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Will Industrial Hemp Find a Good Fit in Florida Agriculture?

The University of Florida has brought its two-year Industrial Hemp Pilot Project for a landing with guidance that the crop might be a viable commodity for Florida growers in the future, with caution for economic and environmental challenges.

The UF/IFAS-led pilot project began in spring 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 hemp management strategies for Florida, and evaluate the invasion risk of hemp in Florida. This included data from trials around the state with hemp grown at UF/IFAS research sites and private farms.

“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,” says 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.”

According to UF/IFAS, key observations from the pilot project include:

Variety trials across the state show some promising aspects of hemp genetics for grain and flower production in Florida. Key factors impacting genetics that also will determine the success of the crop include planting date, fertility management, and effective pest control. Many varieties exceeded the 0.3% total THC threshold allowable, a concern for Florida growers due to federal and state requirements for crops that exceed the THC limit. Invasiveness does appear to be a potential concern; caution is recommended for growers.

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,” Brym says. “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.”

Click here to review the entire two-year report.

For more information, visit the UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Program website.

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