LEXINGTON, KY — The first legal hemp crop planted in central Kentucky in over 50 years is thriving without fertilizer or pesticide, despite being planted later than originally planned.
The crop, planted at the University of Kentucky’s Spindletop research farm in Lexington in late May, has flourished without the use of fertilizer or pesticides. Researchers say plants have grown to over six feet tall in some places, and are still growing.
“It’s doing just fine so far,” said Dave Williams, an agronomist at the university who is among those overseeing the program. “We’ve had enough rain to keep it growing and enough heat to make it grow.”
Planting of the crop, which was made possible by the passage of 2013′s Senate Bill 50, got off to a late start after researchers were forced to overcome roadblocks placed by the federal government.
The seeds for the crop, which were imported from Italy, were seized by officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in May, prompting the state’s Agriculture Commissioner, James Comer, to sue the federal government.
Following two federal hearings and a face-to-face meeting with US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is from Kentucky and heavily criticized the DEA‘s use of taxpayer funds to impound the legal hemp seeds, the DEA agreed to expedite permits to allow the state to import the seeds.
Since then, several additional shipments of hemp seeds have been imported by the state without problems, and 15 farmers in Kentucky have planted hemp crops for Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture test program.
The test plots planted this year are the first step for what many farmers across the state hope will become a lucrative crop.
“This is just a baby step in the research that needs to be conducted before we can make great recommendations to farmers in Kentucky,” Williams said. “This is just the first step in the right direction.”
The crops should be ready for harvest in late September or early October.
Hemp is not legal to grow in the U.S., though hemp products can be produced and sold in the United States. Some states have made its cultivation legal, but these states – North Dakota, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, California, Montana, West Virginia and Vermont – have not yet begun to grow it because of resistance from the DEA.
Earlier this year, Congress legalized the production of hemp for research purposes in states that want to allow it.
According to a 2013 white paper authored by the Congressional Research Service, a “commercial hemp industry in the United States could provide opportunities as an economically viable alternative crop for some US growers.”
The United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop.
KY Hemp Thrives without Pesticide or Fertilizer
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