The Northern Territory government has planted what’s believed to be its first crop of industrial hemp.
According to an ABC report, the crop was planted at Katherine Research Station, the headquarters for the Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries in the Katherine region.
Located 4 km east of Katherine on the Stuart Highway, Katherine Research Station was originally established as a Research Station by CSIRO and then transferred to DPIF control in 1990.
Australian company EcoFibre Industries is supporting the trial and has industrial hemp interests in New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland.
Dr. Ian Biggs, a Senior Research Agronomist at DPIF says the initial aim of the trial is just to establish if industrial hemp will grow in the region.
“Katherine has been chosen because we have some of the equipment and expertise in planting trial crops,” he said.
“And if industrial hemp does grow well here, this will be a good region to use it as a potential break crop in crop-rotation [for local farmers].”
Assuming the hemp does survive, it will take 90 to 120 days for the hemp seed strains and around 150 days for the fibre variety to mature.
The crop is usually grown in more temperate areas. Katherine is 320 kilometres southeast of Darwin and experiences a dry tropical savanna climate. Average annual rainfall at Katherine Research Station is 970mm, most of which falls during the wet season between November and April. The major soil type is a clay loam, water is supplied from three bores and the facility is subdivided into 27 paddocks.
Industrial hemp – unlike its cousin; marijuana – has very little in the way of THC content – the compound that has an intoxicating affect. As such, it has absolutely zero value as a recreational drug. However, industrial hemp is prized for its myriad uses in everything from food to construction materials.
Industrial hemp can also be used as a source of non-intoxicating cannabidiol (CBD); a cannabinoid that appears to be demonstrating significant therapeutic benefits. Very high CBD, low THC strains of industrial hemp are a holy grail of sorts as it makes the cultivation of hemp far more lucrative and beneficial. With THC basically out of the picture, it also means far fewer headaches in relation to regulation and security.