Trials put hemp in spotlight

TASMANIA is Australia’s largest producer of industrial hemp, supplying over 75 per cent of the nation’s total industrial hemp crop in 2019-20, and is participating in a trial that will provide scientific data for better yields.

Tasmanian Hemp Association is facilitating the trial near Epping Forest, which is one of several trials across Australia supported by the AgriFutures Emerging Industries program.

The Tasmanian Government’s co-contribution of $150,000 over three years is to support the trials in the rapidly growing industry.

THA president Tim Schmidt said the association’s proactive approach to developing the industry had resulted in the trial throughout Australia being set up.

In Tasmania there are more than 100 hemp licence holders, with this season about 30 farmers actively growing.

In 2019-20, over 1500ha of industrial hemp were grown in Tasmania, compared to 1361ha the previous season, and up from 464ha in 2017-18.

This year about 700ha has been planted to suit present industry infrastructure.

“Our industrial hemp variety trials, managed by Jason Lynch from Pinion Advisory, have only been in the ground for couple of weeks,” Mr Schmidt said. “This is a most exciting project giving the industry much needed research data to help with future development of the industry.
“This would not be possible without significant support from our state government and AgriFutures.

This project is the result of three years’ work and persistence by the THA, which will in the long-term help improve returns for growers.”

The pilot trial is growing six verities of industrial hemp.

The two most common in Tasmania are CRS-1 and CFX-2.

“This is a proper scientifically driven trial, the industry needs this benchmark data to grow the industry.”

Mr Lynch said the trial gives valuable benchmarks for the emerging industry. “This is the first time in Australia trials like this have been done.
“Industrial hemp is an extremely fast-growing crop, it takes about 120 days from planting to harvest,” he said.

The trial is measuring seed yield and oil yield.

Mr Schmidt said hemp seed is a versatile product as a high protein food.

“It’s one of the richest plant proteins you can get,” he said.

Accountant Daniel Cadart, who has worked in Australian and global agricultural enterprises, is THA’s volunteer treasurer.

“I’ve been working in the background of the local industry and to get this trial up and running,” he said.

THA’s executive officer Andi Lucas said a field day will be held at the end of the trial.

“A community education day is planned for Saturday, February 19, so attendees can learn about industrial hemp and try hemp food and beverages, it will be fun,” Ms Lucas said.

This season’s farm gate value is expected to contribute $5 million to the Tasmanian economy and a billboard was erected this week near Epping Forest to highlight its potential.

Growth of the industry in Tasmania has come mainly from growers scaling up their crops as they make long-term commitments to the industry.

There is also an increased investment in seed drying infrastructure and oil pressing facilities as local confidence in the industry grows.

Primary Industries and Water Minister Guy Barnett said the Tasmanian Government is committed to investing in innovative industries and supporting farmers.

“There is a lot of innovation in agriculture.”
“This pilot trial is a joint effort with local growers, State Government and AgriFutures,” Mr Barnett said.
“I am bubbling with excitement at the opportunities coming up. The trial here will set benchmarks for industrial hemp farmers and to learn from the results.”

The Australian Hemp Council is working with the Australian Seed Authority in establishing National Seed Certification Rules for the Australian Industrial Hemp Industry. Tasmania is hosting the Australian industrial hemp conference in March.

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