CSU to plant hemp seeds, begin hemp research

The 2014 Farm Bill, which allows states with legal cannabis to perform research on industrial hemp, has opened the door for Colorado State University to study the plant.

As CSU begins research on hemp, bean stalks in the University Greenhouse have more room to flourish because the hemp seeds will be planted outside in open field. (Photo credit: Zane Watson)
As CSU begins research on hemp, bean stalks in the University Greenhouse have more room to flourish because the hemp seeds will be planted outside in open field. (Photo credit: Zane Watson)

Industrial hemp is defined by the state of Colorado and the Farm Bill as Cannabis sativa L. The plant must contain an average delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of 0.3 percent or less, on a dry weight basis.

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According to Mark Wdowick, assistant vice president for CSU’s Research and Industry Partnerships, the University is considering hemp cultivation studies, and plans to plant hemp seeds in the summer of 2015.

CSU plans to collaborate with CU and the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) for the hemp research. The Colorado Research for Novel Translational Applications, or CoHeReNT will oversee this research.

Jessica Prenni, director for the Proteomics and Metabolomics Facility at CSU, acts as co-director for the program along with John McKay, associate professor in Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management.

“(CoHeReNT) is meant to be an organizational framework to promote research at CSU and CU and create market application for results,” Prenni said.

Due to the classification of hemp as a Schedule 1 drug, proper licensing through the Drug Enforcement Administration is required for obtaining seeds.

According to Prenni, the CDA is working closely with CoHeReNT to acquire these seeds.

“(We’re) still working on exactly who will provide the seed,” McKay wrote in an email to the Collegian.

McKay will work hands on with the planned studies of the plants. Unlike most plants grown in the University Greenhouse, he said the hemp will be grown in fields. However, sites are still undetermined.

Growing the plants outside will leave them exposed to many insects, which could lead to potential destruction of the plants and respective research. Currently there are no pesticides registered for the use of hemp, according to the CDA website.

Due to the potential crop damage, the CDA is working on rules that abide by state and federal laws on the use and labeling of pesticides. However, these rules will limit the amount of usable pesticides.

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According to McKay, the studies on hemp present many questions that could potentially factor into commercialization and economic growth for the state of Colorado.

While benefiting through commercial and economic growth, Wdowick wrote that CSU aims to benefit from research in knowledge, new products and services, new job creation and many other factors.

Colorado is on the brink of many possible studies that can lead to growth in many areas all across the state.

“Because our state was among the first to legalize hemp research, we have a first mover advantage that we can take advantage of, if the universities make it a priority,” McKay wrote.

Collegian Green Beat Reporter Zane Watson can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @zanerwatson