An update on industrial hemp research in Florida filled most of the auditorium at the Everglades Research and Education Center near Belle Glade on May 16. Zack Brym, University of Florida Institute of Food and agricultural Sciences assistant professor from Homestead, reviewed the latest information and answered questions from those attending in person and via webinar.
Brym reviewed the progress on varieties research and what has been learned about economics and ecology of industrial hemp so far. In an interview with AgNet Media immediately after the meeting, he discusses the most popular questions he gets from growers nearly anywhere he goes. Many of the answers remain elusive at this early stage of the research project.
Brym says there are about 46 varieties of hemp that have been identified so far. His team is working to obtain seeds from as many of them as possible to test in Florida soils and climate conditions, in search of the ones that might be appropriate for this part of the country. Different varieties can produce different kinds of industrial hemp for things like grain, fiber or cannabidiol. It is still unknown which varieties, if any, are likely to succeed in one or more parts of Florida, which has several different soil types and micro-climates throughout the state’s regions.
Representing King Ranch in the audience, Paul Grose started thinking about hemp several years ago. While there is a good deal of interest in industrial hemp as a potentially new alternative crop for Florida, many unknowns remain to be answered.
“Farmers are always looking for alternative uses for their land, something that can be profitable, something that can be used in rotation, and something that contributes to what our societies need,” Grose says. “It’s got a lot of challenges it sounds like on the regulatory side. I think if we can get past some of those, maybe we can learn something.”
Grose shared his thoughts after the meeting, explaining what got him started on his quest to learn more about hemp and the biggest question on his mind right now, which also does not yet have a clear answer. The interview below is short, straightforward and a good example of what growers are thinking about this alternative crop that is getting a lot of attention right now.
Gary Cooper is the founder and president of AgNet Media, Inc., based in Gainesville, Florida.