Hosts Ashley Olson and Jerry Clark interview Dr. Shelby Ellison about ongoing work to commercialize industrial hemp for CBD in Wisconsin.
Recorded August 31, 2020
Jerry Clark, Shelby Ellison, Jason Fischbach, Ashley Olson
Jason Fischbach 00:00
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. (music)
Shelby Ellison 00:10
You know, if companies are sending me seed that’s a good sign, because that means that they believe in their product and they’re willing to put in the trials. I think after one or two more years of this type of thing, it’s going to shake out to see what companies are actually legitimate breeding companies and which ones are just people randomly pollinating stuff without having any background in breeding or genetics at all. (music)
Jerry Clark 00:50
All right. Welcome to the cutting edge, a podcast in search of new crops for Wisconsin. I’m your co host, Jerry Clark with the University of Wisconsin Madison extension in Chippewa County, serving as an agricultural agent and my co host today is Ashley Olson. So actually today we’ll be talking about CBD and the essential oils and those kinds of things. And I’m interested in getting my head straight around this topic since there’s a lot of discussion around the different oils that come with industrial hemp. And our guest today will be Dr. Shelby Ellison with the Department of horticulture at the University of Wisconsin Madison. She’s a faculty member and an assistant professor. And actually, I was just in my hometown of Chippewa Falls this last week, and I saw a sign that said on one of the pharmacies in town that said full extract CBD and I just thought it was interesting that we hear all these different oils and stuff and I’d never seen full extract before but that’s another avenue to this apparently.
Ashley Olson 01:56
Yeah, you know, I I’ve seen some signs for that too. And I guess I don’t know what the difference is between full extract or partial extract. Are we pulling part of the flower? Are we only taking this part of a petal? I don’t know. And so I was trying to do a little bit of research when I after I saw that sign as I was driving too, when I was heading into La Crosse, there’s a couple of hemp stores that are conveniently located on each side of the highway. So whether you’re heading into town or out of town, you can stop it either one there on both sides of the road. And I was wondering the same thing with what that means because they did say by having the whole plant extract now, there could be even more health benefits than just than just the partial extraction.
Jerry Clark 02:44
Yeah, so I find this whole this discussion will be great today with with Shelby and find out exactly what some of this stuff all means. So welcome. Oh, go ahead.
Ashley Olson 02:54
Well, we welcome Shelby but as we get started, you know, really… How do we actually say the true word? CBD is the short term for how do you say that again? Cannibidol, cannibal, cannibiol?
Jerry Clark 03:09
Well we’ll find out from Shelby. So welcome Shelby. All right there we go. So welcome Shelby and like you said, Ashley and I are trying to introduce this topic there’s a lot of different avenues we can go with this but you know, what is this oil industry with with industrial hemp and all the different we hear about CBD mainly, but apparently there’s all kinds of oils that come along with industrial hemp.
Shelby Ellison 03:35
Yeah, so thank you very much for having me. I’m excited to talk about hemp and essential oils today with you all. So when you’re talking about essential oil in hemp, you’re specifically talking about hemp that is typically female only production, so you are only growing female hemp plants and the unpollinated flower of a female hemp plant it, it produces these structures that look like tiny little mushrooms called trichomes. And inside those trichomes is where the various essential oils are. And there are actually over 100 different cannabinoids that can be found in those trichomes. But the ones that you hear of commonly today, so CBD or cannabidiol, and CBG cannabigerol those are found in a higher abundance. So we have cultivars that are able to produce those compounds in the 10 to 15% on a dry weight basis. And, and those also have been associated with a lot of preliminary results, that there are favorable compounds for humans. And I’m sure we’ll talk about this in a little bit but those unpollinated female flowers are what is harvested so the plants are then dried and the flowers are removed from the plants. And then through various techniques, those oils are extracted from the flower. Typically either using ethanol or carbon dioxide. And what you’re speaking about with that full extract, that means that all of the cannabinoids, so be it CBD or any of these very minor cannabinoids that are found in the flower are extracted together. So there’s what’s called an entourage effect that says that these cannabinoids as well as terpenes, which are related to flavor and odor, work together to give you an entourage effect that’s more, pretty much the all together it’s more powerful than any one isolated compound. So that’s what a full spectrum product is providing is that higher cannabinoid typically CBD and then the other cannabinoids in small minor quantities.
Jerry Clark 06:03
So something like that you’d kind of consider, I guess the the total is greater than the sum of the parts and that kind of thing where if you can get the total extract, you’re getting a few more benefits, so to speak. But yeah, and that’s the other thing is, you know, what is the, where’s the market going with this, you know, are the is this full extract kind of where it’s headed? Or is CBD still where we’re at?
Shelby Ellison 06:29
No, it’s, well, a lot of the products that you’ve seen marketed as CBD do still have some of these minor cannabinoids and terpenes in the product. So like if you see something that says CBD, it might say full spectrum CBD that means that it includes those other minor compounds. It’s very interesting because the market is kind of driving this in two separate directions where people that are interested in this product for the more holistic like viewpoint of it being better when you are ingesting all of these compounds together, they want that kind of full spectrum product. But that leads to a little bit of uncertainty in the final concentration of everything. And it’s a little bit harder to study the effects. Whereas in controlled scientific studies, you typically want to know the exact concentration and know exactly what you’re studying. So when you want a very particular dose of something and you want it to be exact every time then people are more interested in isolating these compounds, and then getting the exact concentration right. So I see that there’s an increase in gummies, or things that are like little single servings that have the exact same concentration every time. Um, so so that is increasing in, I think, in popularity just because people want to be a little bit more sure of what they’re ingesting than just like taking a dropper from a bottle and squirting away.
Ashley Olson 07:57
So is there a different say studies as far as, and we’re really wanting to talk more, you know being here today on this podcast, about the growing, the production, regulations of the CBD. But since we’re talking right now about the different concentrations versus whole plant, partial plant extracts, are there, is there any medical research that is happening right now for the CBD? I mean, we’re talking about some of the side effects with humans and or animals?
Shelby Ellison 08:32
Yeah, definitely. Um, so what’s interesting is when hemp became federally legal in the 2019 Farm Bill is kind of when federal research grants became available to study these compounds. So if you think about the timeline of that, that means in 2018, then there’s funding released, so you apply for that funding, and then you get it a year later in 2019. So, and then COVID happens. So a lot of these like preliminary studies are really preliminary still, there’s only one year of data. So there’s a lot of, kind of, preclinical or animal based studies looking at things like related to CBD or the other, as I mentioned, common cannabinoid is CBG, looking at things of how they relate a lot of pain management studies, so topical pain management, as well as looking at things related to anxiety or depression. And, of course, where this all came from the first really concrete medical evidence that we had was that CBD is very effective and several seizure related disorders or dravet syndrome, there’s a lot of these seizures that are popular, seizures that are common in in children and they found that CBD is actually very effective at reducing the number of seizures and so there’s a product called Epidiolex, which is an FDA approved drug for the treatment of these seizure disorders. So that’s, that’s kind of the, the furthest along in proving that this has an actual clinical effect and can help manage some diseases or disorders, but there’s many others in the pipeline that they’re going to need two or three or four years of replicated, you know, blind double blind studies to to make sure that they’re actually doing what they propose that they’re doing.
Jerry Clark 10:38
So, is CBD, let’s just take that one compound for, for starters, is that that that would that be uniform across the board regardless of the variety that you know a grower would grow with? If you extract CBD out of one plant is that chemical the same, I mean, there could be different concentrations. I would understand the difference in varieties there but is CBD CBD, you know worldwide or across the country? Is there a standard measurement for that?
Shelby Ellison 11:08
Yeah, so it will have the same I mean, CBD will be the same across the board no matter where you extract it from, it’s the same chemical structure. The only small difference is that the plant produces something called CBD-A which is the acetic version of that chemical and only through heat, um, does that convert from CDA CBD to sorry CBD-A into CBD. So, um, what the plant is producing and what we are consuming or animals are consuming later on are slightly different versions. And that goes through a heat process, but pretty much every form that we take in CBD as humans is after some sort of heated process. So so that CBD is what we’re typically ingesting.
Ashley Olson 12:00
Are there certain varieties that that are emerging that would be great as far as market potential for CBD?
Shelby Ellison 12:09
Yeah, so that’s one of the main things that I’m looking at, a little bit last summer and a lot this summer, is really understanding what is available, what cultivars are available and there there are different ways that people plant for essential oil production. They, as I mentioned, you only want females. So you either are planting clones which were cut off of female plants, so they’re guaranteed to be female. Or you can plant feminized seed, which has gone through a process to ensure that all of the seeds that are planted are female, or you can plant regular seed, which is going to be a mixture of males and females, but it’ll result in a lot of labor later when you have to pull out all those males. But so we’re looking at, right now we have 44 different cultivars that we’re comparing to see, um, we’re looking at these 44 cultivars in Wisconsin to see how they all perform relative to each other. So which ones have the highest amount of CBD while staying compliant under that .3% THC, as well as what their final yield is, how they can handle Wisconsin climate, we’re at a very fairly high latitude, so we need something that’s not going to flower in early October because there’s no way it will finish in time. So that will be a really good chunk of data to figure out what performs well here and and really understand what is going to be a good variety to recommend to people to grow moving forward where it’s going to have a high enough concentration of that essential oil that it will be marketable to a processor, um, but still be compliant and still grow well here.
Jerry Clark 14:00
Yeah, just for podcast listeners, we lost our co host, Ashley for a minute here. So I’ll try to write the ship for a minute until till Ashley gets on, looks like she lost power as a storm went through her house. So you know, the power of COVID-19 still still rules. And when you get a thunderstorm, it doesn’t work if your internet doesn’t work real well. So we’ll we’ll continue on Shelby hopefully Ashley can rejoin us. So, regarding some of the research you’re doing, I know I’m part of one with Oregon State University with Carl Dooley and Buffalo County, and a number of us on our Wisconsin Extension, alternative crops team. But could you just explain maybe some of the with the Oregon State study as well as what you’re doing at UW Madison as far as trying to get some more local data that we can help some Wisconsin farmers with?
Shelby Ellison 14:52
Yeah, definitely. So. So a lot of these studies are relating to just figuring out how varieties perform here because a lot of these initial varieties were produced out in the Pacific Northwest. So either in Washington, Oregon or in Colorado, and so a very different climate. So we want to see how they perform here. So we’re collecting data on kind of all throughout the growing season, how the plant is growing over time, trying to figure out what’s going to be the best spacing. Is it good to have tighter plants? Or is that going to produce more disease later in the season? What’s, How is that going to affect the yield? So we’re also kind of characterizing what disease pressure we see, what insect pressure we see, is there any difference between varieties for that disease pressure? Um, and then really capturing that flowering time period, figuring out when these plants start flowering, when they finish, and tracking that cannabinoid content throughout the flowering period. Because that’s going to be a really important recommendation is to tell farmers Okay, we tested these varieties. In a few different locations, it seems like if you test at this point, then it will be, um, it’s going to be compliant, we feel pretty confident. So other things that we’re looking at are there are cultivars that are autoflowering varieties, which means that they will flower after a certain amount of time, so it’s not dependent on the day length. So typically, these are very early flowering, they might start flowering after 45 days and finish after 75 days. So that might be something that’s better for a very northern climate where there’s not a really long growing season, but they tend to yield less, that also might be a good system if you’re doing greenhouse production. And then that’s compared to photo period varieties which need a certain amount of daylength to start to flower. So typically when you get below 14 hours of sunlight, is when you start to see a lot of these cultivars flower. So I’ve been, of my 44 varieties, looking at flowering starting in early August, and I still have some that haven’t flowered yet. And then with, you mentioned the Oregon State trials, so that is part of an S-1084, multi state hatch project. So that’s great because we’re growing those same six varieties for that trial. And they’re in like, over 10 locations across the country. So it’s going to be really interesting to see how they perform and compare that data across the board. And we’re all collecting everything in a very uniform fashion. So it should be very able to compare we’ll be able to easily compare that data. So that that’s going to be a nice data set. And that will probably continue on until next year. So we have at least two years of data with that. Um, yeah, but but really just getting a good grasp on, in multiple locations, either across Wisconsin or locations across the country, how the same varieties perform in different environments and how they compare to each other to make better recommendations for what does well in certain regions.
Jerry Clark 18:11
Is planting date or those kind of I suppose it depends if you’re getting seed versus transplants, but is the research looking at planting date or any any of those agronomic type of things at this point?
Shelby Ellison 18:26
Yeah, there there is more of that. Um, so we have some colleagues on an extension that are looking more at kind of the grain and fiber types of hemp. And they’ve done some more of that agronomic analysis looking at planting date and row width and spacing and different nitrogen levels. We have. We have a little bit I have one small fertility trial looking at different levels of nitrogen and how that affects cannabinoid content throughout the flowering period. It is a little bit different. Just because of the transplants and I think that that will be definitely something to do moving forward next summer. But it is interesting because you Yeah, you you can kind of plant whenever you want when you have transplants, it’s just they’ll get a little bit bigger, you don’t want that, that transplant to get any sort of, get rootbound when before you transplant it, so you have to make sure that you’re either increasing your your transplant as you have it in the greenhouse or you have to get it into the field. But those are definitely studies that we’ll look at moving forward.
Jerry Clark 19:40
So from a testing standpoint, so if we look at this as I’m a farmer, I want to grow Okay, I mean, this is what we answered for a question in Extension. We still are but for the for in 2018 and especially last year, a lot of questions about, I want to grow industrial hemp, and of course it’s regulated. And so we went kind of went down that path. But maybe just to give us a snapshot, Shelby if regarding the difference in this, what to these, the content of THC versus CBD and they think well, CBD is marijuana and all this kind of stuff there’s all this bad information out there where you can get mixed up in what all this means but you mentioned industrial hemp for seed and fiber and we’re growing that completely different than we are for, for the essential oils. So maybe just kind of go go down that path of of the difference between growing those two. You can be very brief about that because we do have an industrial hemp grain and fiber podcast that we did earlier. But just kind of look at that from a standpoint of some of those quick agronomics that differences. And then how what that, that THC means as far as with industrial hemp, some of that regulatory side of things.
Shelby Ellison 21:10
Sure. So I think I’ll start with the regulatory question. So and the way that industrial hemp is defined is that it must have less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. And the way that it was written into the 2018 Farm Bill was that was described as less than point 3% Delta nine THC, which has like led to a lot of differences across states as they interpreted that that particular clause in the Farm Bill, meaning whether we should be counting total THC or just Delta nine THC. So I had talked a little bit about how the plant makes CBD-A the a acetic version and then through heat, it gets converted into CBD. which is what we ingest as humans. that exact same thing happens with THC. The plant makes a compound called THC-A, and then through heat that is converted into delta nine THC. And that is what is the psychoactive compound that people associate with drug type cannabis. Um, so some people interpreted the the way that the 2018 Farm Bill was written that you only would include that THC or the Delta nine compound when you’re calculating 0.3% THC. Which if you just harvest some flowers from a plant and test it at that hasn’t that haven’t gone through a heat treatment, then almost every cannabis plant will be compliant. But the truth of the matter is, the way that we’re extracting them, we’re heating them up. So all of that thc-A does get converted to delta nine and then you you have that much higher THC level so so this is one thing that I’m DATCAP and and all people that are working on the regulatory side are are trying to convince everyone that, no, you have to use this calculation that includes THC-A and delta nine THC to calculate your total THC. With industrial hemp, so it could be that you’re growing for grain or fiber or for CBD. All of them fall under the definition of industrial hemp, which is just that legal definition. Some people consider industrial hemp to be more of the grain and fiber because that’s kind of what was being thought about in the 2014 Farm Bill when we were talking about bringing hemp back as a crop that people could grow. Back then nobody was thinking about CBD, so some people like to call it just hemp if it’s being grown for CBD, and industrial hemp if it’s being grown for grain and fiber. But I must say that there’s not an exact industry standard. They’re all industrial hemp and after the 2018 Farm Bill, they kind of remove that word industrial and just call everything hemp. Um, so the second part of your question just about the production systems that are involved in the different types of hemp that you can grow. So as I mentioned, um, growing for essential oil production, you’re growing females only. Most of the time people right now are transplanting so transplanting four or five week old seedlings. However, the trial that we’re all involved in with Oregon State University that was actually direct seeded, and that’s, I think, an interesting way that the industry might be moving forward is figuring out how to mechanize this a little bit more so you remove some of the labor that’s involved. There are no labeled synthetic pesticides or herbicides. So figuring out how to deal with weeds is a major issue. So a higher planting density where you can choke out the weeds earlier on is desirable and that might mean a higher planting density. Um, however, the spacing is dramatically different in most compared industrial essential oil compared to the industrial hemp side with grain and fiber, you’re you’re typically planting like 2000 plants an acre with essential oil production. So you might have four foot in row five foot between row spacing in a typical production setting. Whereas with growing for grain you’re gonna have 30-40 pounds an acre and growing for fiber, you might have 60-70 pounds of seed per acre, so a much higher density for the grain and fiber sides of things. And then the other thing is just the, the harvest is drastically different to with essential oil you’re you’re going through a lot of the times and manually chopping the plant at the base and then bringing it to a drying facility or a barn to dry it and chuck it. Where’s the grain is just being harvested as most other grains systems are being harvested, you know, using some sort of combine system and then fiber is still really getting worked out. There are some hemp specific pieces of equipment that are being developed. But really, I think this year is going to be the year for innovation for that as more and more people are interested in growing for fiber, so I’ll be very curious to see some more, more thoughtful ways of harvesting and dealing with the fiber.
Jerry Clark 26:37
Great. Great, thanks Shelby. I see Ashley actually made it back her powers back on.
Ashley Olson 26:41
Ashley Olson is back all right. My voice is my recording here. I had a bad feeling here. We so we got some, you know, down here in western kind of Southwest Wisconsin. We have some much needed rain happening again today and along with these great lightning strikes, which took out some power, but um, you know, jump back on back to what you’re talking about and, and the growing of the hemp and different trends and varieties. And you were talking about the THC levels and what is legal. So are there any trends developing across the whole state where we’re seeing hemp that is testing above that level there? Are there any geographic trends? Is it soil related, weather related? Anything like that, that you’re seeing?
Shelby Ellison 27:38
So as a geneticist, I say no, um, I think the primary trend still has to do with the cultivar, um, more than as it relates to any sort of agronomic practice. So, um, after one year of data like looking at different nitrogen levels and its effect on cannabinoid production, we didn’t see any significant difference between 0, 50, 100, and 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre for the various cannabinoids, so we’re repeating that study this year, but it definitely seems that you know, the fiber and grain varieties are very unlikely to ever reach that THC threshold. They also have very low CBD. But when you’re trying to push the limits for the CBD production, the enzyme in the plant that converts CBG into CBD is very similar to the one that converts CBG into THC. So even if that enzyme is knocked out, and you’re not supposed to have any THC production, the enzyme is still leaky and it produces a little bit so there’s this ratio, that’s kind of the industry standard that the best cultivars that are available, have a 30 to one ratio of CBD to THC. So that means If you have 10%, CBD, you’re gonna have point 3% THC. So if you see Certificate of analysis, so COA’s that you get from these hemp potency, they’re testing the cannabinoid concentration of the plant. Once you see things in the teens, I get very, very skeptical of how much THC is in there. And I wonder if they’re only counting Delta nine or what they’re doing because I have not seen any varieties that are better than that 30 to one ratio consistently, there might be one or two tests that you’re like, wow, that was amazing. But consistently, I’m not seeing that. Um, we have a project where we’re looking at, we have farmers who are part of the testing program where they have to have at least two tests on their variety throughout the growing season, and they’re telling us a lot of their agronomic conditions of how they planted, what fertility they use, what irrigation, where they’re located. So we can kind of see across the Midwest, how the same variety is performing. Um, so hopefully that will shed some light on if there are any other things that are happening that are related to the cannabinoid production. I have seen one or two studies that relate to potentially cannabinoid production and drought, on that there’s an increase in cannabinoids under drought conditions, that’s the only thing that I’ve really seen in the scientific literature that kind of seems to have some truth behind it. Um, but again, we just need a few more years to kind of shake out some of these trends to figure out what’s real and not. Um, and then the other thing I should mention is one of the reasons why people are excited about growing CBG is because that’s like the entry point into the cannabinol or the cannabinoid biosynthetic pathway. So that’s like the first compound that’s produced and pretty much it blocks everything from being produced down the pathway. So you can get really high concentrations of CBG without being worried about THC content. So that’s one motivation behind why growers are growing these CBG varieties is they’re less concerned that they’re going to go hot in the field. Um, but these varieties are very, I mean, they’re not varieties, they’re very very new, and they’re not very uniform. So you’re also going to see a lack of consistency across the board when farmers are growing these this early on. So that will be something good to look forward to those cultivars and all cultivars improving and uniformity moving forward.
Jerry Clark 31:37
So Shelby as a geneticist then since since you brought that up. That’s your train. I mean, that’s obviously where your your study is, and you’re an expert in that that area. Are we looking, is there breeding programs going on to try to you know, compared to corn, but you know, if If this gets to be very standardized or with with the varieties if you plant this, you know, you’re, you’re going to be able to get this much CBG. As far as you know the genetic potential, we always say there’s the genetic potential then the environment screws all that up. So are there are there breeding programs established now in the United States to kind of or your shop or your lab to kind of start to look at maybe developing brand new varieties that grow shorter, taller, oil content, that kind of thing?
Shelby Ellison 32:32
Yeah, there are there. They’re all about five years old. So it’s very interesting because it’s so new, but um, a few of the states that had like jumped on after the 2014 Farm Bill, they have probably the longer program so Colorado State and Cornell and University of Kentucky. Kentucky’s doing more of the agronomy work, but there’s definitely some breeding programs in those states. And then there’s kind of some others, myself included, that are planning on doing some sort of breeding component in our project. But the majority of the breeding is happening right now in the private sector. So there are breeding companies that are, you know, have been breeding since the 2014 Farm Bill. And that’s definitely where some of the best genetics are coming from, but they just need time to get that uniformity sorted out. And they’re also just need to, you know, when I asked for seed for variety trials, and people send me seed, you know, if companies are sending me seed, that’s a good sign, because that means that they believe in their product, and they’re willing to put it in trials. I think after one or two more years of this type of thing, it’s going to shake out to see what companies are actually legitimate breeding companies and which ones are just people randomly pollinating stuff without having any background in breeding or genetics at all. So um, it’s going to take a little bit more time. But there’s definitely some good players out there right now that are very well suited to create new, uniform, well adapted varieties.
Ashley Olson 34:11
And along those lines, are these varieties all being, then that are out there marketed as organic? Are there any conventional varieties out there and what’s the outlook for organic versus conventional of CBG? Or D?
Shelby Ellison 34:33
Yeah, yeah. So, because hemp, um, was illegal for so long. All of the typical herbicides and pesticides and fungicides um, their hemp isn’t labeled for any of those products that are out there right now that are commercially available, particularly synthetically derived products. There are some bio products that are, that you can use on hemp. But it’s the same thing it’s going to take a little bit to figure out if this product if it’s safe to use those products in hemp particularly hemp grown for CBD or CBG or whatever it can have any production because people are inhaling, like these flower products that might be sprayed. So interestingly, a lot of hemp it’s not, it’s not grown conventionally or organic, I mean, organic in the strict sense of being certified organic. Um, there are very few people that are certified organic, because, just because you’re not spraying your crop doesn’t mean that your organic right, you have to have your field being grown under organic practices for more than three years and you have to go through the certification process. And if you’re using certain types of fertilizer, it’s not going to count. So, um, there are a few people growing actually certified organic, the people that are, that’s great. There is actually a market for that, people are very interested in organically certified hemp for all types of hemp grain or essential oil or even for fiber based products if people are talking about things like, you know, ecologically friendly clothing, um, but the there’s a little bit of confusion out there with both producers and people buying these products that say that they’re going organically just because they’re not spraying anything on them. So there’s a huge problem with that because of the people who go through all the effort to actually get certified and what they’re doing versus people are just like slapping and the word organic on their product because they didn’t spray it with anything. So it’s interesting. Nothing is being grown as conventional as a lot of other crops grow because you can’t put these products on. It will be interesting once some producers find out what it really takes to be certified organic. And once more synthetically labeled products are available. Kind of where the industry will go. I imagine for the grain and fiber production, you’re probably going to see a lot more conventional production because it’s very hard to grow organically. But I think with the cannabinoid or the essential oil production, you’ll probably see a lot more true organically certified products because there is a market for that product.
Jerry Clark 37:25
So with the CB or with the essential oil production then and you mentioned it’s different, because you you have the spacing of five by five or rows are so wide and plants are spaced so far apart. What are producers doing or for? Are they growing it under plastic? Are they mulching heavily? Just what are some of the production practices you’ve observed?
Shelby Ellison 37:52
Yeah, I think it kind of depends on the acreage. So um, you know, the three main things that I’ve seen are kind of if you have smaller scale, you know, maybe one two acres, people are using plastic culture where they’ll lay plastic down and use that as a weed control. And then they might have bare ground between or put a cover crops down between the rows. Um, that seems to be pretty common, but that’s also expensive and time consuming at the end of the season and there’s other things to consider with organic certification with that as well and removing that, um, some people are just using cover cropping so they’re just you know, transplanting directly maybe they’ll like just till really small rows or rip some rip the line of soil and then transplant and they’ll have a cover crop and and I’ve seen very mixed results using that method as well. Some people it’s great if you have a uniform cover crop and it’s not if it’s actually you know, Clover and in nicely settled in Not a bunch of grasses in basically it coming into your cover crop that can work well. Um, and the third production system is just on you know, having completely just using mechanical cultivation. So are there are these eco weeders, where you can kind of ride over the top of the plant and cultivate within row up until maybe mid July, so the plant might be in the ground for six weeks or so. And then you just like hope that the plants will out compete the weeds. But for that system, you want to have a pretty, pretty clean seed bed going into that and you have to be very careful the first few weeks. So you’re, you stay on top of the weeds. I mean, you have to do that with lots of these systems. And I should say, with the cover crop, yeah, you’re just mowing down weeds or your cover crop every few weeks. So those are I think the three main production systems that I’m familiar with. The one that we’re doing in Buffalo County, with that essential oil trial, that was planted at a much higher density. Um, so yeah, you kind of have to just think about it when you’re planting it, what your cultivation options are, if you can fit something between your row spacing that’s going to be able to mechanically deal with the weeds.
Jerry Clark 40:17
Yeah, and we’ve with the project we have in Buffalo County, that was for listeners that was planted with a drill. So we use seeds, those were not transplants. And so it’ll be interesting to see what are we’re getting close to harvest for the auto flower varieties, probably here in this week. Of course, we’re at the end of August here. So September is harvest month for a lot of these these varieties as we move towards the first frost. How is it for frost? I mean, I guess what I’ve noticed in the some of the fiber and hemp or fiber and green trials we had here in Chippewa County, there’s not a lot of wildlife damage doesn’t seem to be insect pressure, these kind of things and maybe it’s just that new of a crop that they haven’t discovered it.
Shelby Ellison 41:01
Yeah, last year, um, I actually had plants in the field and they went through a hard frost. And I was quite surprised. So as the plants reach maturity, they kind of start to lose all of their leaves and just really have the cola or flowers left. But I think the biggest concern more than frost is just any excess moisture during the harvest season could be potentially a site of where you’ll start to get fungal growth. And once that happens in those colas because of how tightly they’re packed, it will just take out the entire inflorescence. And then it’s a huge loss on yields. And if you’re harvesting those and you’re putting them in a big bin together before they get drying, then they’re going to be all contaminating each other. So so just any sort of excess moisture is more of the fear than probably just having the frost itself which it seems that they can. I mean, as I was talking about those trichomes on the flowers, those little tiny mushroom like structures are where the cannabinoids are. So you could envision that if they were frozen if they exit like if they start to come off in the field, you’re losing cannabinoids yield. Um, but the plant itself seems to tolerate some frost and, and we have a new plant physiologist in the department of horticulture that’s going to be starting soon and he works in cold hardy crops. So I’ll be sure to talk to him about looking in cold hardiness and hemp, which seems like it’ll be important for Wisconsin.
Jerry Clark 42:37
Ashley Olson 42:39
That’s awesome. Um, and Shelby that just brought up another thought as we’re talking here. Learning more about the essential oil side of hemp. You talked about the all the excess moisture the fungals Have you noticed in any of your research plots or or on your own Any other diseases that you’ve seen popping up that could be detrimental to the crop?
Shelby Ellison 43:08
Yeah. So my my two years of experience or two summers of experience so far. Um, so with relation to insect pressure during the growing season, there are two kind of main borers that are an issue. So the European corn borer seems to be kind of a problem throughout early July in the mid July, it’ll make these, it’ll cluster the leaves together and kind of make a little webbing where it’ll have a, there’ll be a caterpillar in there and you find it so you just want to smoosh those whenever you find them, but more detrimental to that is the Eurasian hemp borer for which typically will bore into the stem of the plant and then everything above that point of where they burrowed in will die. And that is actually the most problematic. So there’s about three flushes of that life cycle of that eaurasiaon hemp borer. But the third flush happens right about now. And they’ll burrow in right underneath where you have your flower forming. And then that site will collect moisture and then it’ll come in with the detritus, which is the bud rot and cause that flower to then rot. So it’s kind of this like one two punch with those two things working together. At the end of the season. There are a lot of cool year diseases, so you’ll see things like um they’ll be there’s some white mold, powdery mildew, there’s a lot of leaf septoria. So you’ll see these lesions on the leaves and it does seem to spread quickly. But what’s interesting is around this time of year, even as the leaves are starting to defoliate defoliate. It’s not super detrimental on the yield because you don’t care about those leaves as long as it’s not getting on the flowers. So really the things that come in to this area and things that might affect the flower at the end of the season or what you have to worry about. But the, we’re getting a little bit of a handle on the all of the different pathogens that attack the plant. The interesting thing is like, we still can’t do very much about it, because there’s no products that you can use to deal with them. So you kind of only have to use cultural practices, which is trying to keep good airflow, keep your plants as dry as you can. And then when you see disease, cut it out, immediately. Remove it from your field, and don’t make a big pile of your plants at the end of the season while you’re waiting to find a place to dry them.
Jerry Clark 45:44
So Shelby, with where, with your research or looking forward? Where are you headed with this and I guess what’s your crystal ball say for the market, we know people have had trouble getting rid of their product and that kind of thing. And maybe demand hasn’t caught up with production yet. But do you see demand increasing? And maybe as we get some of these medical studies done that it does ramp up a little bit, or what do you think from that standpoint?
Shelby Ellison 46:13
Yeah, I mean, this is this is new to me kind of doing the economic forecasting for a crop, but not anything that I have any formal training in.
Jerry Clark 46:23
None of us do.
Shelby Ellison 46:23
I mean, all I can say is that I’m certain it will be uncertain for a while to come. Um, I did see the first report yesterday or something from there’s this hemp benchmark report that comes out every month and they were like, CBD prices are stabilizing, which I thought that’s something that there’s not a downward trend. However, we know that people are going to start harvesting soon. So we’ll see. But I think that there’s a few things that need to happen. I mean, right now, we have very uncertain state by state regulation of this. So once Things are supposed to happen where there’s a federally approved program or or everyone’s operating under the same federally approved program. It’ll kind of allow people to have an even playing field where we’re not competing with states that have different types of testing requirements or some states are still using that delta nine THC versus total THC, which just makes things seem quite unfair. However, Wisconsin right now, our license is only good through October 31 of 2020. And Wisconsin has not submitted its federal plan yet. So that means after October 31, we should not be growing any hemp in the state of Wisconsin until we have a new license. And I can tell you as a researcher that makes me very nervous. I don’t know what I’m doing after October 31. I’m so across the board kind of regulations need to be understood. They’re not very good. For the farmer right now, the way that they’re set up, it’s really like the farmer is more set up to fail than the processor or anyone else, which is not very motivating for a farmer to get into this then right now, and then things like the the FDA needs to make a decision figuring out what products can indeed have CBD or CBG in it. So right now it’s, it’s uncertain, or it’s illegal to actually sell food and drink products with CBD in it. Um, because of that that Epidiolex. That FDA approved drug because that exists, the FDA then has to kind of oversee all other CBD derived products. So they need to kind of give some guidance on how the rest of the industry can move forward with making more CBD products because the tinctures and the lotions and bath bombs, these types of things because they’re not food products. It’s kind of That’s the end of where we can go with marketing this right now you can’t have any big companies making food and drink products with with the cannabinoids. Another really important thing is also just figuring out with some of the other hemp derived products like the grain products if they’re going to be able to be used as animal feed, or nutrient supplements for animal feed. So there are indeed federally approved funding studies underway right now looking at feeding studies for cows and chickens and lambs at if they ingest either grain derived from from hemp or spent biomass derived from extracting, hemp, how much CBD and THC get into those animals drive products just to make recommendations to the FDA of like, Okay, how are we going to regulate this moving forward? So, you know, there’s all these kind of loose ends that need to be tied up and until they are there’s no way I think to really predict what’s going to happen. The other thing is right now, the grain and the fiber, well particularly the fiber, lack in the infrastructure for process, processing it once it comes out of the field, but people are super excited about this side of things too. So I think that there’s going to be more potential there. It’s not going to be huge high dollar per acreage type of crop, but I think that it could have a lot more acreage and because you can do a lot more with that product than just, you know, take a gummy. Um, that that might be that might open up a lot of new avenues for for both producers and processors.
Ashley Olson 50:40
So stepping back just a second when you mentioned about with some of the FDA rulings, we cannot have any sort of hemp in food or drink products for human consumption. Did some places try that? say I? I very vividly remember a local brewery in LaCrosse coming out with a hemps Porter. And then I do not think they were able to actually serve it, did something did some places experiment with putting it into products and then they were told to take it out or not be able to even market it.
JASON FISCHBACH 51:21
Just an editor’s note here before Shelby answers. hemp grain used for food, or culinary cooking oil, for example, is currently allowed However, when CBD is added to food products and sold as a CBD enhanced food that is not allowed currently.
Shelby Ellison 51:39
Yeah, for sure. And I think that it kind of it just depends on how much visibility that product saw. I mean, down here in Madison, there were certainly lots of you know, little soda companies and things that were putting CBD and in products and I don’t you know, I don’t think the FDA has the bandwidth. To like regulate all of these products, so I think if it was a bigger product, or if someone informed them, then they would have been more able to like regulate or send a letter saying, like, knock it off. I think they really are going on after products that have big, medicinal claims. So if you’re making a product and you’re saying it cures cancer, the FDA is going to write you a letter and say, cease and desist with this because there’s no evidence for this. So, um, yeah, I think if there are bigger products, if they’re, you know, at least statewide in in notoriety, then probably the FDA is coming after you. But if it’s, you know, a tiny little like tea being served at your farmers market that the FDA probably doesn’t know about that. But mostly they’re going after these like bigger CBD companies on the internet that have big sweeping medicinal claims on their websites.
Jerry Clark 52:54
Let me just thank Shelby Ellison from the University of Wisconsin Madison Horticulture Department for joining us today. On our cutting edge podcasts, podcasts in search of new crops for Wisconsin. And thanks for joining us, Shelby.
Shelby Ellison 53:08
Yeah, my pleasure.