Researchers already have questions as hemp crop breaks ground in NC

North Carolina is officially in the industrial hemp business, at least the business of developing the best ways to grow it.

WAYNESVILLE, N.C. — North Carolina is officially in the industrial hemp business, at least the business of developing the best ways to grow it, according to WLOS.

The N.C. State Extension Service just planted some of the crop at its Mountain Research Station in Waynesville. It’s an educational effort where the teachers are doing the learning.

North Carolina is officially in the industrial hemp business, at least the business of developing the best ways to grow it.

The N.C. State Extension Service just planted some of the crop at its Mountain Research Station in Waynesville. It’s an educational effort where the teachers are doing the learning.

It’s a simple fact of farming — you need a seed to grow a plant.

“There’s a very limited amount of expertise on production of industrial hemp in North Carolina,” Dr. Jeanine Davis, an N.C. State Extension agent who specializes in specialty crops, said.
Research station superintendent Kaleb Rathbone oversees the pilot program.

“The work that we’re doing here and other research sites will help to determine the fate of this crop in the state, and we’ll have to see if it’s economically viable,” Rathbone said.

There’s about an acre in Waynesville where 15 varieties of hemp have been planted into different plots. Some seeds were dropped into drilled holes, others were scattered about. The crop was planted June 19, and there are already questions.

“It’s all about finding answers out here,” Davis said. “For instance, is this plant flowering too soon because it was planted too late, is this variety not suited to Western North Carolina or is it something else?”

“Hemp is a plant that is very sensitive to its environment, including its day-length, and just those couple of degrees in latitude could make a difference in what varieties work,” she added.

This is Davis’ first experience with industrial hemp, something that had to be permitted by the state, even though she works for the state.

“My program is all about finding ways to keep farming a profitable enterprise in our mountains, and the more new crops that we can look at the better,” Davis said.

With hemp, it’s the hope of developing products for fiber, food and homeopathic medicine.
The research station is where the test work is done for everyone.

“It allows us to make the mistakes on the research station so that a farmer doesn’t make a big investment up front and experience a failure of a crop and lose money on it,” Rathbone said.

After years of waiting, industrial hemp has arrived. Now researchers and farmers are wondering what might come next and when.

“Once we started having hemp legalized in other states, I knew the time would come,” Davis said. “What I’ll really be surprised at is when we’re able to grow recreational hemp in North Carolina. I think we’ve got a ways to go there yet.”

The Mountain Research Station will hold its first field day on Tuesday, July 18. People will get a chance to view the hemp plot, beginning at 2:30 p.m.