Challenges of Growing Industrial Hemp in Louisiana

V. Todd Miller

As a result of the 2018 Farm Bill, there was much interest in Louisiana in growing industrial hemp, so the LSU AgCenter formed a working group to explore this opportunity, according to Gerald O. Myers, professor at the LSU AgCenter School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences.

Since no one had any real experience growing hemp, at least legally in the state, since the 1930s, he and fellow working group colleague, AgCenter chemist Ted Gauthier, joined a multistate project and travelled to Kentucky to learn a few best practices and bring some of that knowledge home.

Myers said there are two types of industrial hemp: essential oils (cannabidiol, or CBD) and hemp for fiber and grain.

Mainly because of CBD, the original numbers on the crop were promising, with some touting growers could make $30,000 to $40,000 per acre. Myers said this has yet to come to fruition.

“It’s organically grown, so there are no labeled herbicides or insecticides,” Myers said. “Therefore, there are a lot of hours devoted to cultivating it in the field, which costs time and money.”

Growing hemp for fiber and grain relies on more temperate weather than Louisiana has, thus there isn’t much history of growing it for that purpose in the Gulf region.

“We just don’t get long enough day lengths like they do in more northern states,” Myers said.

For those interested in growing industrial hemp, Myers said it should be done in tunnel houses or other types of controlled environments because growing it outdoors is difficult.

“We have several graduate students working on projects from date of planting studies to container studies to evaluating different strains and their productivity,” Myers said. “Although the plant is considered a weed, it requires a lot more attention than a weed.”

V. Todd Miller is an assistant communications specialist, LSU AgCenter Communications.

(This article appears in the summer 2021 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

Read "Budding Opportunities for Industrial Hemp in Louisiana."

A tray of hemp plant cuttings.

Research on industrial hemp is being conducted at the LSU AgCenter Plant Materials Center. Photo by Anna Ribbeck

9/4/2021 6:54:22 PM
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