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Hooray for Hemp!

A new pilot program for industrial hemp growth and cultivation

Hemp cannot get a person "high," despite public perception. What it can do is provide the raw materials for thousands of goods, including clothing, carpeting, paper, biofuel and construction products, vegetable oils, organic body products, and health foods.

After a decades-long ban on hemp's cultivation, researchers in the college are among a select group tasked with exploring the potential economic benefits to the Commonwealth of this important--yet maligned--crop. Penn State was one of 16 sites approved by the state Department of Agriculture as a pilot program for industrial hemp growth and cultivation research following Gov. Tom Wolf's signing of the Industrial Hemp Research Act last year.

According to Greg Roth, professor of agronomy and associate head of the

Department of Plant Science, the research team is evaluating six varieties from Canada that are suited mainly for the grain industry in industrial hemp.

"With good management, hemp seed yields of between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds per acre are possible," says Roth. "With good markets, seed prices of 50 to 90 cents per pound might be possible, resulting in some reasonable returns."

The team harvested the seeds in September, and began the process of pressing them into meal and oil. Hemp seeds are high in protein and are noted for their Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. The researchers plan to evaluate the nutritional content from each variety.

--Amy Duke