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) for their cannabidiol (CBD) profiles. The data will be used to determine effects of different growing environments on plant growth and yield of the photoperiod-sensitive- and photoperiod-insensitive variety growth habit types. Research is also being conducted to determine hemp crop water use for the two growth types across diverse irrigated production regions in the Western United States. Four water replacement treatments, including an estimated 100% evapotranspiration amount, were applied to two photoperiod-insensitive and two photoperiod-sensitive essential oil type varieties at three Oregon and two University of California, Davis, research sites. Data were collected on plant growth descriptor and the biomass amounts of the inflorescence and leaf/stem components, and cannabinoid analyses are being conducted to determine optimal water return on investments from water applications on cannabinoid yields. Research is being conducted to determine the suitability of post-extract hemp biomass as a supplemental feed for livestock. An initial study was conducted using meat lambs that were fed feed mixtures with and without spent hemp biomass. Animal behavior, physiology, and weight gain were measured. Tissue samples of muscle and organ tissues are being analyzed for cannabinoid residues. The team is working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide data demonstrating the safety of food animal fed hemp. Research was conducted to determine the optimal sampling time and inflorescence location in the plant canopy on cannabinoid profile constituent percentages for hemp fields to provide guidance for ensuring compliant hemp harvest. The suitability of utilizing a benchmark method based on 50% or more of capitate-stalked trichomes secretions being amber colored is being examined. Cannabinoid analyses are being done to determine how these criteria line up with expectations based on previously reported CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels. This research is being conducted in cooperation with chemists at the ARS Northcentral Regional Research Center. A Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement was established with OSU to further progress on addressing Objective 2. A model was used to carry out simulation experiments to assess the adoption rates and economic impacts of the hemp systems in place of the prevailing systems in Pacific Northwest regions that could grow hemp. Additional scenarios will be examined using agricultural census data, experimental data, and other secondary economic and yield data including enterprise budgets constructed with industry input. The approach additionally allows the integration of bio-physical and economics data for technology impact assessment and policy analysis.