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Fostering Sustainable Agriculture through Research, Education and Policy since 1984

Field Crop Research and Industrial Hemp

After a cool, wet spring we are finally in full farming mode with our field crop research initiatives. Like many of you, we had a late spring snow the third week in April and soil temperatures did not start to rise above 50 degrees until the middle of May.

Finally, on May 29th we were able to put our first round of corn research plots into the ground and followed that with the second planting on June 5th. The late May planting was up and growing strong in less than a week! Hopefully, the weather will continue to cooperate, and the second planting will sprout as quickly as the first. In addition to our organic corn breeding research, we are also looking at interseeding cover crops into several organic corn lines to study the affect it will have on yield and soil health.

During this growing season we will continue our collaboration with local farmers and UW researchers on the economics and viability of cover crops in Wisconsin. Working with the Wisconsin Cover Crops team, we will publish the information we gather and hold several summer/fall field days around the state. If you have not yet clicked on the Wisconsin Cover Crops website, I would encourage you to make this a favorite on your web browser. Go to https://fyi.uwex.edu/covercrop/

During the 2018 growing season, Wisconsin farmers can, for the first time in over 60 years, grow industrial hemp as a research project on their farm. Over 350 Wisconsin farmers applied for and received a license from DATCP to grow Industrial Hemp as part of their 2018 annual crop rotation. For those of you who are not following this issue, industrial hemp is a versatile cash crop grown for fiber, seed, and oil. It was widely grown in Wisconsin until the early 1930’s for its fiber used to make hemp rope, netting, and bags. While it is a close relative of marijuana, it does not contain any psychoactive THC levels and is currently in demand as either a food grain or pressed oil for nutritional foods and health products.

MFAI applied for and received a DATCP license to grow and research Industrial Hemp during the 2018 crop season. We plan to conduct four types of research during 2018:

1. Planting date and density study – We will look at how planting density affects yield and weed pressure based on planting dates in early June, mid-June and early July.
2. Fertility application study – Industrial hemp is a high user of nitrogen and phosphorus; our study will evaluate grain yield based on several different nutrient rate applications.
3. Evaluating cannabinoid content in the oil – We will be growing a small research plot to look at the value in cannabinoid oil grown under Wisconsin cropping systems.
4. Industrial Hemp as a cover crop – Weather permitting, we will be evaluating the feasibility of growing hemp as a cover crop after winter wheat harvest. We will look at biomass cover during late summer/fall and then weed suppression capabilities when planting a 2019 crop into the biomass.

We invite you to attend an MFAI sponsored Industrial Hemp field day on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. Look for more information on our website at www.michaelfields.org

As always, if you are in the East Troy area, please stop for a visit!  Have a great summer and growing season.

Perry Brown
Executive Director, MFAI