899675 KS-08_HEMP

Processed hemp in five different forms, clockwise from top right: bast fiber; powder; chipped wood from the inner part of the hemp stock; bended yarn; and roving, a textile grade fiber.

LINCOLN — A University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher said Tuesday that he’s received federal approval to plant the state’s first research plot of industrial hemp.

Approval by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in time for spring planting had been uncertain.

Ishmail Dweikat, a professor of agronomy and horticulture, said that UNL will obtain hemp seeds from Canada, where hemp has been grown for several years, to test which varieties grow best in Nebraska and under what conditions.

“It’s been grown here for many years. All we have to do is discover the best type for our state,” he said.

Two years ago, the Nebraska Legislature approved a law allowing testing of industrial hemp as a low-water, low-maintenance alternative crop that is used in clothing, cosmetics, medicine and building materials.

But plantings last year didn’t happen because the Nebraska Department of Agriculture did not adopt rules soon enough to allow it.

DEA approval also is needed because hemp is classified as a controlled substance, just like its high-inducing cousin, marijuana. Unlike marijuana, the hemp to be grown by UNL has little THC, the compound in marijuana that makes people high.

Dweikat said he has ordered the hemp seed and hopes to plant a 2-acre plot at UNL’s research farm near Mead. He said he will grow it under irrigation and in dryland conditions, and with various types and levels of fertilizer.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Kearney had also hoped to plant hemp inside a greenhouse this spring. But a UNK official said recently that they are having trouble obtaining the DEA permit to buy seeds from an industrial hemp farm in Colorado.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9584, paul.hammel@owh.com

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