Hemp plant in field Hemp plant in field

Hemp Research Consortium Awards Initial Grants

  • Next Generation Crops

WASHINGTON (November 1, 2022) – Today, the Hemp Research Consortium, a public-private partnership to advance science supporting a sustainable hemp industry launched in 2022, announced its first grants to foster hemp research. The Consortium and matching funders are providing a total of $1,119,198 to Cornell University, NC State University and the University of Kentucky to fund projects covering genetic research, breeding techniques, growing conditions and opportunities for animal feed.

People have cultivated hemp for centuries, but we have only had the potential to apply cutting-edge science and technology to research and breeding within the last five years. We now have the potential to expand our knowledge of hemp and its potential by leaps and bounds, and this pioneering research provides great opportunities for breakthroughs.

“These projects represent the first of many collaborative, cross-cutting consortium initiatives to address hemp agronomic challenges and accelerate the industry as a whole,” said Dr. David Suchoff, director of the Hemp Research Consortium and assistant professor at NC State University.

The Consortium is a collaboration between the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR), private industry and research and land-grant universities to advance science supporting a sustainable hemp industry. Until 2017, federal laws restricted hemp growth and research, creating a dearth of research on hemp’s resiliency, economic viability and sustainability. The Consortium fosters public- private partnerships that match every dollar of federal funding from FFAR with at least one dollar of private funding, providing taxpayers with a greater return. This arrangement further benefits private industry by de-risking investment in an emerging crop.

Learn more about the research:

Dr. Jocelyn Rose
Cornell University
Matching Funders: Agilent Technologies, Cornell University

Hemp breeding research is still in its infancy due to the crop’s categorization as a controlled substance until recently, and there is no genome-wide molecular marker system that has gained acceptance in the hemp community as a common and low-cost platform. Cannabis can produce high levels of cannabinoids and terpenes, which help defend against pests and have potential economic, pharmacological and societal value. Mapping the genes in hemp that control the production of these compounds is a critical first step in developing genetic markers that can be used in breeding programs. Rose’s team is using an Agilent Technologies mass spectrometry platform to examine the diversity of cannabinoids and terpenes produced by hemp. They are working in collaboration with Dr. Lawrence Smart of Cornell University, whose group is performing genotypic analysis using the SureSelect system, a gene sequencing technology from Agilent Technologies. This coupled analysis will ultimately assist breeding for defense against herbivores and for compounds with pharmacological and wellness value.

Dr. Lawrence Smart
Cornell University
Matching Funders: Cornell University, The Scotts Company

Prior to 2017, hemp breeding research in the U.S. was restricted, as it was illegal to grow since the 1930s. Hemp is no longer classified as a controlled substance and is now recognized as an agricultural crop, creating vast opportunities for breeding new varieties. Smart’s research is focusing on breeding for traits that help adapt hemp to different regions and growing environments, including outdoor and controlled environments. Top priorities include understanding the genes controlling flowering time, mildew resistance and minor cannabinoid production in hemp. The researchers aim to develop molecular markers for the genes controlling these traits to facilitate breeding.

Dr. Ricardo Hernandez
NC State University
Matching Funder: The Scotts Company

Production of hemp in controlled environments has increased dramatically since its legalization. However, the electricity for lighting cannabis in the U.S. is estimated at $896 million annually. Energy-efficient LED adoption could result in 34 percent energy savings, but there is a lack of scientifically validated information on light intensity and quality for optimal yield and phytochemical—CBD and related cannabinoids—content. Without information on how hemp will respond to LEDs, growers are reluctant to adopt energy efficient lighting or specialized lighting products. Hernandez’s research is focusing on the impact of UV, blue, green, red and far-red light and their interaction for nursery yield, flower yield, phytochemical concentration and profitability. This project will also reveal cannabis’ response to light intensity and provide information on how additional light affects yield and revenue.

Dr. David Suchoff
NC State University
Matching Funders: NC State University, Oregon CBD

Increased field production of grain and fiber hemp results in significant amounts of wind-dispersed pollen. Pollination of floral hemp grown for cannabinoids can result in reduced yield and unmarketable quality due to the presence of seeds, which is unacceptable in smokable flower. Consequently, farmers growing floral hemp require tools to minimize the threat of pollination. Suchoff’s research is studying sterile varieties of hemp for their potential to retain sterility over multiple growing seasons, and gathering data on these varieties’ flowering and harvest, seed production, floral biomass and cannabinoid concentrations. The results of this research will allow better understanding of the use and growth techniques of these hemp varieties.

Dr. David Harmon
University of Kentucky
Matching Funders: International Hemp, University of Kentucky Research Foundation

Hemp grain and fiber have a favorable amino acid profile compared to other grains and excellent omega-3 fatty acid compounds, giving them potential as a feed additive for both companion pets and livestock. However, under current Food and Drug Administration and Center for Veterinary Medicine guidelines, hemp is prohibited for inclusion in the diets of livestock, primarily due to safety concerns of possible THC and other chemical transference to the animals or to humans through meat consumption. Harmon is identifying and organizing previous scientific studies using hemp as animal feed to find knowledge gaps that could identify future research opportunities and develop research goals that could more rapidly lead to federal approval of hemp grain and fiber as feed additives.

Hemp Research Consortium partners include Agilent Technologies, Bast Fibre Tech, BioWorks, Cornell University, FFAR, IND HEMP, International Hemp, National Hemp Growers Cooperative, NC State University, Oregon CBD, The Scotts Company and the University of Kentucky.

Image courtesy of Cornell University.


About the Hemp Research Consortium

The Hemp Research Consortium is a public-private partnership created by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research. The Consortium convenes stakeholders from across the agricultural spectrum to address research, market gaps and advance a sustainable hemp industry.

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