UK agronomist Rich Mundell loads seeds into a planter to plant the first hemp crop in decades in Kentucky in 2014.
UK agronomist Rich Mundell loads seeds into a planter to plant the first hemp crop in decades in Kentucky in 2014.

Agronomists with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment began planting their 2015 hemp research plots May 14 on the university’s Spindletop Research Farm.

This is the second year for UK to conduct industrial hemp research. 2014 was the first year that hemp was legally grown in the state in decades. UK conducted the 2014 pilot project under the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s guidance.

This year’s research projects are funded by several corporations, with administrative support from KDA. Similar to 2014, UK will work in collaboration with scientists from other Kentucky universities. UK agronomists David Williams and Rich Mundell are the lead researchers on the UK projects.

UK researchers will evaluate the yield and fiber quality differences among different harvest times and harvest methods as well as retting times and retting methods. Retting is the process of separating thefiber from the stem. UKAg agronomists will collaborate with researchers at Eastern Kentucky University on this project, which is funded by Sunstrand LLC.

In a second research project, Williams and Mundell will examine the best production method for cannabinoids. Cannabinoids, such as hemp-based cannabidiol, may be used in food and dietary supplements for consumer health and wellness benefits. The pharmaceutical industry is researching them for a variety of therapeutic purposes. CannaVest Corporation funded this project.

Another project, funded by Freedom Feed and Seed, will allow UK researchers to manipulate plant growth rates in the greenhouse and in the field of hemp used for grain and cannabinoid production. They will study specifically whether small plants make the harvest simpler and whether small plants have any yield difference compared to larger plants.

UK researchers will conduct additional projects with Murray State University and Western Kentucky University. In collaboration with Murray State University researchers, UK scientists also will conduct a small variety trial of hemp plants for grain production. UKAg researchers will work with researchers from Western Kentucky University on a project that looks at hemp’s tolerance to agricultural herbicides.

Kentucky Hemp Seed Research and Development Company, a subsidiary of Atalo Holdings, donated a significant amount of seed to the 2015 UK hemp research project.