Value-added potential of hemp touted at conference

By Geoff Smith (@GeoffSmithLNN on Twitter)
December 7, 2017 - 10:04am

LETHBRIDGE – The value-added possibilities for hemp production excite Mike Gretzinger.

The research coordinator for Farming Smarter spoke Wednesday, Dec. 6 at the group’s conference in Lethbridge. Gretzinger explained they’ve been studying best agronomic processes for growing hemp in the region, based on similar work in other areas like the Peace Country and Vegreville.

“Right now the majority, the focus, is on the grain production, and that goes into all the health foods: things like hemp hearts, things like granola bars, things like cosmetics and lotions and stuff like that,” he said. He added there’s massive potential for industrial products, such as Hempcrete, a building material, and for pharmaceuticals.

“I think there’s really big prospects and big hopes there with some of the CBD and other cannabinoids and phenols that develop in the hemp leaves and how they can be used to treat chronic illness.”

Gretzinger’s research looked at the impact of seeding dates on yields, different varieties, and the impact of nitrogen on biomass and seed yields. While it’s been a slow process to bring the crop to this point and unlock its economic potential, he said producers who have grown it are very happy. Others are taking notice of the “weird-looking” fields.

He also touched on the connection with cannabis, noting the psychoactive agent THC has been mostly bred out of industrial hemp. But he also pointed out that process has led to some of the pharmaceutical potential being discovered.

“Breeding out that THC has meant, okay, now the plant’s going to start producing other cannabinoids, and that’s where I think the pharmaceutical guys are really interested.”

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