By Dr. Mary Helen Ferguson
There has been a good bit of interest in the topic of industrial hemp since the 2018 Farm Bill cleared the path for US states to allow commercial hemp production.
Like marijuana, industrial hemp is produced from plants in the Cannabis genus, including Cannabis sativa and other species. The difference lies in the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. Under US law, industrial hemp is required to have a THC content of 0.3% or less, on a dry weight basis. If plants grown for industrial hemp exceed the level 0.3% THC threshold, they are not allowed to be sold and must be destroyed under governmental supervision.
Industrial hemp can be used for several different purposes. A lot of the current interest is in production for cannabidiol (CBD) oil. This comes specifically from unfertilized (not pollinated) female flowers of the hemp plant. Hemp can also be grown for fiber (which comes from the stem), for grain, or for seed to sell to others who grow hemp.
Earlier last year, Louisiana passed a bill that provided for the development of an industrial hemp program, administered by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF). The US Department of Agriculture approved Louisiana’s plan on December 23, 2019. LDAF held a series of informational meetings about the new hemp rules and regulations. These rules and regulations are found on the LDAF’s hemp website. A recording of one of the hemp informational meetings is also included on the website. If you would like to be included on the LDAF hemp email list send an email to email@example.com and request to be added to the list.
Individuals must have a license before obtaining hemp seeds or vegetative planting materials. There will be a cost for a license to grow, process, or transport hemp, as well as for the required THC testing. Under the proposed rule, LDAF must collect a sample from each hemp field or variety to test the THC content within 15 days of harvest, before the crop can be sold.
There are several potentially significant challenges to industrial hemp production, besides the need to make sure that THC levels do not exceed the 0.3% threshold.
One potential challenge is the market. Once farmers in most or all US states are allowed to grow hemp, the supply of hemp may exceed the demand. Even if market demand is high, prospective growers are advised to have a buyer lined up before planting. Growers need to do what they can to ensure that they will have a place to sell the crop, particularly if growing for CBD oil or fiber, which require processing facilities. Also, the buyer may have specifications to which the grower needs to adhere, in addition to what state regulations require. Contractual agreements should be reviewed carefully by prospective growers.
Another challenge is that there are very few pesticides (fungicides, insecticides, herbicides, etc.) currently labeled for use on hemp, and there are a number of potential disease, insect/mite, and weed issues. Our humid, high rainfall climate is particularly conducive to plant disease and weed problems.
Also, obtaining suitable seeds or vegetative planting materials may be challenging, and those growing for CBD oil have to make sure that all male plants are removed from the field and the area surrounding the field, since pollinated flowers are no longer suitable for CBD oil processing.
To learn more about industrial hemp production and economics, visit the LSU AgCenter’s Industrial Hemp website. To learn more about the licensing process, as well as sources of planting materials, see LDAF’s Industrial Hemp website.
Dr. Mary Helen Ferguson is an Associate Extension Agent with the LSU AgCenter, with horticulture responsibilities in Washington and Tangipahoa Parishes.
The great azalea bloom is almost over and now is the time to think about pruning your azaleas. Azaleas do not need yearly pruning, in fact, they don’t need pruning at all unless you are trying to control their size. If you have an unruly azalea, the best time to prune is right after their spring bloom. Azaleas will start forming their flower buds for next year during the summer, which is why it is critical to prune between April and May. If you wait any later, you may not have flowers next year. If you have an azalea variety that blooms multiple times per year, prune it after its spring bloom period
Have a plan before you prune your azalea. Do you have a desired shape or space it needs to fit in? Prune so that it will fit your desired goal and don’t touch it again until next spring. I find the most beautiful plants are those that have minimal alterations. If you must prune, always use sharp, clean pruners to do the job.
While you are pruning, be sure to remove any vines or small trees that have started to grow inside your azalea. You can kill vines and trees by snipping them and painting their stumps with a product containing triclopyr (Bush and Stump Killer). This will kill the offender without killing your shrub.
The Leaflet is a newsletter for horticulturists. It is published three times per year. To subscribe to this publication please email Jessie Hoover at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessie Hoover is a County Agent with the LSU AgCenter covering horticulture in East Feliciana, West Feliciana, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes. For more information on these or related topics contact Jessie at 225-683-3101 or visit the LSU AgCenter website.