Nav: Home

Growing industrial hemp in eastern Canada: A new frontier

October 19, 2016

What if there was one crop that could produce a variety of really useful products? Growing this crop would probably seem like a no-brainer. Unless this crop is industrial hemp.

Industrial hemp, one variety of the plant Cannabis sativa, can produce a wide variety of products. However, because hemp is a relative to marijuana, growing the crop is still illegal in many countries.

In Canada, growing industrial hemp was legalized in 1998. Eighteen years later, producers still face many challenges. Farmers first have to get a license from the government to grow hemp. Then they can only plant the seeds of specific cultivars, or types, of hemp. These specific cultivars have been approved by the Canadian government because they contain minimal amounts of THC. (THC is the psychoactive component found in marijuana.) Finally, farmers in eastern Canada face an additional challenge because very little is known about how to grow hemp in eastern Canada.

Industrial hemp grows best in drier soil conditions, like those in western Canada. Farmers know which cultivars grow best in the west. But they don't know which of the 45 approved cultivars are best suited for growing in the wetter conditions of the east. These farmers often have to rely on consulting with other local producers and trial and error.

Coming to the aid of eastern Canadian hemp producers is Philippe Seguin, associate professor at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Seguin wants to help farmers in eastern Canada learn more about which hemp cultivars work best in their environment.

He and his team of researchers selected 11 cultivars and planted them in seven different environments in Quebec. Seguin kept detailed records of when the seeds were planted and how much fertilizer was used. The plants were then harvested, and the amounts of biomass and seeds produced were measured. Biomass is the plant material that is used for making textiles, insulating materials, and other fiber products. The hemp seeds are used for food products and as a source of oil.

The researchers discovered the amounts of biomass and seeds the cultivars produced varied in the different environments. They also found the cultivars performed differently in eastern Canada than they do in western Canada. Some cultivars performed consistently across the environments in Quebec. It means some of the cultivars can adapt to conditions in the east. "This finding is promising for local producers," Seguin notes.

The cultivars that appear to be best suited for growing in eastern Canada include Ferimon, Anka, and Jutta. Seguin found that these cultivars consistently produced high yields of both biomass and seeds. These cultivars have the potential to produce moderate amounts of biomass compared to western Canada. He also found that these cultivars may have the potential to produce high amounts of seeds compared to western Canada.

Even with these discoveries, there is still plenty to learn about growing hemp in eastern Canada. Research can now look at specific recommendations for growing hemp in eastern Canada: the best times to plant the seeds, how much fertilizer to use, and the best times to harvest. And there are still other environments within eastern Canada to explore. Cultivars specifically for the environments of eastern Canada are needed.

Overall, Seguin is optimistic. "Unlike many 'new' crops, industrial hemp has demonstrated its potential in the past; it only remains to be 'rediscovered.'"

With the help of Seguin and his team, farmers will be able to rediscover industrial hemp in this new frontier of eastern Canada.

Read more about Seguin's research in Agronomy Journal.
-end-


American Society of Agronomy

Related Biomass Articles:

Ecology insights improve plant biomass degradation by microorganisms
Microbes are widely used to break down plant biomass into sugars, which can be used as sustainable building blocks for novel biocompounds.
Termite gut holds a secret to breaking down plant biomass
In the Microbial Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the incredibly efficient eating habits of a fungus-cultivating termite are surprising even to those well acquainted with the insect's natural gift for turning wood to dust.
Scientists harness solar power to produce clean hydrogen from biomass
A team of scientists at the University of Cambridge has developed a way of using solar power to generate a fuel that is both sustainable and relatively cheap to produce.
How much biomass grows in the savannah?
The ability of the savannahs to store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is ultimately determined by the amount of aboveground woody biomass.
Economics of forest biomass raise hurdles for rural development
The use of residual forest biomass for rural development faces significant economic hurdles that make it unlikely to be a source of jobs in the near future, according to an analysis by economists.
Biomass heating could get a 'green' boost with the help of fungi
In colder weather, people have long been warming up around campfires and woodstoves.
Unraveling the science behind biomass breakdown
Using the Titan supercomputer, an ORNL team created models of up to 330,000 atoms that led to the discovery of a THF-water cosolvent phase separation on the faces of crystalline cellulose fiber.
US holds potential to produce billion tons of biomass, support bioeconomy
The 2016 Billion-Ton Report, jointly released by the US Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, concludes that the United States has the potential to sustainably produce at least 1 billion dry tons of nonfood biomass resources annually by 2040.
Improving poor soil with burned up biomass
Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan have shown that torrefied biomass can improve the quality of poor soil found in arid regions.
Women cooking with biomass fuels more likely to have cataracts
Women in India who cook using fuels such as wood, crop residues and dried dung instead of cleaner fuels are more likely to have visually impairing nuclear cataracts, according to a new study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Related Biomass Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...