Purdue University scientists have plans to change that with the help of a nearly $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. Kevin Gibson, professor of botany and plant pathology, will lead a team exploring questions related to organic hemp production.
“There’s certainly tremendous interest and tremendous opportunities, but the reality is that this is a crop we haven’t grown on significant acreage for 70 to 80 years,” Gibson said. “The knowledge base to be successful needs to be developed.”
Right now, Robison’s office is advising that hemp cannot be grown commercially until 2020 at the earliest because the USDA has not provided federal rules on growing the crop, and that’s delaying development of state rules. Even so, people are asking his office how they can best protect the crop from pests and disease when they do plant it. The best information he has at the moment is about cinnamon oil and other items the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for all crops.
“Those solutions probably don’t work well, however,” Robison said. “Improving our understanding of organic growing methods is going to be crucial because the large pesticide companies aren’t going to race to develop chemicals for the hemp industry because it will be a drop in the bucket compared to crops like corn and soybeans.”