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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit » Research » Research Project #438331

Research Project: Sustainable Incorporation of Hemp into American Agricultural Cropping Systems

Location: Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit

Project Number: 2072-21000-056-001-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jun 1, 2020
End Date: May 31, 2024

Objective:
The overall objective of this project is to develop science-based approaches to sustainably incorporate essential oil hemp (EOH) types into established American agricultural systems. Hemp has emerged as a significant crop in just a few years. As a result of great interest in hemp and its products, production acres have increased rapidly. However, with incomplete linkages in supply chains from production fields to consumer markets, many growers and processors are still holding inventory. It is anticipated that in 2020, production will drop to 25% of what it was in the 2019 boom season. There are always risks in agriculture, but established commodities over the past 80 years have been helped by science advancements and the development of high-value agricultural products consumed world-wide. The mix of commodities grown in different regions around the country already fit where they do because relatively dependable production can be expected year after year, and supply chains have evolved with mature markets. A systematic understanding about the adaptability of hemp to the different U.S. production environments is needed, and how hemp production can complement established agricultural systems and add value to farm income. With an understanding of the suitability of different genetics to different production environments, as a component of crop rotations that complement production inputs such as water, the utilization of hemp byproducts by livestock as a way to add value to overall production, and all of this done in ways that comply with state and federal regulations, we will understand how hemp best fits into the existing geographic specialization of farm commodities. This project therefore has four research objectives: 1. Determine the optimal adaptation of hemp essential oil variety types and genetics across U.S. farm resource regions. 2. Determine hemp crop water use across diverse production regions. 3. Determine optimal uses and safety of hemp and hemp byproducts fed to livestock. 4. Determine protocols for optimal sampling of hemp fields and laboratory analyses to accurately reflect THC content at harvest to meet National compliance testing requirements.

Approach:
1. Determine the optimal adaptation of hemp essential oil variety types and genetics across U.S. farm resource regions. OSU with partner universities will develop a nation-wide uniform essential oil hemp (EOH) variety testing network to determine how diverse environmental conditions interact with hemp genetics. Six commercial varieties varying in growth habit and end-product quality will be grown in replicated plots at 10-16 sites around the country. Sites will be monitored for precipitation and temperature, soil-water content, and plant nutrient status. Phenology development will be monitored, and plant parts sampled to develop methods for meeting regulatory cannabinoid compliance (see Objective 4 below). Data will be used to determine optimal environments to produce EOH and minimize the unintended economic consequences of growing hemp. 2. Determine hemp crop water use across diverse production regions. OSU will cooperate with the University of California to determine the optimal EOH water replacement strategies at two sites in California and three in Oregon representing production environments in five states. Three replacement amount treatments will be based on soil-water depletion thresholds. Four EOH varieties will be grown in four replicated plots, and four rows wide and 40’ long. Site characterizations, and plant sampling will be done the same as in 1. Hemp evapotranspiration will be determined in varying environments using modified Eddy Covariance instruments placed in commercial fields growing near water replacement and national variety trial sites. This research will develop the data needed to determine how to grow hemp in ways that complement high-value irrigated crops grown in the western U.S. 3. Determine optimal uses and safety of hemp and hemp byproducts fed to livestock. OSU will determine the THC and CBD residuals in meat and milk, and health and performance of finishing lambs and dairy cows fed hemp byproducts. An alfalfa supplement will be compared to extracted hemp biomass during feeding and after a withdrawal period. Performance will be determined as body weight gain, carcass and meat quality, and fatty acid profiling of test animals. Health of the animals at several time points will be evaluated by analysis of blood parameters related to metabolic, immune, oxidative, and liver status. This research will develop data to inform FDA for the legalization of hemp byproducts as feed for livestock. 4. Determine protocols for optimal sampling of hemp fields and laboratory analyses to accurately reflect THC content at harvest to meet National compliance testing requirements. ARS Peoria, Illinois and OSU, with university and industry partners, will determine the effects of production environments, genetics, phenology, sampling time, and abiotic factors on multiple cannabinoid expression and ratios, and quantify in different plant parts and relate to harvest time. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) for quantifying cannabinoids will be developed to produce consistent compliance testing. This research will provide USDA AMS science-based results to base Hemp National Rule for compliance sampling and testing rules.