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The First Hemp Harvest At Colorado State Is In The Bag

Brian Campbell, a graduate student at Colorado State University, shows off hemp stalks.

Researchers at Colorado State University have finished harvesting their first legal test plot of industrial hemp, a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis.

This was the first year CSU was able to secure both federal drug permits and bags of seed to carry out hemp experiments. Researchers planted varieties from all over the world inside a university-owned corn field in eastern Larimer County in a bid to see which would grow best in Colorado’s soil and climate.

Because hungry birds can sometimes upset scientific research in the field, the researchers had been taking samples of the plants throughout the summer to see which plants yielded the most seeds or fiber.

The hemp research team culled the plants in late October and had already begun initial data analysis.

The wet, warm weather during the 2015 growing season will undoubtedly influence the results, says the team’s leader, CSU plant geneticist John McKay.

“One year of data is not sufficient to draw conclusions, especially this being one of the wettest summers on record and the delayed frost in the fall,” McKay says.

Hemp is grown for both its strong fibers and oil-rich seeds. Some compounds in the plant may also have medical uses. A group of scientists at the University of Colorado-Boulder are attempting to map the plant’s genome, which could open up hemp to even more precise breeding techniques.

The CSU research team says it needs a few more years of field testing before any sort of seed program would be rolled out to farmers on a large scale.

As KUNC’s managing editor and reporter covering the Colorado River Basin, I dig into stories that show how water issues can both unite and divide communities throughout the Western U.S. I edit and produce feature stories for KUNC and a network of public media stations in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada.
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