Industrial Hemp

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Joanna visits with Kevin Lyons, Monroe County Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent to talk about industrial hemp.
Industrial hemp is a versatile plant that can be grown for its fiber, seed, or oil. Hemp fields were once a common sight in Kentucky during the state’s prominence as the leading hemp producer in the U.S. Despite Kentucky’s prior history of production, industrial hemp is basically an untested crop in this state. Local research will be needed to provide specific data on cultural requirements, such as plant spacing and nutritional needs, as well as harvest and processing methods. There is significant interest in using natural fibers such as hemp instead of synthetic fibers for a number of industrial applications. This crop has also generated great interest among pharmaceutical and medical researchers. There are corporate entities in Kentucky investing in infrastructure to purchase hemp fiber from producers and process it into a useable product. Adequate hemp processing facilities will likely be needed in close proximity to potential new producers.
Industrial hemp and marijuana are genetically different cultivars of the same plant species and are distinguished from one another based on their intended use and THC levels. It is impossible to distinguish between the two based solely on physical traits. THC is the main chemical that gives marijuana users their “high.” Marijuana cultivars typically contain more than 3% to 15% THC by weight. If hemp contains over .3% THC it is considered marijuana by law and can’t be marketed. CBD is a cannabinoid that can be harvested from hemp, and is being marketed in many forms. Dozens of cannabinoids are present in hemp, but research on their potential as pharmaceuticals has not yet been conducted. Check the KY Dept. of AG website for information on the permitting process if you want to grow hemp in Kentucky in 2020.
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Warren County Cooperative Extension Service