An interview with Dr. Heather Darby and Phillip Alberti on the latest in hemp research.
Dr. Heather Darby is an Agronomy Specialist for University of Vermont Extension. Phillip Alberti is a Research Program Manager in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
JASON FISCHBACH 0:00
This is a podcast about new crops. You’re gonna love it. Join us on The Cutting Edge, a podcast in search of new crops for Wisconsin.
Heather Darby 0:10
I felt like there was so much excitement out of the starting gate. And then in some ways, maybe the reality hit that it was really an industry in its infancy and now trying to get the energy back, I think on both the grower’s side, but also, you know, on the research side too.
Jerry Clark 0:46
Welcome to The Cutting Edge, a podcast in search of new crops for Wisconsin. I’m your host Jerry Clark, the Agricultural Agent in Chippewa County with the Division of Extension with UW Madison. My co host today is Carl Duley, Agricultural Agent in Buffalo County. Hey, Carl, how’s everything today?
Carl Duley 1:04
Hey, thanks, Jerry. It’s, ah, well, we’re looking at a white background today with a high of 25. So things are great here in western Wisconsin.
Jerry Clark 1:14
Yeah, we’re going to start to see the deer hunting season start here very shortly. So I think most of the crops are off. And as we talk industrial hemp today, it’s a crop that’s probably been off the ground for a few months now. But it’s always good to kind of check in to see how the growing season went and kind of provide updates, what’s happening from a regulation side of things, and those types of things. So our guest today then are Phil Alberti. Phil is a Research Program Manager with the Department of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin Madison. So morning, Phil.
Phillip Alberti 1:52
Jerry Clark 1:53
And with us today as a repeat guest is Dr. Heather Darby. She’s an Extension Agronomist with the University of Vermont. Welcome again, Heather.
Heather Darby 2:03
Thanks for having me. It’s white here too.
Jerry Clark 2:07
Oh, that’s good.
Heather Darby 2:07
You guys got some snow as well?
Jerry Clark 2:10
Yep. I think it’s been snowing since Monday. Today’s Wednesday. And so it’s been, I don’t think it stopped. There’s been, I think a flurry twenty out of twenty four hours.
Heather Darby 2:20
This was our first accumulated snow, some places got about seven, eight inches.
Jerry Clark 2:26
Yeah, I got one plot left to measure yet so I’m hoping it doesn’t cover too much ground yet.
Carl Duley 2:32
Got your broom out Jerry?
Jerry Clark 2:34
Yeah, gonna have to sweep it off.
Heather Darby 2:37
We were combining yesterday trying to finish some corn before the snow for sure.
Carl Duley 2:42
Well, Jerry, we always should mention though, that that, you know, Phil’s at UW Madison. And Heather does have some background at Wisconsin-Madison. So it’s not really like welcome home, but it’s like welcome back.
Heather Darby 2:55
Jerry Clark 2:58
And just to be clear, we did trade for a draft choice to be named later for Phil to come from the University of Illinois. So Phil has just joined us, what about a month a couple months ago, maybe? Or how long?
Phillip Alberti 3:11
Six weeks. Yeah.
Carl Duley 3:15
I heard he had across the border at midnight, but we got him now.
Jerry Clark 3:20
Well great. And Phil coming from Illinois, from the hemp projects down there. Are you planning to bring some of that same type of leadership up here then?
Phillip Alberti 3:31
Yeah, well, you know, first off, Wisconsin was my alma mater, and I’m from Milwaukee. So it’s good to be back home in both ways, which is really nice. And yeah, as far as the projects, I mean, the idea is really to keep as much of that intact as possible. We’ve spent the last, you know, almost four years building these networks across the Midwest for a variety of research projects and collaborations across, you know, state lines, universities, and we want to hold on to that as much as possible. So, if anything, hoping that the placement here at Wisconsin will allow us to do more, if anything.
Jerry Clark 4:07
And we should also, you’re working directly with Dr. Shelby Ellison, correct?
Phillip Alberti 4:13
Yeah. So, you know, I’ve known Dr. Ellison for a few years now. And we’ve worked together pretty closely on a lot of the hem projects that you know, we’re bringing here to the university. But Shelby, Dr. Ellison will be my, my primary boss, if you will. I’m working in her lab. But she’s doing a lot of different hemp production research in genetics and breeding, which will allow me to focus on the agronomy and variety evaluation, which is really more of my strong suit. So just kind of, you know, bringing together things that we both do well and hoping to really take the research that we’re doing here up a notch.
Jerry Clark 4:51
Yeah, thanks, and I think from Carl and I aren’t your boss, but we’ll send you plenty of work too, so.
Heather Darby 4:58
It’s always good to have backseat driver bosses.
Carl Duley 5:03
Whoa, haven’t been called that for quite a while. I don’t know. But, but I think it’s great to have Phil and it’s always great to have Heather back. Heather’s probably started research on hemp before most of us have, I think at least a year or two before most of us and bringing that background, I think is really, really important.
Jerry Clark 5:21
Yeah, I think we all see Heather as a leader in this.
Heather Darby 5:23
Oh, well that’s good. We’re plugging ahead. I think, as everybody knows, there was sort of this boom, you know, this excitement, and then just sort of bust and now trying to kind of amp back up, get the energy back, I think on the I would say both the grower side, but also, you know, on the research side, too, I think I felt like there was so much excitement out of the starting gate. And then I feel like, in some ways, maybe the reality hit that it was really an industry in its infancy. And now I feel like we’re trying to get that momentum going again, you know, with the sort of down turn of the CBD market. And kind of thinking about okay, where, where are we headed with hemp at this point.
Jerry Clark 6:13
Yeah, that’s a great question. Heather, and Phil, you can chime in on this. But Heather, just to kind of compartmentalize this between CBD and in grain or fiber. What’s your crystal ball looking like for the those markets right now? You talked about the boom and bust. But yeah, where do you think we’re gonna go with this now?
Heather Darby 6:31
Well, probably exactly where we should have started, right. So I think we did start out really focused on grain in particular, it felt like the easiest thing to do at the time, and maybe the most accessible market for farmers. But I think we all knew like this is a fledgling industry. And when we say that, it’s just everything, right: the markets and the equipment and the infrastructure, and much of the crop that we couldn’t produce just needs to be processed before it can make its way to consumer. And that takes a lot of investment. And so, you know, I feel like that investment that could have been happening the last few years was really directed towards this boom in the CBD market. And that really overshadowed fiber and grain. And actually, that was a bad thing, I definitely know that we actually had an oil, hemp oil processing facility move into Vermont, the first year, we could grow hemp, and they left because they couldn’t get any farmers to grow grain. Everybody wanted to grow CBD. And so we lost that initial investment in infrastructure, they went out of business right away. So that was really a bummer. So what I what I’ve seen now is we have to build markets in these different, you know, other areas with the grain and fiber. And, you know, it gives us in some ways a little breathing room on the research side, I think, because before, you know, we couldn’t keep up with CBD happens so fast, we didn’t have a lot to offer. Now, I feel like we’re you know, we’re sort of in line with how fast infrastructure and markets are building for grain and fiber. And that’s, you know, I see that where a lot of our efforts will be moving through and already are for us.
Phillip Alberti 6:31
And I can echo the same sentiments that we were just trying to look at so much without having that knowledge or experience I feel for years, and we finally have a grip on how to establish this crop. And to grow it well and to get to a point where we can harvest it. And now we’re starting to ask those additional questions on the harvesting and processing side. You know, things are starting to come into focus what the industry needs or growers need is starting to become a little bit more clear now that we have that experience. But, you know, when everything was moving so fast, we didn’t have the luxury of time, we needed to provide answers, you know, yesterday, and we’re trying so many different things and just didn’t have the experience. So as a researcher, as Heather said, just kind of have a refocus on what we need to look at. There is opportunities that are currently available now via grant funding at the national and state levels that are starting to make this more of a realistic possibility. And that goes down to the growing and the processing sides where states like Missouri are offering funding to establish a processing center for this industry. But yeah, a refocus has definitely happened. And I think, you know, over the last year to really figuring out where we need to spend a lot of our time.
Carl Duley 9:43
And do you think that part of it is trying to figure out what the standard should be? I had an opportunity to go to Fort Benton, Montana on a family trip just to see what they’re doing at Indy Hemp, and they got some great things going on. They have they have the processing set up pretty well it seems to me, taking it and contracting with farmers, but looking at, you know, truly what are the standards that they want? And also some other companies I’ve talked with. It doesn’t seem like we really have a great handle yet on what are the standards are, and even more importantly, how are we going to measure that the quality of bast fiber, the, the, I don’t know, if we really measure quality and hurd, but especially the bast fiber, any ideas on how long that might take our industry or this hemp industry to develop the standards?
Heather Darby 10:33
I think that feels really true at this moment, we have a bunch of projects we just applied for funding for to look at hemp fiber quality. For us, there’s a market here as well, for farmers, this just opened up. So we have some challenges. The first one is trying to get farmers to grow hemp again, or even consider it, especially after, you know, sort of the last disaster many people had. So that’s a barrier in itself. But then it’s delivering the type of fiber that this company wants. And I’m not even sure if they know what that looks like at this time, either. Like they wouldn’t know how to tell a grower what exactly they want. And so, you know, I think it could happen relatively fast. But we need the resources and state cooperation across the country to really be able to deliver on that, because there are so many different processing facilities and types. And they all have different requirements. And of course, depending on, you know, what, what they’re producing, that has a different requirement. And for our farmers, you know, they just have very little, they don’t have any knowledge, right? I shouldn’t say they have little, they don’t have any. And they don’t know, they can be told when to harvest. But to me, it’s from that point forward. Like then what, and that’s, you know, really the questions we’re trying to answer, especially in our humid climates, are we actually going to be able to field ret this material into a high quality bast fiber that could make textiles? Or are we just going to be able to make, you know, produce a fiber that can go into plastics or bedding or whatever? So, anyway?
Jerry Clark 12:26
Yeah, I think, yeah, that’s a great point with the, you know, what do farmers know or not know, and, you know, not knowing anything. And I think that’s where I’ve had one farmer, tell me at a field day that, well, that’s what Extension is for. You guys make the mistakes, you figure it out. And I think in parallel, and I’ve joked about this, that, you know, we’re finally ahead of the curve on something where we’ve got this, we got, we got the production stuff ready. And when the markets are ready, we’re ready to go. Or at least we can help farmers. Because I think one thing we’ve looked at kind of back to your quality point is when we’ve done the seeding rate studies, and you get these really pencil thin type stems versus these, you know, that are maybe the diameter of a dime or a nickel. And it’s like, Well, which one do they want? And it’s like, well, I don’t know, we’re just trying to figure out what what happens when we change the seeding rate. And then it vary so much by variety. So lot to learn yet, but at least we’re it those are the questions I think farmers are going to have if there’s an opportunity to get this off the ground again.
Carl Duley 13:28
Yeah. And I find it really interesting. Heather, what you said about, can we in our humid climates, because we’re pretty similar Wisconsin and Vermont, especially where we’re at. I asked that question to the folks out in Montana, and they think we’re going to be the place that grows high quality fiber, because they can’t get theirs to ret. They don’t have enough moisture. And they don’t have enough water to irrigate, to irrigate it to get it to ret. And there’s no dew because they’ve been so dry. And this has been five, six years that they’ve been that dry, that they were they had it out in the field two months and it didn’t do anything besides change colors. So I think we got a lot of things to work out between, like you said across state lines, trying to figure this out is shouldn’t be challenging, interesting, fun, whatever term you want to use.
Heather Darby 14:16
Yeah, I know, with our initial retting trials, it just seems like we can go from good to bad really quick. And one of the projects that we’re working on now are sort of like what are the cues? So I think about this with our work in hops that we all did a while ago where we all said how do you how do you know when they’re ready to harvest and the people that have grown hops out west so will you just know and it’s like asking a dairy farmer, “How do you know when the hay is ready to bail? Well, you just know. So you know, we’re trying to figure out what are those cues with hemp fiber when it’s laid down on the ground. You know, are they are they’re visual cues, cues as we’re learning is there, you know, any kind of, there are some NIR assessments that have been done, you know, are there some kind of cues we can use that are going to help the farmers and ourselves know, okay, now’s the time, or we’re getting close. So that’s a little bit of something that we’re trying to focus on this year.
Jerry Clark 15:21
So, Phil, in your case with coming from Illinois, or what you’re seeing early on in Wisconsin here, what are those production things that you’re working through? I know, I’ve kept caught wind of some of Shelby’s work with on the breeding or some of the genetic side of it. But where do you see that headed as in terms of whether it’s CBD or with for grain or fiber?
Phillip Alberti 15:44
Well, I think, you know, some of the things that we’re going to be focusing on are, you know, large scale farm level harvesting and trying to determine which equipment is going to be suited for grain harvesting and trying to experiment with with various equipment, messing around with planting dates, and in varieties to try to find a more manageable grain type hemp so so what I mean by that is, you know, we did some experiments this last year, and we had planted late with the intention of harvesting the the grain, and we have planted in mid-June. And we were hoping that the plants would be about soybean or a tall soybean height, well, they were 10 to 11 feet tall. And we were not able to go through with the soybean header like we had originally planned. So messing around with, you know, evaluating planting dates, and then also machinery to try to find a way that we can actually have our producers harvesting this equipment, and in kind of a safe and risk or lower risk way. Because our one of our challenges right now is getting not only growers to grow this but you know, going through and trying to harvest the grain crop, they’re worried about the wear and tear on their equipment, the fiber wrapping, we want to be able to provide them with realistic options, whether that’s equipment that they have, or put away on the shelf and haven’t used for some time. So we’re trying to evaluate machinery, and figure out ways that we can actually do this at the farm level instead of just on a research trial where we’re going out and perhaps using small plot equipment or hand harvesting, which is what we had to do a lot in our first few years of production research to get a baseline. So it’s all about scaling up. And I feel like moving forward, we’re going to continue to look at variety, evaluations, best management practices, and then you know, equipment harvesting equipment specifically is something that’s going to be a heavy focus moving forward,
Jerry Clark 17:42
Have either view, Heather, Phil, run into issues, production issues in terms of diseases, or insects, or those kinds of things, I think early on here in Wisconsin we really haven’t had them yet. Japanese beetle hangs around a little bit. But we haven’t seen major, major problems on the pest management side, anything emerging on that side of the world?
Heather Darby 18:05
Not so much with grain and fiber, although we do see, like fusarium head blight on some of the varieties, especially the shorter stature ones, and, you know, I have a feeling that weeds also are a bigger issue. And those those varieties for us anyway, too. So I’m, I’m not sure if it’s the variety itself or just sort of the stature and not drying out maybe as quickly as some of the other varieties that are taller, maybe get more airflow, etcetera. But we seem to have that problem with certain varieties where the heads just completely rot. And I’ll make up a good portion of the plots, but outside of that, at least, you know, most of what we see with issues is in the in the real early season with establishment.
Jerry Clark 19:07
Yeah, I think the what we’ve learned I think, Carl, you can chime in here but for grain and fiber that, well, I guess for CBD as well, but especially for grain and fiber that soil temperature really needs to be warm. We planted one plot three years two years ago before Memorial Day, and that one struggled it seemed like all year and if we wait till mid June, we have a much better germination. Just the plant seems to be healthier. Everything just seems to work better when you when you’re patient and let that soil warm up. And without any registered herbicides, letting those seeds germinate those weed seeds germinate, tilling it maybe a couple times, just to try to knock that seed bank down. Seems to be something that we’ve had a little bit better success at least here in Chippewa County as well as Carl, you’ve experienced it. But our other site is the Whirling Thunder site down at the Ho-Chunk Nation, which is an organic production system. And they’ve observed that as well where if they can get that plant out of the ground quick enough, it will kind of shade those weeds out. And this year, we didn’t seem to have quite the trouble other than the wheel track between the plots.
Carl Duley 20:22
You’re right Jerry, the two years that I planted tried to plant early, both were disasters, we couldn’t the weeds were awful. The plants germinated when it was warm, then we had cool temperatures for 10 days and the weeds all grew the hemp didn’t and waiting till mid-June just seems to work way better for for weed control and getting the plant going. The other thing, we did have some white mold this year, in a couple of varieties that we noticed, not real heavy, we found soybeans, so it’s probably a natural that we would have plenty of vector available, but not that it would reduce yield or anything like that. It wasn’t the all that bad. But we did have we did observe some of that this year.
Heather Darby 21:07
Yeah, we’ve seen a lot of white mold, too. Not a lot. But I would agree over time certainly could definitely contribute to issues with other crops that have white mold.
Phillip Alberti 21:19
You know, Jerry, you bring up a pretty good point about planting. I think when we first started growing hemp, we were so focused with getting in early to try to focus on biomass production. But I think, you know, at least in my own experience the last few years, it can put you can tolerate a bit of a later planting date, and really establish just fine continue to grow. I think looking at flower, especially from a fiber production standpoint, flowering data is more important, I think, in a lot of ways and getting a good establishment than, you know, an early planting date itself is allowing it to to grow, I’ve seen varieties that put up you know, they’re 10 feet tall, and they put up almost half of that biomass in a two to three week period where it’s just, it’s about getting good establishment and allowing the crop to do what it needs to do. So I think that’s just one more of those points of things that we’ve really started to understand. But it took time and experience to really understand that
Carl Duley 22:16
And Phil, maybe you could comment on this too. But I found it really interesting yesterday, there was a national webinar on on hemp and industrial hemp, mainly fiber. But there is a couple of the states and a couple of companies that are really pushing that we need herbicides, we need to make hemp Roundup ready so that we can apply Roundup to it. And part of me says this is kind of the beauty, if we can put this in a conventional rotation that we can get away without using Roundup for a year for growing corn, soybeans conventionally, we put it in hemp, maybe we don’t need Roundup, and maybe we shouldn’t rush in there. What are your thoughts? Both you and Heather? And Jerry? What are your thoughts about that philosophy? I get a little concerned when we’re going to do one more crop with Roundup.
Phillip Alberti 23:03
I mean, I think you know, there’s certainly a utility in these herbicides being used. But we’ve had to get creative with hemp the last few years because we haven’t had those options, which for me as a researcher has been fun is finding ways to kind of compete without having an herbicide option available. So you know that seed preparation and getting good establishment timing is very important. But we’ve had very good experiences with getting a good crop established without an herbicide application and having it withstand the competition throughout the season. Which you know, for me tells me there’s a lot of opportunity there to continue that work and use hemp as a potential option, you know, like you say, for a cropping option without having to use those herbicides. So, you know, it’s not a one size fit all and I certainly think there’s going to be room for incorporations of herbicides within the hemp production, but its ability and natural ability at higher densities to out compete with weeds, if you get it established, well provides a tremendous opportunity to to continue with those sorts of production practices.
Heather Darby 24:05
Yeah, I think it’s interesting when we see some of the research on hemp, especially fiber hemp focused on environment. You know, there’s lower input numbers, etc. And all that really has to do with how the plants grown, not just because it’s hemp. So if we want to actually continue to promote that crop as a crop with these environmental benefits, I think we do have to really think about using hemps capabilities to suppress weeds, which is a real thing and we’ve all seen that if you get a good stand, I don’t have any weed problems. I can’t name or even think of a plot where we got a really good stand a hemp where there was hardly anything in the understory even when it started with a good number. And of course you know like a has already been noted, there’s always going to be a case where we’re proven wrong and we could really use that herbicide. But I agree, I think it’s a real opportunity to help break some of those herbicide cycles and herbicide resistant weeds. You know, and if we can figure out how to get good stands regularly, I don’t, I don’t really see where we’re going to need them much.
Carl Duley 25:27
Yeah, cuz my sites loaded with waterhemp and resistant waterhemp. And Jerry has a touch of it up in his site, too. And I had none, none in in my plot this year, even where it wasn’t really, really aggressive. Some of the varieties, some of the autoflower varieties, not really aggressive, I didn’t have any in there, I was amazed.
Phillip Alberti 25:48
You also make me think about the other end of this, too, is, you know, not just the production of the hemp itself but before and after. From a cover crop standpoint, depending on your use. So if you’re pushing planting dates late for grain into June, you have a lot of time to get, you know, that early spring biomass production from a previous planted cover crop. Or on the back end, if you’re harvesting a fiber crop in August, let’s just say here in Wisconsin or in Illinois, that provides you a tremendous opportunity for fall cover crop growth going into the winter. So I think there’s a lot of questions we have about how it fits into production systems, particularly from, you know, conservation, cropping, or sustainable ag standpoint that certainly be addressed now that we kind of know which direction we want to take this.
Jerry Clark 26:38
Yeah, that’s exactly where I was going to go with the next question. So great point, Phil, is where this fits in. Because we did some, you know, our planting here in Chippewa County, mid-June, and by mid-August, 60 days, we were getting three ton of dry matter, maybe four ton of dry matter, just by checking to see what we had out there. And even from a feed quality standpoint, even though you can’t legally feed it to anything, we did some forage tests just to see what’s the stuff doing and we’re getting in 2020, or excuse me, 2021. You know, it was right there with alfalfa in terms of protein, fiber was a little bit higher, obviously. But those kinds of parameters were actually pretty decent. So timing, like any other crop, if you’re going to get the quality, you gotta hit the the right timing. But like you said, I think if you can capture that much tonnage in a short window, or at least use it as a cover crop, and then that opens that window up for that third crop to break up some of these cycles. That’s where we’re starting to think, what can what’s next? Or how can we, you know, really adapt this crop into a kind of a three crop rotation with whether it’s corn or soybeans or winter wheat or cover crop, whatever it is. Oh, go ahead, Heather.
Heather Darby 27:53
Well, I was actually thinking about the planting date piece that we were talking about. And early on, we did planting date studies, three years in a row. And each year, we had a different sort of successful planning. You know, and what in the first year we grew hemp, it was third week of May. And the second year we grew hemp, it was the sixth of June. And the third year we did it, it was like the 10th of June or something. And it just, you know, I think it made me realize that and I have heard this from other growers and other regions, like mostly Canada, that the nice thing about hemp is that you do have a wide planting window, there’s a wider opportunity there, versus maybe something like corn, where, especially for growing for fiber, and even for grain, we can still maximize yields if we plant into June. But if the conditions are right, and the ground is warm, and we’ve had an early spring, or whatever it is and the moisture is perfect, then don’t be afraid to plant on the third week of May either. And I think that’s what I have learned over the years is that I gotta keep my eye on the conditions, you know, the soils got to be warm. And it’s got to be the conditions where I know as Carl said, that seeds going to jump out of the ground as soon as possible. And there’s not some cold forecast in the future, it wasn’t just like an off week, because when we’ve been unsuccessful is when it was warm, so we planted but then it got cold and wet. And then we just had terrible, terrible stands. So I think it’s nice that there’s options, a wider planting window option, but people have to be thinking about the conditions. More so I think because it’s not as forgiving as some of our other crops I don’t think.
Jerry Clark 29:54
So, as we move along in the regulation side of things we think about Wisconsin has moved under the, no longer has their own program, we’ve moved under the USDA program. Where do you see that, you know in your crystal ball, where do you see the regulation side of things headed from that standpoint, Phil,
Phillip Alberti 30:14
It’s just going to be an adjustment for growers, I think to to really understand, you know, the rules and regulations that they’re required to follow. It’s just kind of a whole new system of of the USDA taking over. So where you get your testing done, who is coming out is going to be handled differently. And so I really would encourage growers to make sure they are understanding the federal rules that we are expected to follow. I think it’s better now that it has been that we are starting to get on some sort of universal language, even with the state plans, in some cases, like Illinois, doing their own thing, and not following the federal guidelines, there’s still a lot of that language is is consistent, which is going to be a step in the right direction, I think, for growers across the country really, and for processors as well. So, you know, I think, in the long run, these regulation changes are needed to get us where we need to be. So we’re all kind of in agreement. And I can speak to that coming from Illinois, where we were what was considered a Delta nine state from a compliance standpoint, for the first three years of hemp being legal here in the States. And that caused a bunch of issues for growers from a compliance standpoint, from interstate commerce, where, you know, they’re on one side of state lines, and it’s compliant hemp and they cross over into another state. And it’s technically, you know, marijuana trafficking. So I think we’re starting to get to a point where a lot of those, the language is going to be on the same level. And I think that’s going to be a benefit to everybody. In addition to that, I think the research exemptions that are going to be allowed for universities to conduct hemp research are going to be, you know, very beneficial by allowing us to do specific hemp production research under, you know, a very specific license that will eliminate some of those challenges that are traditional growers have to do and follow. So we can continue to do hemp production research and figure out what’s working and what’s not.
Heather Darby 32:15
Our situation is the same in Vermont, we were a Delta nine state to but now we’ve, you know, been turned over to the USDA, which sounds like a lot of states are heading that direction. And in our state, now recreational cannabis or marijuana is also legal. So that was part of the reasoning for the state to turn their hemp program over to the USDA and a focus on their recreational program administration instead. I think for growers, at least here, you know, that’s what makes us not the same as so many other crops is that it’s still regulatory, even if it’s legal to grow it. And that still, I think, is a pretty big barrier for a lot of growers. There’s just more red tape. And it just, you know, for so many people, especially, I think getting now that we’re moving into fiber and grain, you know, what’s the added value to them for growing those crops, you know, is the market such that it makes sense to go get your fingerprints taken and like, you know, just go through all this trouble? Because you’re gonna you know, the payout is there. And it’s worth all the baloney. I shouldn’t call it baloney. But you know, I mean, that’s what I hear from growers like, hey, you know, I just I don’t have time for that. We only have like one fingerprinting place in the entire state of Vermont. And so it’s also like, you know, it’s a small state. So maybe that’s irrelevant, but it’s a pain, you know, so that that still remains a barrier. It’ll be interesting if I had my magic ball to see what happens with the new farm bill. And I think there’ll be a lot of pressure being put on some of the have rules and regulations. And it’ll be interesting to see what happens here and in the new Farm Bill.
Jerry Clark 34:07
Excellent point, that is coming up. And that’ll be something to watch.
Carl Duley 34:11
Yeah, you read my mind Heather, I was going to ask if you were appointed to the study committee for that part of the Farm Bill.
Heather Darby 34:18
Yeah, but it’s important. And you know, I think again, for this for hemp to really I think take off especially in these crops that are they will be lower value. It’s not going to be like CBD, that they become commodities. Why is anybody going to do it unless the payout is really much higher. It still is risky.
Jerry Clark 34:39
And that was the discussion in the the webinar yesterday was that crop insurance and all of these kinds of things. I know a few people that work at some lending institutions in Chippewa County and they basically said, we don’t really give out loans to anybody that’s producing it, just even if it’s, you know, they got all the paperwork in, they just said, we’re not taking the risk of, because we don’t know if it’s with a crop failure, or whatever it is. So they want to treat it. I know, the goal from yesterday’s meeting was, let’s try to get it to be a commodity. But when you’re competing with corn and soybeans with the prices they are, it’s going to take another correction in those markets. Or if those markets crash, then there’ll be that renewed interest, I think, where you start to see farmers say, okay, I can give up some land, because I’m not going to make money on corn and soybeans or there’s an environmental benefit that’s proven along the way.
Phillip Alberti 35:36
I think outside of just like, you know, the, the challenges from, you know, going in getting your thumbprint going through the whole licensing is, and then the also, the challenges of the actual market of going somewhere with this crop is from a compliance standpoint, it’s expensive to get this material tested, you know, whether it depends on the state or the you know, the, the tribe or the federal program you’re under, but to paid somebody to come out to sample your crop to go in and get it tested. And then to prove it’s compliant, it can be very expensive, depending on where you are. And so I think something that may be an opportunity moving forward that was written into the Farm Bill, and then hopefully, we’ll get expanded on in the future is the idea of performance based sampling in a way that we can be asserted seated for certification. And establishing varieties that have been shown to be compliant over time that are tried and true, I think will be a significant way to reduce input costs for growers, and kind of be one of those big barriers to production. So you know, that’s something I’m going to be keeping an eye on, you know, moving forward, I know some states have done a successful performance based sampling methodology that has been approved. And I think that’ll be something to keep an eye on at the state or federal level for basically finding varieties that are going to be compliant and not have to follow the same stringent rules that you were forced to when proving that a variety is compliant.
Jerry Clark 37:02
Well, this is always great information. Before we wrap up, I think, if you could both just give me some background on any new publications, resources, things like that. We have our Cutting Edge webpage that you can get the podcasts on. And we have I think we have over 4000 subscribers now. Right, Carl? Somewhere in that ballpark?
Yes, it’s somewhere in that range. Yes.
So I know as for impact statements, Heather in Extension, I’ll send you those numbers as we go. But I know we’ve got new webpages being developed and revised research papers out there and those kinds of things. So I’ll start with you, Phil. What’s happening in terms of the resources for any growers or processors that might be interested in in investigating the hemp industry?
Phillip Alberti 37:48
Well, I’ll start off by saying that we are developing a Emerging Crops webpage for hemp, it’s going to be basically the clearinghouse for all University of Wisconsin hemp production resources. If you Google “Emerging Crops Wisconsin” it should take you there.
Just a quick interruption to say that the Emerging Crops website is not live yet but we’re working hard to bring it to the finish line and we’ll let you know on The Cutting Edge Podcast once we’ve gone public with it. Ok, back to the show.
But that’s going to be the place to go to look for all of our research reports from the last few years for grain and fiber production, as well as high cannabinoid hemp variety trials from 2022 are going to be up there at some point this fall slash winter. We’re still working on those. So keep an eye out for those things. But what I will point out is we have a lot of opportunities for collaboration, which you know, outside of our production resources are really going to be a driving force to get people to work with us here. If you’re interested in conducting any grain fiber or high cannabinoid hemp trials, we have various grant opportunities that are going to allow us to provide seed and costs of testing to participate in these projects. And for our grain and fiber trials may even provide a nice stipend for participating in those. So if you’re interested in doing any of that, just reach out to me and I’d be happy to get you that information. Also, if you’re aware of any feral hemp collect feral hemp sites across the Midwest, as part of our larger effort at the national level to collect this germplasm to incorporate it into our breeding programs and just protect this, you know, feral, wild hemp, we need it. So please let us know that it’s going to be one of our bigger projects, our national feral hemp collection, and then our disease survey. So if you’re a hemp grower and you’re experiencing disease, or pest pressure and you have questions, you can work with us to get those those answers we can do diagnostics visually or submit them to our our diagnostic lab and we can work with you to get those. Get those answers. So a lot of opportunities for collaboration. I guess I’ll just end it by saying if you’re a hemp producer in the region, come take a look at our website is going to have a ton of production resources not just from Wisconsin but from all over the country and it’s going to be the most up to date place for all of our hemp production available.
Jerry Clark 39:58
Thanks, Phil. Anything on your end, Heather, that’s new coming out?
Heather Darby 40:02
I just put up our website. I made a slide but it’s backwards. This is a podcast slide. Can people see it? Can they see it? No, they’re just listening. Yeah, well, right we have a website and there’s a there is a hemp section to that we, we do post all our research every year. So everything that we’re finding, we’re sharing immediately. And then we have lots of videos, we’ve done a ton of webinars series focused on all, you know, aspects that have been kind of gearing up to do our winter hemp conference, which we’ve done for quite a while now. And I think we’re gonna keep it virtual, even past COVID to draw on, you know, a wider audience, especially now that sort of hemp grower numbers are a little bit down or a lot down, making sure that we can get information out broadly remains important.
Carl Duley 41:07
And Jerry, we should mention that, well mention two things. First of all, that people that know Jerry and I, we did pass our FBI fingerprint. And so people can feel comfortable about that. And secondly, we are also planning on doing, we called it a virtual field day a couple years ago when we did on hemp and we’re going to try to bring that back this winter also and we may be hitting you up Heather, you never know, so expect a call or email.
Jerry Clark 41:33
Well again, any other final comments? I really appreciate Phil and Heather for taking time to do another podcast with us today and hope we can cross paths this winter as we do field days and virtual events and things like that. It’s been great.
JASON FISCHBACH 42:09
Brought to you by the University of Wisconsin Madison division of extension
Transcribed by https://otter.ai