Cooperative Extension at Work

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The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide educational network that is a collaboration of federal, state and local governments and a state land-grant university where research is conducted and practical agriculture is taught. The mission of Cooperative Extension is to disseminate research-based information on topics as varied as nutrition, child rearing, agriculture, horticulture, husbandry. Every state and territory in the US has a central state Extension office at its land-grant university. Each state Extension serves its residents through a network of local or regional offices staffed by professionals in their field.

An example of our work locally is the research on a new crop that has begun in our county because of work from NC State University and N.C. Cooperative Extension. Extension agents have identified the need for new crops in individual counties and are working with NC State to find out if industrial hemp can be a profitable crop locally.

Hemp or industrial hemp and marijuana do come from the same species Cannabis sativa, but they are genetically distinct. Hemp has much lower concentrations of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana and it contains high levels of CBD (cannabidiol) that decreases or eliminates the psychoactive effects. They do not have the same chemical makeup, use or cultivation methods. Industrial hemp was widely used for fiber 10,000 years ago. It can be used commercially for the production of paper, cloth, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food and animal feed.

Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) is grown by more than 30 nations as an agricultural commodity yielding fiber and oilseed. The fiber is produced in larger stalks and two types of oils are produced in the seed and from the flower. Industrial help is NOT the same plant as marijuana but is a member of the same family.

Growing hemp has been recently legalized in 13 states and more states will be joining. The research has begun with demonstration plots planted and cultivated in NC by select growers who have receive licenses. Documenting all the data is the goal of these demonstration plots. The data will be gathered and studied to gain understanding of the different varieties, practices, planting dates, harvest dates. Growers receiving licenses will also provide information on the agronomic methods used including seeding rate, method, depth and timing; planting methods and timing; variety planted.

The project is expected to provide production information for those interested in this new crop. Steve Killette is the Lenoir County Agriculture Agent assisting with the program locally. He can be reached by email at steve_killette@ncsu.edu or by phone at 252-527-2191.