Purdue hires ‘hemp extension specialist’ to help growers navigate new crop, licensing

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Hemp in all its forms--CBD, fiber, grain--is creating a lot of buzz across Indiana.

In fact, Purdue University recently hired a "hemp extension specialist" to help farmers navigate the licensing and care of this new crop.

"We grew it historically in the United States, but with this huge decades-long gap in production, there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered on how to most effectively grow this crop," Marguerite Bolt said.

Bolt said she will facilitate workshops in the fall and winter to help farmers get started with hemp, understand how to get seeds and the required licensing and how to deal with pests and pathogens.

"There's no pesticide use, so if you have an outbreak of something, it's really hard to manage for that," Bolt explained.

Much like this wet weather is having adverse effects on corn and soybean growers, the same can be said for hemp farmers.

"We see that it doesn't do well in really wet [weather], so when we get all this rainfall, and the soil is really saturated with water, it doesn't do well," Bolt said. "It's not very successful in outcompeting weeds, which in this area, are very good at competing."

In an online article, Bolt said more than 4,000 acres of hemp were planted by licensed farmers in 2019.

"It's still research licenses, so growers that hold licenses this year have an affiliation with a research institution which would be Purdue," Bolt said.

Bolt estimates the number of planted hemp acreage will triple next year. More farmers are also expected to have licenses.

"The hope is that we can get approval by the end of this year, and then part of my position is going to be running workshops in the fall and the winter to help growers figure out where they're going to get their seeds or their clones, depending on what type of hemp they're growing, who they're going to market it to," Bolt said.

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