Hemp Varieties and Processing Top Challenges for Illinois Farmers

For many, the 2018 Farm Bill was the shot in the arm that American agriculture needed. After years of growing cash crops like soybeans and corn, American farmers were ready for something that would bring in higher profits. Enter hemp, a variety of cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, a high risk, high reward crop that would revitalize American agriculture.

As soon as the bill was passed, states began creating their hemp programs as farmers started cultivating hemp under pilot programs. And after just a year of legality, the hemp sector is worth millions of dollars in sales, and experts predict it will be worth billions by 2024.

However, while farmers all over get into a routine and start making profits, growers in Illinois have been held back by several issues. For instance, farmers have had a hard time finding specific hemp varieties for Illinois fields.

“Currently, there are no Illinois bred varieties. We’re taking genetics from other places and planting them in an area they were not bred for,” says Phillip Alberti, University of Illinois Extension Commercial Agriculture Educator.

“We don’t have plants that can fully optimize our growing conditions,” he says, “and this affects the quality of hemp. The varieties available to licensed Illinois growers are grown in places like Oregon, Colorado, Canada, or the European Union,” he notes. “We’re not sure how they are going to respond here, so we have a lot of work to do to develop breeding programs.”

The state has also been held back by a lack of processing facilities. According to Alberti, there are currently no grain or fiber processing plants in the Midwest. “We are way behind Canada and the European Union that have established companies for processing and manufacturing of hemp, so we’re importing hemp products that are used in clothing,” he says.

Hemp for grain or fiber is more natural for Illinois growers as it uses production systems that most growers are accustomed to. “Growing for CBD or flower production is more like a specialty crop such as vegetables or cut flowers,” says Alberti. This locks farmers out from the CBD market, which brings in more revenue than hemp grain or fiber.

He encourages farmers to plant hemp in highly productive, well-drained fields with low weed pressure, and to pay attention to planting depth. “I saw a 100-acre field get wasted last year because it was planted too deep or before a rain, and the soil crusted over, so the emergence was terrible.”

Experts believe that hemp sector players, such as HTC Extraction Systems (TSX.V: HTC) (OTCQB: HTPRF), see the problems highlighted by Phillip Alberti as the growing pains of a nascent industry and those issues will be resolved as the industry matures.

About HempWire

HempWire (HW) is a dedicated information provider focused on (1) aggregating hemp-related news, (2) issuing HempNewsBreaks designed to update investors on the latest developments in the hemp market, (3) enhancing corporate news releases, (4) providing full-service distribution and social media offerings to public and private client-partners and (5) designing and implementing all-inclusive corporate communication solutions. HW is strategically positioned within the rapidly expanding hemp sector with a team of journalists working to help a growing roster of public and private companies reach a wide audience of investors, consumers and members of the media. We leverage a vast network of more than 5,000 key syndication outlets to deliver unparalleled visibility, recognition and content to the hemp industry. HempWire (HW) is where HEMP news, content and information converge.

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