OSU Extension Center tries its hand at hemp

Cannabis plants growing in Josephine County (Georgia Lawson/News 10)

When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, many were eager to take advantage of the relaxed hemp regulations inscribed within it.

Hemp quickly became a crop of interest locally, with exceptional soil and climate for growing the plant. Now, Oregon State University's Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center in Central Point is trying its hand at the crop.

Director Richard Roseberg presented the project plans to grow and research hemp at the Jackson County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, saying that Oregon cannabis is expected to be a $1 billion crop in 2019. That outpaces any other crop, and as a major research institution, OSU intends to get ahead of it.

"Our latitude, our climate, our day length, our soils - this is quite frankly an excellent region for this species of plant to grow," Roseberg said.

Some challenges remain. With widespread hemp production so new, the regulatory infrastructure is lacking. The 2018 Farm Bill calls for seed certification, yet there is not currently a U.S. seed-certifying agency, so OSU would have to get certified seeds from other countries in the meantime.

Roseberg admits that OSU also has little practical experience growing the plant, so the research would begin by relying heavily on existing literature from elsewhere.

Nevertheless, they plan to move forward quickly, beginning the project's initial phases in the coming weeks. They plan to exclusively focus on growing the crop, rather than any form of processing. In doing so, the researchers hope to answer questions and help steer the inevitable onset of a major local industry.

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