Industrial hemp agronomics


Moderator: Dr. David Williams has been so
gracious, very responsive, a lot of great information. Like I said, our two states aren’t exactly
the same, so while we really appreciate the information from Dr. Williams, we’re going
to have to see how that plays out here in Wisconsin. Please don’t anybody get angry at Dr. Williams
or myself by saying, “Well, he said this and that.” Take it is as a grain of salt. This is research that’s been done in Kentucky. Great research, solid research. Feel free if you want papers or things like
that after, come see me. But, again, hopefully … Disclaimer, don’t yell at Dr. Williams because
we’re in Wisconsin. It’s not exactly like Kentucky. Right, Dr. Williams? David: Yeah. Yeah, pretty much, but some of the information
I’ll present today is going to be reasonably universal. For one reason, it didn’t come from the United
States. It’s been derived from scientists in the European
Union or, perhaps, Canada. We’re in the process of corroborating some
of that information, but I think it can be generally considered useful no matter what. That’s a great segue, Liz. Thank you for inviting me to participate,
today. A great segue into the fact that I can see,
or could a minute ago, some of the audience and it looks like maybe there are a few of
you there that are of about my generation, not too far from retirement. So, you may be as pragmatic as I am. David: I’m not a cheerleader for hemp, moving
forward, but it’s exciting. It’s been a lot of fun working with it, but
I tend to be very pragmatic, very practical, and I think you’ll see that that’s exactly
the case as we move forward here today with this presentation. I’ll note too that both Jennifer and Larry
have done a fantastic job and have presented a little bit of information that I have, so
I can fly through that pretty quickly. David: I can’t know who’s there today and
who’s not, and what your level of information is, so just a few introductory slide here. It is exactly the same species of plant as
marijuana. There are no differences except for the biochemistry. You can’t look at them and tell the difference. You can’t smell them and tell the difference. I have been to dispensaries in states where
recreational cannabis is legal, and it does smell, essentially, exactly like the cured
buds from our CBD crops. Except for the ultimate THC concentration,
there really is no difference. David: This is a photo of our 2014 plot, or
one of them. I’ll just note, then, how odd it is to me
to this very day to bring a pair of bypass pruners and harvest this about this point,
then put it in a paper bag, and take it to the laboratory for further work. It’s very strange to me that this has become
legal. But, at the same time, it’s been a lot of
fun. David: No other work that we’ve done at the
University of Kentucky, and I would offer at any other land grant either, has solicited
the level of interest from a broad, diverse group of people, including the Senate majority
leader, Senator McConnell, which was clearly very key in inserting the Hemp Farming Act
language into the 2018 Farm Bill, but was also, of course, active earlier on, too, in
2014. David: Our Commissioner of Agriculture, James
Comer, grasped this opportunity in 2014, extremely aggressively. Our current commissioner, Ryan Quarles, continues
that same protocol. That’s really, I would offer, the main reason
that Kentucky has advanced in the industry as it has is through, what I would consider,
very efficient and productive management of a very complex situation. That’s entirely due to the Kentucky Department
of Agriculture. David: We continue to have great support from
the College of Ag. Here at UK, that’s our dean, and that’s out
university president. I’ll just note quickly that this was very
close to a Field Day that we had at UK. As far as I know, never has the Senate majority
leader or the president of the university attended a Corn Field Day at the same farm,
which is just back in this direction a little bit. We do have interest in this crop that’s much
more diverse and serious than we’ve ever experienced with some other plants. David: A brief history. It’s not native to the United States or North
America. Native to China, essentially, where it’s been
propagated for thousands of years, and in some areas of China, uninhibited over that
period of time. I’ll talk a little bit more about that later. Jennifer kind of gave a little history, too. It was one of the main textile fibers until
about the mid 1800s. But when slavery ended with emancipation,
hemp was then, and continues to be today, in some cases, a very labor intensive or tedious,
crop. And so, when slavery ended, hemp became far
less profitable. At the same time, cotton was on the upswing,
so it was competing in some fiber applications with cotton and also was very labor intensive. So, it kind of just went away. David: The federal Marihuana Tax Act, was
in 1938, did not make hemp illegal, but made it very impractical to grow. And as Jennifer noted earlier, it did become
illegal in 1970 with the Controlled Substance Act. It is a summer annual, if you haven’t grown
it before, so you are planting in spring and culturing the crop during the summertime,
and harvesting sometime late summer or autumn. I’ll talk a little bit more about that. We do have both dioecious and monoecious lines. I’m not going to call them varieties. Well, there are varieties from the European
Union and varieties from Canada, but, as has already been noted by Jennifer, there are
no certified seed sources or certified varieties for the high CBD lines yet. David: Dioecious means you have boy plants
and girl plants, males and females. Monoecious means that both male and female
flower parts occur on the same plant. For instance, if we’re interested in grain
production, it could potentially, it’s not been fully proven in all applications, but
could potentially be advantageous to have seed on every plant, instead of having seed
of only 52% of female plants in dioecious crop. That’s under study. David: It’s been previously noted that cannabis
does exhibit a strong photoperiodic response to flowering. We had a couple of questions earlier on, and
I’ll try to remember to talk more about this later, too. It is entirely variety specific as to the
most appropriate planting date based on the latitude at which the crop will be grown,
and the latitude from which the germplasm originated. David: I’ll give you a quick, easy example. A very popular grain variety, Finola, is from
Finland, and in very northern latitude. When we grow that crop in Kentucky, we can’t
make much biomass no matter when we plant because our days are just not long enough
to support vegetative growth prior to reproductive growth, or flowering commencing, is a really
good example. David: We have some issues with some Canadian
varieties in Kentucky as well. However, in Wisconsin, clearly, you’re fairly
far north from Kentucky, and so you would probably experience more success with some
of those varieties than we’re able to here. But big, big differences among varieties and
their photoperiod response. That requires a fair amount of research to
understand the relationship between photoperiod and planting date to achieve optimum yields
of what you’re growing for. David: Now, within hemp, we have giant phenotypical
differences. I don’t think that’s a big surprise, but some
of the fiber type varieties when planted in high plant densities, and not unlike the feral
hemp that Jennifer referred to, looks more like bamboo or corn; lots of tall plants side
by side compared to some of the other lines that are grown just for CBD, definitely look
more like little Christmas trees or, perhaps, even tomato plants, than they do what you
and I might call hemp. I guess, thankfully, if you want to look at
it that way, there are large biochemical differences among the genotypes, too. David: The three major components that we
would harvest from hemp, and Jennifer touched on these, fiber, grain, and cannabinoids. We’ll go through this very quickly. For fiber, we’re talking about two potential
sources here. The long fibers we referred to as bast, B-A-S-T
fibers. That is actually the phloem of the plant,
or these long fibers here, or the hurd fibers, which is actually what you might call the
woody core. It’s actually the xylem of the stem. I’m going to throw in some personal opinion
here. Of all of the components that we might derive
from hemp, I am as much or more excited about the potential for natural fibers than I am
any of the other harvestable components. The main reason for that is, well, two-fold
I suppose. It’s not near as complicated as cannabinoids
from a regulatory perspective. But then, secondarily, so much of what we
use today in our everyday lives contains fibers. David: Almost all of that fiber today is synthetic,
and there is a strong movement within many facets of many industries to incorporate natural
fibers in replacement of synthetic fibers. The potential for that industry is just mind-boggling
that it’s so large. I’m really, really excited about that potential. David: Okay, a little bit of agronomy. If we’re growing for fiber, we really only
care about vegetative growth. We’re going to harvest this crop at flowering,
and so we’re not interested in … All we’ll want is lots of stems, and we want
them to be not too large in diameter, and we want them to be all the same diameter. That makes harvesting and retting more uniform,
and it definitely makes processing of the hemp stems much simpler, or less expensive,
I guess you could say. Growing for fiber, only vegetative growth. You definitely need to select a variety that
will not flower until the very end of your growing season. That’s key to success. David: Basically, we’re going to plant as
early in the year as we can to achieve that maximum biomass production. But we have done some work that, I don’t think
I have those slides today, but we can plant a little later, say maybe June, and still
achieve about 3/5 of the yield that we might want or need. David: We’re not going to use too much fertilizer,
especially nitrogen, for a fiber crop. Nitrogen, as everyone knows, makes plants
grow tall fast. While that might seem, on the surface, good,
it also makes cell walls thinner when it’s applied at high rates. Fiber quality is a pure function of cell walls,
so if we have cell walls that are too thin resulting from too much nitrogen fertilizer,
we’re going to have a lower quality crop, and so not as marketable. So we’re talking about 50 units or so per
year, not per acre, of nitrogen. David: Harvesting can be kind of a problem. We’re using standard hay equipment and mostly
successfully, but there’s certain types of balers, certain makes and models both, of
balers tend to have fewer problems than others. We’re working, but research on all kinds of
different harvest technologies, billeting, for example, where we don’t have these 12
of 15-foot long stems to try to tech or rake with hay equipment. It’s going to advance very quickly, I think. Today, we’re doing okay with standard hay
equipment, but it’s not always problem-free. David: I want to make a big deal out of retting. Retting is the process by which we allow microbes,
mostly bacteria we’ve discovered with some work here at UK, to dissolve this pectin layer,
which is kind of like a glue that exists between the interior woody core, and the exterior
or outside longer fibers. So we’ve laid this crop in the field. This photo is a research plot scale situation. This is also research, but it’s production-scale
work. So we’re laying the crop in the field, allowing
this microbial degradation of this layer to occur, and once that occurs, we need to rake
the crop, dry it to available percentage of moisture, which around 20% or less before
we can bale that safely and stop microbial activity, and then get the crop up quickly
and keep it dry until it’s processed to halt any further retting. David: So if you haven’t already noticed,
retting is probably another word for rotting, R-O-T-T-I-N-G. It is, essentially, rotting through a microbial
process to a very, very precise point where those exterior fibers are easily separated
mechanically from the interior fibers. So, very quickly, retting will absolutely
make or break the success of a fiber crop. If it’s under retted, it’s not processable
or it has to be run through processing more than once, which doubles the expense. Not a very marketable crop. And, clearly if it’s over retted, you’re going
to have a reduced quality of fibers and, again, a not very marketable crop or sellable crop. David: It’s not clearly the same as making
good hay. However, I’m going to offer that the way we
think about retting is similar to making high-quality hay. There’s one day that hay quality is optimal,
and the processes we use to achieve that are slightly different than retting hemp, but
we all know that if we take the hay out before that day, or certainly after that day, that
we don’t have an optimal crop. And this same exact method of thinking will
be surrounding retting of hemp of fiber. There will be one day when that crop is ready
to get up and that’s definitely the day we want to get the rake on it and get it wind-rode
and dry enough to bale up, so you might keep that in mind. David: Processing clearly is key to success. We do have an industrial-scale processor. As far as I know, the only one in North America
right now in Louisville, Kentucky that contracts for several acres and counties surrounding
Louisville. David: Okay, so hemp for food and, again,
we’re not talking about animal food yet, but we probably will be in the not-to-distant
future. But all different kinds of products that the
seed can be used for to produce food and this is not necessarily new. You can buy hemp foods today in Wisconsin
and in Kentucky, and it’s almost entirely imported from Canada. Our neighbors have been very successfully
producing hemp food products for almost 20 years now and they have a serious headstart
in that share of the market or that space and it will be, at some level, difficult to
compete with them. They’re very, very productive farmers and
they have a strong agronomic science background, but it’ll be up to us to see how that competition
goes. David: Now, if we’re going for grain, we’re
talking about different varieties than what we’re growing for fiber. And, again, it’s extremely important to understand
the relationship between latitude of origin, latitude of culture of the crop, and the planting
date. It’s very easy to plant a green crop too early
and end up with, making up a number, a 10′ tall grain crop. That means you’re going to be processing through
your combine way too much biomass. David: A dear friend of mine said they grew
it for rope for a reason. That biomass will wrap around parts of your
combine that you never dreamed it could and will start fires. It’s not uncommon to see fires, so we don’t
want the stems. We only want the flowers with the grain, so
planting date will define how tall that crop is at maturity. And that’s, again, totally dependent upon
the latitude of origin and the latitude of where you’re growing the crop, so you have
to pay attention to that to have a harvestable crop. David: If we’re going for grain, we need more
nitrogen, pretty much like corn. In our part of the world, I’m not sure about
Wisconsin, we’re talking about 150 units of nitrogen probably in some kind of a split
application. We are talking about a drilled crop. We have had people using planters, equally
successfully. So, again, it’s just a grain crop, so we are
talking about more nitrogen. David: Harvesting is kind of tricky. We say 75% but, basically, the bottom of the
flower matures first, the top of the flower last, and so the seed, at bottom, will be
more mature than the seed at the top. When you harvest, basically, what we’ve been
thinking is that as soon as you see shattering at the bottom of the flower, it’s time to
go ahead and get the crop up. If you wait much longer than that, you lose
an awful lot of seed. The flower’s certainly larger at the base
than it is at the top, so we don’t want to leave a lot of that on the ground. David: I will note, if you’re a dove hunter,
it’s the best dove crop on the planet. All birds love hemp grain. All species, large and small, and that does
include doves. David: A big deal about hemp grain, you have
to dry it immediately. It’s about 30 plus percent oil and the physical
chemical makeup of the oil lends it to rapidly spoiling, so you have to get that seed dry
very, very quickly, essentially, immediately. And a lot of the work in Europe, they actually
use gas-fired blowers on the wagon, so they start drying in the field even before they
get it in the bin. David: I’ll mention dual-purpose crops very
quickly. There’s a lot of theoretical interest and
I think maybe, ultimately, serious interest, but where we might harvest the grain first
and then, subsequently, come back and harvest the remaining straw or stems for the fiber. But we need to note quickly that the applications
for fiber, from a dual-purpose crop, will probably be different than they are for a
dedicated-fiber crop and that’s because of the production of lignin, which is a natural
occurrence in all plants, but certainly in hemp, as well, that strengthens that stem. As it becomes reproductive and makes the seed
at the top, it needs to be stronger so it has less tendency to lodge. And so lignified fiber’s going to have different
applications than dedicated fiber crop will. David: Harvesting with standard combines,
again, it’s just like with the hay equipment and fiber. There’s going to be some tweaking involved. Our neighbors to the north do this very successfully
and so, I have no doubt in my mind that farmers in Wisconsin will very quickly do the same
if there is a market for that. Clearly, you have to have a processor. Right? Somewhere close by, and I’ll talk about economics
here in just a minute to explain that a little more. David: Cannabinoids, right? So that’s, I’m guessing, what most folks in
Wisconsin are interested in. It’s clearly the case in Kentucky and, as
far as I know, all over the country. I won’t spend a huge amount of time, but I
will note that it’s mostly genetically controlled, and then environmentally controlled, as well. But it’s mostly a function of genetics, and
genetics in which these two enzymes predominates within a particular genotype of cannabis. The same precursor molecule, or molecule that
leads to CBD, it’s the same precursor molecule that leads to THC. You can see in this graphic that they are
extremely similar molecules, very, very similar. So this is the only difference between hemp
and marijuana, which of these two enzymes predominates. Again, that’s mostly genetically controlled. David: I’ll note that Larry …
It’s exactly the same in Kentucky, .39999, so less than .4% is, essentially, what defines
marijuana from industrial hemp. David: Very quickly, and I’m not a lawyer
like Larry, but I do want to provide a little background. So back in 2016, the federal agencies, including
the USDA, DEA, and FDA, issued this joint statement on principles for industrial hemp
and just stated clearly that they considered all cannabinoids to be schedule I controlled
substances. And didn’t mince any words about that. Just last year, in June, the FDA Commissioner
Dr. Gottlieb released this statement that pretty
much opined the importance of clinical research, which has been referred to already, and of
course this word refers to both what we call hemp and what we call marijuana. At this point in time, they didn’t differentiate
between hemp and marijuana in their definition. But this is important because, as Larry mentioned
and I’ll have a little, brief talk about that, the FDA did release did release a post-Farm
Bill statement, as well. David: Then, we had the reclassification of
Epidiolex on the 28th of September of just last year. During that process, the USDEA moved Epidiolex
from schedule I to schedule V controlled substances, which are still available by prescription
only. Not available over the counter, this is very
important. Then, they noted further within their reclassification
statement that, as far as they were concerned, all other cannabinoids were still schedule
I. But that is those that fall within the CSA
definition of marijuana, which as Jennifer noted, industrial hemp derived CBD does not
fall in that definition anymore. David: However, it’s still rather ambiguous. It’s not crystal clear what’s legal and what’s
not. That’s already been established in this meeting
today. And so, if you want to take a photo of this
quickly, you can google this and read it yourself. But this was released, as Larry noted, on
the 20th of December and exactly on the same day that the Farm Bill was signed into law. Again, Dr.
Gottlieb, as Larry’s already noted, mentioned that it is the FDA’s intention to begin clinical
work with the cannabinoids and start the process of evaluating under what regulatory framework
they will exist in the United States. All of that, today, is just unknown. But basically, on a federal level, they’re
still illegal. David: Then, across the United States, Kentucky’s
a great example, cannabinoids are fully legal in Kentucky by virtue of state law, like recreational
cannabis is legal in Colorado and Oregon and other states. So it just depends on where you live. But, in my opinion, it’s important that the
FDA is indicating their intention to move forward with this and, especially, their intention
to move forward with some clinical research. The bottom line, we don’t know what the ultimate
legal status or, I think maybe more importantly, the regulatory framework will be around cannabinoids. And I’m going to offer, I don’t know if it’ll
be new thinking, I doubt it, but also the production models that are currently be used
for cannaboid production, I’m not sure how sustainable some of that is. We’ll talk a little bit more about that, but
Larry noted that there is a market and it’s true in Kentucky, too, for dried and cured
buds of hemp for the ingestion of CBD. David: If we’re talking about buds being the
harvestable component, then the current production models, which generally are more similar to
say tomato production or, in our part of the world, often tobacco production, then that’s
going to be an appropriate production model. But if the molecule is the harvestable component
of interest, I don’t have time today, but I could show you some simple mathematics that
would clearly support that a drilled model or a row-cropped model would produce far more
molecule per acre, even though it’s been pollinated …
excuse me … than any space plant model would, if the genetics
are the same or the genetic potential for CBD production are the same. We’ll talk a little bit more about that. David: So here’s the biggest disappointment
of the day, or at least I think it will be for you. There’s really just no replicated work globally,
not just in the United States, but globally on cannaboid production. Basically, all that we know, or think we know,
today is derived, anecdotally, from marijuana production system. So this space plant, female clone, no pollination
production system is just how they’ve always grown marijuana and since we don’t know any
better, that’s what we’re doing with hemp and CBD. David: Again, if the bud is the harvestable
component of interest, that’s totally appropriate and will remain the main production model. But if it is a molecule that we’re interested
in, kind of like nicotine in tobacco for example, we can definitely produce more molecule with
different production models. We’ll talk a little bit more about that. David: I had a little bit of data that we’ve
derived from other countries, from Europe and Canada, from replicated scientific trials
for agronomy parameters for fiber and grain, but every single one of these has nothing
but a question mark behind it. So, again, there’s just no replicated scientific-based
research on cannabinoid production. It’s moving forward. It’s hard to pay for. It’s very expensive. And it’s a little complicated with the unknown
ultimate regulatory framework from the federal government. For a land grant to hop in doing work with
a molecule the federal government considers illegal is slightly problematic, and so it’s
not crystal clear. It’s kind of gray, but I know for sure there
are some replicated studies moving forward. David: This slide simply indicates the phenotypic
differences among varieties. I mean, if you have a nice, dense, large bud,
any particular variety like that and you have about 160,000 of those per acre, even if it
has seed in it, I think you could make a lot of cannabinoids from that. Compared to maybe one like this that matured
on the same day, so the variety selection is key to success. David: Somebody asked about some prices, so
these are data from 2017 and include a little bit of prices per pound. The grain price on this slide is slightly
inflated with certified seed production, which is about twice what grain production or the
value of grain is. Grain, today, is about 80 cents a pound. It can be as low as 70 cents per pound. And we’d like to have about 1,000 pounds per
acre, and you can see that’s not what we’re getting all across Kentucky in 2017. David: Fiber, this is probably inflated a
little bit from what I’m going to call an artisan part of the industry where if you’re
making fabric from hemp fiber, that’s vastly different in value from industrial-type applications. So the vast majority of production today is
for industrial applications, at least in Kentucky, and the value of that ranges between six and
eight cents a pound. We really need to make about 10,000 pounds
per acre, and I’ll show you a little more about the economics from that. David: So here’s the take-home message. Okay, so the average yield is about a pound
per plant in Kentucky. Don’t know what it is in Wisconsin. I’m guessing, it’s not too far off from that. But, in a tobacco production model in our
part of the world, you’d have about 5,000 plants per acre. And if you made a pound a plant and you had
$7.20, 35 grand per acre, it’s no wonder why Jennifer described interest is an exponential
function. It’s the same in Kentucky and I have a slide
to illustrate that. Don’t know how long this is going to last. I’m going to offer that it’s not long-term
sustainable under any standard, as we understand it today, agricultural economic model, but
there you go. David: Now, a quick little illustration about
how things have changed. There are our approved acres up until 2018. I have some 2019 data, too. And then when we look at the percent of people
that are interested in CBD, this year is kind of funky, but that’s because there was a lot
of dual-purpose CBD. They thought they would harvest the grain
and then extract from the chaff, which probably is not a bad idea. But, anyway, that kind of goofed this up. But 61% in 2018 were interested in CBD only. David: So 2019 data, 1,075 applications and
about 1,010 of them were interested in floral material or CBD, so I think that equates to
93% of the applicants to the 2019 program are all about CBD. This is the key point, and I know everybody
understands this already. If you don’t have a place you can take a truckload
and get a check, then it’s pretty much valueless or useless to enter this space. Infrastructure investments and processing
capacity are key to any forward movement of the industry. David: We’ve been very fortunate in Kentucky
that our Department of Agriculture has created a very business-friendly environment, and
so we’ve seen some pretty significant investments in infrastructure. But if we go back here quickly, in 2018, we
had 16,000 acres approved, but only 6,700 acres planted. I think what that means is 6,700 acres were
adequate to create the supply demanded by our processing capacity. So until that processing capacity increases
significantly, that is the bottleneck in the hemp world today. It is increasing, but how rapidly it will,
we’ll see. David: Okay, want to spend a little bit of
time in my pragmatic mode. What will hemp become and where will the economics
go? Well, I could talk about this slide for a
long time, but I’m going to try to speed up here so I don’t run out of time. David: Canada has been growing hemp successfully
since 1998. I’ve already mentioned that. They’re doing extremely well. They’re yields are higher than anything we’ve
been able to achieve, as far as I know, at least in our part of the world. Perhaps at northern latitudes, like yours
and New York state and others, you’re able to compete with them, but it’s really hard
for us to compete with them. I’ve met some just fantastic friends and agronomists
from Canada, but we definitely have some strong competition. David: If you’re not already aware, all forms
of cannabis are now legal in Canada. Prior to 2018, they were prohibited from participating
in say the CBD or cannabinoid market, but not anymore. So combined with a now legal framework and
their vast experience relative to ours, we’re definitely going to have some competition. David: The EU, another major hemp production
area globally. In some countries, it’s never been banned. It’s always been legal and there’s always
been a little bit of growth. And in other countries, it varies as to when
it became legal, but the bottom line is they’ve been in the business probably pretty much
as long as Canada, or longer. They have a fair amount of information and
experience that we have to compete with, as well. David: China, folks like to think about China. There’s no doubt about it that China is the
largest hemp industry, globally. It’s hard to know exactly what the numbers
are with great precision, but I don’t think anyone would argue that they’re almost certainly
the largest production region globally. Again, if we think about economics, in many
facets of our lives today, it’s very difficult for our economy to compete with the same production
system in China. And that will probably be true with hemp,
as well. David: Here we are, April of 2014, and realistically,
2015, and double realistically, probably not until this year have we really started growing
hemp on what you call an industrial scale. So what are the general conclusions from that? Well, we’re behind and not only that, we’re
facing what I would offer is very serious competition on a global scale. David: This was a very interesting report
published on June 22nd of 2018 from the Congressional Research Service. Basically, it ended up being a literature
review that global production all across the world in 2017 was 330,000 acres. I get tickled and I don’t want to say the
wrong thing, but if you present that number to some audiences, they think, “Oh, my gosh. That’s huge! That’s wonderful.” Whereas, if you have a reasonable introduction
or understanding of agriculture, you understand it’s not even a grain of sand on the beach. David: For all that time, in some cases, all
of time, for example in parts of China, we’ve had the opportunity to utilize hemp-derived
products, but yet in 20 years, 330,000 acres is all we have. There’s a reason for that and I don’t know
what the reason is, but the demand for hemp-derived products in other Western cultures, like the
European Union and Canada, has only supported 330,000 acres. So what will the demand be from American consumers
and how will that impact the global market still remains to be seen. David: I included these other numbers. You don’t need to see those. You’re familiar with them. For other audiences but, again, it’s just
to illustrate that people in our part of the world never see sunflower fields. They probably do where you live, but you have
1.2 million acres of sunflower in the United States and nobody here has even seen a production
field before. So, again, it’s just a tiny little thing. David: So what is it worth? Let’s talk about that very quickly. I’m guessing this slide is hard for you to
see, so I’m going to summarize it by saying if we make 1,000 pounds of hemp seed per acre
and we have prices between 60 and 80 cents per pound, we are very, very competitive with
our normal corn-bean rotation in Kentucky. Very competitive on a net income per acre
basis. We calculated and calculated and calculated
and that’s definitely the case. David: For fiber, if we’re making 10 tons
or, excuse me, five tons per acre, 10,000 pounds, we’re very competitive with our normal
corn and bean rotation. So right now, today, the way things are working
in Kentucky, and it will be different in Wisconsin, with that full-season crop for dedicated fiber
production, it fits perfectly where corn is today in our world. And with some of the grain varieties, we’re
planting in June to manage that crop height, where late beans are behind wheat in Kentucky. So very, very convenient in that way, spreads
the risk on your operation, introduces a new species to the ecosystem, so reduces pest
load from beans and corn. And so, lots of positive reason to might consider
that. David: Well, clearly, you got to have a place
to sell it, so working with your local entities to encourage processing capacity would be
to your benefit. And this last sentence at the bottom, it’s
going to change. I don’t know how soon. It seems more likely than not that the gold
rush or the bubble will pop sooner than later, but when supply and demand find a happy place
with the cannabinoid molecules, combined with the ultimate regulatory framework, then we’ll
know what it’s worth to farmers to grow for cannabinoids. But, today, it’s just all over the place and
it’s really hard to talk about. David: What are we doing in research? We have stuff going in any agricultural area
of expertise that you can imagine. We are able to feed it to animals on a research
basis, and so on and so forth. So any department that you can think of, we
have hemp work ongoing. Most of my work is plot-type work. In other words, variety trials. This was an early trial, comparing hemp to
flax to kenaf, as far as fiber yields under the same conditions. We continue to do work like that. David: Whoop, excuse me. We do have a fair amount of research, what
I’m going to call production scale, so using standard equipment and not my little plot
drill behind my 20 horsepower tractor. We do have a fair amount of work. These are 2 1/2 acre hemp plots compared to
kenaf plots for dedicated fiber production, and I’ve already described using that standard
hay equipment. They prefer square bales, large square bales,
because you can truck them more efficiently than you can large round bales, but they’ll
certainly accept either. David: So how about some data? Until 2018, until just last year, our maximum
yields, and that’s dry matter, so this is baled dry matter has been 3.8 tons per acre. Just last year, with the introduction in our
variety of trials of a previous unknown variety or previous untested variety, we did make
5.1 tons per acre. That’s huge if the fiber industry is to move
forward because, clearly, no one’s going to grow it if they can make more money on corn
and beans. So as long as it can be competitive with corn
and beans financially and be agronomically acceptable, or even desirable, then I think
we will see an increase in dedicated fiber crops across the United States. David: You guys are in the best position ever
to compete in that world. There’s no telling what you could make with
the same variety at your latitude. Your summer days are way longer than ours
in Kentucky, so I’m quite sure that you compete extremely well in that model. David: We’ve done a ton of work on planting
rates, seeding rates, row spacing, and all kinds of things to try to optimize high-quality
fiber yields and I think we’ve made a lot of excellent progress in that world. So we’re talking about just generalizations
here, 40 pounds or so of 80% germination seed, up to 60 pounds per acre, and trying to keep
that plant population very high. That’s in the hundreds of thousands of plants
per acre, and we want it high so that our stem stay reasonably small and very uniform
and diameter. David: If you haven’t already wondered, you
probably haven’t, I’m not sure why you would, but seed for fiber lines has to come from
somewhere. And I loved it that Jennifer mentioned that
you guys grew fiber in World War II and Kentucky grew the seed for that effort. I actually have photos of my wife’s father
when he was 14 on their family farm here in central Kentucky, threshing seed with a stick,
literally, from shocks of hemp. And that seed that was grown in Kentucky was
sent to the northern peer states, including Wisconsin, for fiber production for obvious
reasons because of the latitude. David: But we have done a fair amount of work
here determining when are the appropriate planting dates to derive seed from fiber lines
and still have acceptable yields for certified seed production. You got to do that way later in the season,
and so that kind of goofs up our normal rotation model. But, again, it’s very variety specific and
will be different in different locations. David: Liz asked me to talk briefly about
differences among different soils. So in our variety trials in 2018, we did have
three different locations and this is the location where I’m sitting today and last
year. Beta is one of those new varieties and you
can see, we did make a little bit over 10,000 pounds or five tons per acre. Very, very excited about that. Alpha is a very closely related variety to
Beta. Whitten is kenaf. We’ve always had superior yields from kenaf
to any hemp variety we’ve compared it to. That’s always been the case with no exceptions,
and kenaf fibers are utilized in many of the same applications as are hemp fibers and always
out-yields it in our latitude and our environment. That won’t be the case everywhere. But there are some applications where hemp
fibers are desirable, but there are many applications where kenaf fibers are equally applicable. David: I will note that the marketability
of hemp fibers is becoming a big issue, positive for hemp. Will you buy a kenaf car, or will you buy
a cannabis or a hemp car? Well, big parts of our society would jump
all over a hemp car and almost all of them would say, “K, what?” Never heard of kenaf, so it does make it very
marketable. David: So different soil, different location. This trial was on a slope because I was late
asking for good land at the experiment station. So Beta, the same variety, only made a little
over two tons. This is a slope soil, not as deep as the alluvial
soil from the first location, so we definitely saw a reduction in biomass as a result of
soil and environment, to some degree. David: I will note, 2018 was the wettest year
ever on record in Kentucky. Hemp does not like wet feet. It’s just like corn. In poorly drained areas, you’ll see it react
exactly like corn does, so it does like deep, well drained soils. Deep, well drained soils will contribute to
optimal yields. David: Hemp grain, we’ve been making 1,000
pounds or so per acre every year since 2015, and that continued in 2018. I’m very excited about Kentucky’s potential
to contribute to the certified seed industry. I think we’re in a great position to do that. With our shorter days in summer, we can get
seed earlier than we can at other parts of the country and I think that’s going to be
a benefit in the long run. David: If you’re growing it for food, you
should note please that there are huge differences among varieties in both the quantity and the
quality of the oil that’s derived from hemp grain. So if that’s your thing, you definitely want
to talk to your processor and make sure that you’re using a variety that’s going to suit
their goals or align well with their goals. David: The dual-purpose trials, I mentioned. We’re making enough straw in Kentucky yet
to make it worth baling and the reason for that is we have to keep that crop kind of
short for the combines that we’re using today. We still don’t know about a dual-purpose grain
and cannabinoid model. There’s probably going to be space for that
somewhere. David: Have a little bit of data from our
grain yield trials, variety trials, indicating we are making about 1,000 pounds, a little
over, 1,000 pounds per acre. It’s very exciting for me to note that this
variety, NWG331, and the one on the far right, NWG Elite, are derived from a company, New
West Genetics, headquartered in Colorado. Domestically bred and produced hemp varieties,
and so they have been approved by AOSCA, as I understand it. In other words, they’ve been afforded some
level of plant-variety protection and, as far as I know, they are the first domestically-derived
hemp varieties for grain production or any utilization, for that matter. That’s extremely exciting. David: Clearly, we can’t keep importing seed
from Canada and Europe and be economically viable. We have to have domestic sources of seed and
I’m offering it’s to all of our advantage to have domestically-bred seed in addition
to just domestically produced, and so that’s very, very exciting to see that. David: Okay, at the same farm as the second
slide, previously, we didn’t see a depression in grain yields at that second farm. Same variety. We saw about the same grain yields. So we did see an impact on biomass production,
but we did not see an impact on grain production. I can’t immediately describe why that’s the
case. I mean, clearly a different plant species
or different varieties within the species react differently to the same conditions,
so perhaps that’s all the explanation I can offer today. But, bottom line, I’m very happy to see 1,000
pounds. That makes us at least reasonably competitive
with corn and beans in our standard rotations. David: Back to cannabinoids, economics are
just all over the place. Production models, I just don’t know how much
longer we’re going to have these clonal, female-only production models. It may be forever, but it seems unsustainable. And I don’t mean ecologically, but I mean
economically unsustainable over time. Differences in pollinate and un-pollinate,
I have a little slide to share with you there. If it’s going to be a medicinal compound,
it would definitely be produced in greenhouses where we can control the environment, we can
control the quality of the product, and have a predictable product. None of which can occur ever growing a crop
in the field with differences from year to year and location to location, cannabinoids
and terpenes and pick your molecule are going to be all over the place, where we can come
much, much closer indoors or in greenhouses in controlling the environment that has an
effect on all of those parameters. David: So, in the field, you’re always going
to have differences among locations. Once we understand the regulatory framework
from the FDA, we’ll have a much better idea if buds are what we’re growing or the molecule
is what we’re growing and that will absolutely define the ultimate production model that’s
most efficient for the harvestable component of interest. David: I will note, we haven’t talked about
this, but if you’re growing cannabinoids on a broad-acre scale, thousands of acres, tens
of thousands of acres for a single processor, what do you do with all that green material
at the end of the season? Well, you have two choices. You can dry it or you can ensile it, and we
have done some preliminary work here at UK that indicates that ensiling has no negative
impact on cannabinoid concentration up to 90 days. We haven’t tested beyond that, but we certainly
will in 2019. David: So that’s a good sign. Everybody can ensile. That’s nothing new. It does ensile very, very well, by the way. It smells really cool. It’s kind of weird. So if we have broad-acre production of cannabinoids,
it looks like ensiling might be the way to go. David: Some research photos of plants that
were grown outside with no pollen and plants that were grown outside and were pollinated,
genetics are the same, exactly the same genetics. I don’t know that that’s normal. We’ve only done it a couple of times, but
look how dense and compact these buds are on these un-pollinated flowers. And, sure enough, the not-pollinated does
make a lot more cannabinoid than the pollinated crop. Twice as much and sometimes almost three times
as much in our field-grown plants here. Not quite three times, but 2 1/2 times as
much. David: So it’s a real thing. No doubt about that. But if you do the math on that broad-acre
production, even if you do have a pollinated crop, you’ll still have more cannabinoid per
acre if you harvest a bunch of these buds with a silage chopper than you would harvesting
from these space plants. If you’ve never seen a tobacco setter, that’s
a really fancy one. Four rows, nobody has four-row setters, mostly
because nobody grows tobacco anymore to speak of. But that’s a research situation that we contrived
when we started working in hemp, so that’s just a good old-fashioned tobacco setter space
plant. Results in a production model like that, which
is a nightmare without herbicides. So manual weed control, so without any pesticides
label, it’s a big, big challenge and there have been many, many crop failures due to
weeds and inability to control them. David: We have done a fair amount of work
working with transplants, production from seed rather than clones. And so keeping a transplant short prior to
this process is very important. They can easily be too tall to handle and
they don’t tolerate mowing like tobacco does, so we’ve done a little bit of research with
that. David: We continue to have hundreds of people
attend our Field Days at UK, interested in the work that we’re doing, our research with
industrial hemp. An extremely, extremely diverse audience ranging
from producers with tens of thousands of acres to others that have never grown a thing in
their life, and so very, very diverse. Continue to have legislative interest. These are members of our General Assembly. There’s no doubt that there’ll be changes
to our laws upcoming, too, just as both Jennifer and Larry discussed. We’re grateful to the support we’ve received,
not financial, but administrative from all levels. David: The Kentucky Department of Agriculture
has been absolutely wonderful to work with. I can’t say enough about how simple they’ve
made our life regarding a very, very complex problem, and I’m grateful. Doris is our program manager. Perhaps she is Jennifer’s equivalent in Kentucky. I don’t know that. But without Doris and others there at the
KDA, we would not be where we are today, so I’m grateful to Doris and others and I thank
them publicly here. David: We’ve had great support from our administration
and the College of Ag, Food and Environment. My department chair has been very important. Clearly, we’ve been looking for a replacement
for tobacco in Kentucky for several years and we have a unit at the university that’s
focused on tobacco and replacement of tobacco. We’ve received a fair amount of support from
them, too. But almost all of our financial support has
been derived from corporate sponsors. David: I need to note this. Just 2018, in August, we had approved by the
USDA a what’s called multi-state project. So that’s sponsored by the USDA, so land grant
and other universities around the country can join this project. It is for hemp research. Today, it’s only fiber and grain, no cannabinoids,
but it’s a giant leap forward in federal government interest and involvement in industrial hemp
support. So we’re really happy to have been able to
start that last year. David: This is where I’m sitting right now. I’m in this little building right here, Quicksand. This is the community of Quicksand, Kentucky
in the absolute heart of Appalachia. This is not today, of course. I have a lot of stuff going. These are our hemp plots and we have more
out here all over this farm. I bring you greetings from our little slice
of Heaven on Earth. If you wish to contact me, you may take a
photograph. That’s my email address, as well as the hemp
website. And with that, if there’s time, I’d be happy
to try to address any questions. Moderator: And could we please thank David
for giving us that great presentation? Moderator: Again, thank you, David. You guys are leaps and bounds ahead of us
because, as you kind of informed me, that Kentucky really jumped on the bandwagon for
research. So thank you for letting us benefit what you
guys have collected for research. I think it’s safe to say that you guys have
collected the longest run of data. Is that correct? Because you guys started pretty much right
away. David: Well, I couldn’t say that with 100%
surety, but we started in 2014. Essentially, derived zero useful data from
that effort, but we’ve had standard variety trials and other fertility trials, plant population
trials, and other things from 2015 on. Moderator: Well, thank you. Any questions here in Green Bay? Audience: Yes, on that variety that AOSCA
approved, is there any foundation seed of that NWG331? Is there any of that around as foundation
or breeder stock? David: You would have to contact New West
Genetics. We are simply a cooperator or collaborator
with that company. They’re easy to find on the internet, New
West Genetics. Moderator: All right. We’ve got a question here from the webinar
audience. Does the THC stay the same after harvest or
does it increase with drying? David: No, it would stay the same after harvest. Moderator: Perfect. Any other questions here from Green Bay? Audience: So what do you do for crop rotation
and growing it year after year, or do you do like a corn-beans crop rotation? David: You would absolutely rotate. Depending on where the cannabinoid production
models ultimately end up, that’ll define their place in a rotation. But at least in Kentucky, today, grain production
and fiber production fit very well in our standard rotations with corn, beans, and wheat. David: I don’t note it. I’ll say this quickly. We have seen extremely serious crop failure
level, serious disease issues with some of the clonal production models. Big biological surprise, right? You have a group or field of genetically identical
individuals, if you were all genetically identical in that room and I sprinkled flu dust on you,
you would all catch it, and so there are some real serious issues with the lack of genetic
diversity in a clonal production system. And we’ve also seen corn earworm destroy a
couple of the clonal production CBD models this past year in 2018, too. So in addition to beetles, corn earworm really
enjoy hemp buds. Moderator: All right. A question from our webinar audience. How many days is the hemp fiber laying for
retting before baling? David: That’s a great question. So that’s going to depend on several different
factors. Probably the most important will be the weather. Just like any microbial event, it’s going
to be highly dependent on moisture and temperature. This past autumn, it rained so much that it
would have been very difficult to have retted a large fiber crop effectively without rotting
it. It would have been hard to have stopped the
process. So it can be a matter of say three weeks or
a little bit shorter than that, but it’s going to be in that three week neighborhood, at
least in Kentucky, with some standard fall weather. Moderator: Okay. Any other questions here from Green Bay? Okay, I’ve got a couple more from our webinar
audience. So those here in the audience in Green Bay,
feel free to give some other questions. There was a question, is deer browsing a major
concern with hemp production? David: I’m sorry. I don’t think I understood that. Moderator: Are deer an issue for eating up
the hemp? David: No, I’m not aware of deer being an
issue. We have bunches of deer on our farm here and
we’ve had all different types of production models, and we haven’t had any issues. I will note that we had deer issues on other
crops here on this farm, so I guess, for some reason, they haven’t been attracted to our
hemp yet. Moderator: Well, that’s good. Any questions here from Green Bay before I
do another webinar one? Just raise your hand if you have a question. Okay, another question here. Is the $7.20 sale price for [inaudible 01:00:13],
the current sales? Current market suggests $50 per pound at 12%
CBD, and is that wet or dry? David: So that would be dry and that’s a great
illustration of the point I was trying to make. The economics of that space are wholly undefinable. So before you enter into it, be sure that
you’re doing so fully informed. I mean, $50 a pound at a pound per plant and
5,000 plants per acre, that’s a lot of money. And, clearly, no big surprise why folks are
jumping in with two feet at those economics, so that space is just …
It’s a wild, wild West. That’s exactly what it is. Moderator: Okay. Does ensiling have any concerns with molding
or other storage issues? David: Well, that’s exactly why we ensile
is to halt any rotting activity. That’s what silage is. It’s a method by which we store green plant
material for long periods of time without rotting it. Moderator: Okay. Any other questions from our live audience
here? Okay, we’ve got just a few more here. What are fertility guidelines for CBD production? David: Your guess is as good as mine. I don’t mean to be trite. There are no replicated studies that have
evaluated that. Moderator: Okay. Not really. Do you want to ask? Audience: What kind of issues did you have
… Up here, we’ve had a lot of issues with white
mold and other types of diseases and such. Is Kentucky feeling the same type of issues? David: So I’m going to speak in rather gross
generalizations. For broad-acre crops, for fiber or for grain,
then they’re all, of course, propagated by seed with a fair level of genetic diversity
within that population. We have yet to see any yield-reducing issues
from any pests, except in wheat. We have seen poor establishment of both of
those types of crops that have resulted in failures because of inability to compete with
weeds, but we have seen no diseases or insects that have caused serious yield reductions
in fiber and grain crops. David: We have seen abject crop failures with
the clonal production systems with both fungal diseases and insects. The disease that’s most common here, believe
it or not, is a brand new disease, a brand new fungus, even. And I don’t think all of that’s been fully
delineated yet, but it’s a previously unknown pathosystem and is under study as we speak. Moderator: Okay. And, David, I’ve got a question that I need
you … Let’s see here. Are the microbes directly from the soil? David: That’s a great question. Yes, we think they are. They appear to be inherent, but they also
appear to be potentially significantly different on a statistical basis among varieties. So that begs the question, are they coming
on the seed? So a different variety has different microbes. Or are different varieties supporting inherent
microbes from the soil? And we don’t know the answer to that yet. But we do have a wonderful microbial ecologist
working on exactly that question and helping us understand hemp retting at a much, much
deeper level than we do today. Moderator: Okay. Are there mechanical ways to ret or is it
all by hand, like your trial plats? David: No. So if it’s a production crop, it’s going to
be like the photograph. So just a Haybine that lays the crop down
in a, hopefully, nice, even layer and you’re probably going to try to turn that crop over
once with a rake during the retting process because the top of the pile will ret at a
different rate than the bottom of the pile. And you’d like for it to ret reasonably uniformly. So, no, the little bundles that you saw were
research-sized samples only. Moderator: Okay, and if anyone in Green Bay
has a question, just shoot your hand up. Otherwise, I’ll …
Oop, we’ve got a question. Head to the middle. Audience: What is your recommended procedure
for drying down the grain or the buds? David: So there are several different processes
being tried in Kentucky. We’ve not investigated or researched any of
them, but there are two main methods. One is not unlike curing tobacco, hanging
upside down in a tobacco barn. Tobacco barns, I don’t mean to insult anybody’s
intelligence, but they have openings all along the sides and ends, so you can reasonably
control the temperature and humidity by opening and closing the barn. That’s very common in Kentucky. David: Then, secondly, for example in North
Carolina, where a different type of tobacco is grown, they have dryers in that part of
the world. There’ve been several companies that have
purchased tobacco dryers from North Carolina that are no longer needed, because tobacco’s
not so big as it used to be, and are using those farm dryers to dry the crop. Moderator: Is there such thing as auto-flowering
varieties? David: That’s a good question, too. I have not come across one yet, but I would
say that there almost certainly are. Yes, but I’ve not been exposed to one yet. But you might …
Ernest Small, if you’d like to investigate a little bit more, Dr.
Small is a Canadian and has written a lot about cannabis and all forms of cannabis. He talks about all the flowering rather deeply
in some of his publications, so you could probably google that and find it with some
ease. Moderator: And, again, in Green Bay, if you
have a question, just shoot your hand up. How would extracting cannabinoids from chaff
and stocks be different from flowers and buds? David: There’s just no doubt. It’s been scientifically confirmed that cannabinoids
are mostly concentrated in trichomes on the pistol with bracts or the pseudoleaves of
female flowers, so you might call them leaf hairs. The one photograph, I can’t pull it up very
quickly, but they’re little white leaf hairs. Once they turn an amber color, it’s thought
that cannabinoid concentrations are optimal and it’s time to harvest. But the concentrations in leaves and other
parts of the plant are negligible. Moderator: Okay, and a final webinar question. A standard roller crimper Haybine or a swather
for fiber? David: Right, so I think either would work. We did learn quickly from that exact study
that I showed you photographs for that crimping is not a good idea. It’s a lot of biomass and that equipment’s
not engineered to handle that, so we turned the crimper off and just mowed it with the
Haybine. Moderator: So here’s a question. Does pollination change cannabinoid profile? David: Ha! So I don’t know the answer to that. We have not evaluated that and I’ve not read
that anywhere, so I don’t know the answer to that. Moderator: All right, thank you. I know that you show that it does affect production,
but the question was profile. [crosstalk 01:08:01]. David: Yeah, no doubt that it affects the
ultimate production. Audience: [inaudible 01:08:07]. In instances of crop failure for whatever
reason, diseases, weeds, ensiling this product and using it as a cattle feed, whether it
be steers, heifers, whatever, to recoup your investment, are those options or not? David: Not yet today. It’s still not permissible under federal regulations
to use hemp as an animal feed. We have begun some work in that regard, and
so I don’t mind sharing with you that hemp ensiled with grain, in other words if you
grew a crop to maturity with seed and ensiled that crop, is equally nutritious as our best
quality alfalfa, so very nutritious. It ensiles very well, so it could suit or
fit that application if it were legal. And, as Larry noted, I think that’s not too
far off. Moderator: All right, David. Well, that wraps up all of our questions here. Could we please, again, thank David for his
time and expertise? David: Liz, I’ll just sign off and say how
Star-Trekkie it is I can sit in Breathitt County, Kentucky and be virtually in a room
somewhere in Wisconsin. It’s just weird. So thank you for having me. I’m glad to have been able to speak. Moderator: And thank you. I mean, obviously, it’s quite a ways and we
really appreciate you being willing to do this this way. David: You’re welcome. Moderator: All right. Thank you very much …

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