“I would recommend farmers hold off and not grow just yet”
While mainstream production and research of the crop is still in its infancy, an intensive, multi-year study on the practicalities of farming industrial hemp suggests that the plant may yet not be an economically viable or worthwhile crop for local farmers, according to a research team from the University of Maryland College of Agriculture & Natural Resources.
“I would recommend farmers hold off and not grow just yet,” Dr. Andrew Ristvey, a commercial horticulture specialist with University of Maryland Extension, said in an interview. Ristvey, along with Dr. Nicole Fiorellino from the university’s Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, led the study.
“The concern with [hemp] grain and fiber is that it’s sort of a chicken and egg,” said Emily Zobel, an extension educator whose purpose on the study was to investigate the insects and invasive species present in the hemp fields. “You don’t know which one is going to come first.”
These observations arrived after two years of growing and studying hemp at the university’s Wye Research and Education Center in Queenstown. The research team’s public presentation on July 29 was their first presentment of data since they began in 2019. Their areas of inquiry included both economics and agronomics, as researchers looked to discover the most practical ways of maximizing production while adhering to the legal boundaries surrounding the plant.
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