A “ditch weed” research project aims to find industrial hemp varieties that could be utilised by farmers in the U.S. state of Illinois.
While industrial hemp may have been illegal in the USA for many years – a situation that has now changed – given the proliferation of the crop prior to prohibition, feral hemp is quite common in many states.
Also known as ditch weed, this wild hemp had no recreational value, but was the target of costly and ineffective DEA eradication action for years. With hemp now no longer illegal in the USA, the race is on to develop or find the best strains for particular regions. However, these strains may already exist in the form of ditch weed varieties that have evolved over generations in a local area.
Western Illinois University School of Agriculture Professor Win Phippen is on the prowl this summer to locate these plants and evaluate them.
A grant from the University Research Council, funded by the WIU Foundation, is supporting the work involving Professor Phippen aiming to take cuttings from three to five plants in each county. These cuttings will be planted and studied at the new School of Agriculture greenhouses, north of the University’s campus.
An important aspect to be scrutinised are THC levels. All industrial hemp grown in Illinois must contain no more than 0.3% THC.
“We will grow the plants and collect the seed, then make the ‘clean’ seed available to producers looking for seed from ideal Illinois growing conditions,” said Professor Phippen.
Professor Phippen is asking WIU alumni to help him in his work by relaying the locations of wild hemp they might find. Those who refer the professor to wild low THC plants will be able to name the seed variety.
Illinois’ Industrial Hemp Act, Senate Bill 2298, was signed into law in August last year; prior to the passing of the federal 2018 Farm Bill that saw hemp legalised and classified as an agricultural crop nationally.
The return of industrial hemp has Illinois farmers excited. The state’s Department of Agriculture began accepting applications from prospective industrial hemp growers and processors back in late April and within the first couple of days, 350 applications were lodged.