Hemp has been cultivated for thousands of years. It was grown widely in the United States until the mid-1900s, when laws limited the growth of hemp and later banned it entirely. Since the 2018 Farm Bill removed legal barriers to growing the crop, Louisiana created a structure to regulate hemp farming in 2019.
Because little information existed about hemp in Louisiana, the LSU AgCenter created the Industrial Hemp Working Group to study the crop, create production practices and help growers interested in this ancient plant.
This issue of Louisiana Agriculture focuses on the work of these researchers and the growers who are laying the groundwork for a new hemp industry. Also in this issue, you will find news about the LSU AgCenter and College of Agriculture and a feature on Glen Gentry, who wears many hats at the AgCenter and recently gained attention for his work on lethal baits for feral pigs.
Following legalization of hemp, the LSU AgCenter Industrial Hemp Working Group (IHWG) was established to conduct research, establish production practices and perform extension activities for Louisiana.
Industrial hemp is a relatively new crop, and several producers are interested in establishing an industry around it. However, industrial hemp production comes with some degree of risk.
Once a staple crop grown for fiber, food, oil and other uses, hemp disappeared from American fields for decades until federal law once again permitted its production five years ago. Now, a handful of Louisiana growers and a team of researchers at the LSU AgCenter are working to figure out how this plant fits into the state’s agricultural industry.
Staying compliant in the industrial hemp industry in Louisiana can be difficult. The U.S. Department of Agriculture established a national framework for hemp production in the 2018 Farm Bill, but Louisiana has an evolving set of rules and regulations from multiple agencies that farmers, processors, transporters and retailers need to obey.
Jeff A. Davis and Nathan Arey
A survey of hemp farmers determined one of the most challenging aspects of production was the lack of information on the efficacy of currently labeled hemp insecticides. Of particular concern for hemp producers are insects that consume floral buds and defoliate fan leaves.
When industrial hemp was first introduced into Louisiana, the crop succumbed to several plant pathogens. The top three high impact diseases of industrial hemp in Louisiana — Lasiodiplodia stem canker, Phytopythium root and crown rot and southern blight — impeded industrial hemp cultivation in the state.
Syam Dodla, Ron Strahan and Peters Egbedi
Industrial hemp is grown for seed and biomass as well as its cellulose-rich bast fibers, which are strong, soft fibers from the phloem. Hemp fibers, which have low density and high strength and stiffness, help in alleviating environmental pollution by replacing synthetic fibers.
As many American states started growing hemp, cultivars from Europe were used since conditions in the northern region of the U.S. are similar to Europe. However, there is no information on any of these cultivars’ suitability to the hot and humid conditions of the South. LSU AgCenter researchers evaluated some of the grain and fiber lines of hemp at research stations in the summer of 2022.
Kathryn Fontenot and Kaylee Deynzer
Nine cultivars of essential oil-type hemp were grown using organic practices, including organic weed and pest control, at the AgCenter Doyle Chambers Central Research Station in Baton Rouge during 2020 and 2021.
Samuel des Bordes and Heather Kirk-Ballard
Hemp growers have faced challenges and look to the future for promising opportunities in the production of this specialty crop. Producers and researchers have used a variety of growing practices and faced several challenges. LSU AgCenter researchers are making recommendations for future growing practices for Louisiana hemp farmers.
Heather Kirk-Ballard and Samuel des Bordes
Trichomes, tiny, hairlike structures found on the surface of cannabis plants, have a vital role in assessing the maturity and quality of cannabis, especially for the production of cannabinoids, and they have an important role in shaping the future of cannabis production.
Growing up in India, Babitha Jampala’s father fondly remembered his family farm. That, plus her interest in science, led her to agriculture and plant breeding.
Glen Gentry always wanted to run a ranch. He found a home at the AgCenter Bob R. Jones-Idlewild Research Station near Clinton. He says it’s the prettiest research station in the AgCenter system.