Attendees at the first ever hemp research forum in the state of New York were optimistic about the future of the hemp industry.

Government officials, scientists, hemp farmers and hemp processors participated in the forum, which was held Feb. 28 at Cornell University. It was inspired by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s initiative to establish New York as a leader of industrial hemp research, production and processing in the nation. New York legalized hemp research in 2015, the 19th state to do so.

What Kind of Hemp Research Is Being Conducted at Cornell?

Cornell has established a long-term hemp breeding program with assistance from $2 million in state funding. The research is varied and includes studies on diseases and pests which threaten the hemp plant, for which there are no chemicals registered to treat. The aim is to identify and breed cultivars suitable for New York growing conditions and to establish certified seed production in the state.

According to the university, the upcoming growing season will be the second year of field testing by researchers at its College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). This year they will expand cultivar trials to the northernmost and southernmost parts of the state, with hemp growers expected to plant as many as 3,500 acres.

Last year trials were held on the Ithaca campus, at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva, and on 1,700 acres of hemp planted in collaboration with 24 farmers across the state.

What Does the Research Mean to the Hemp Industry?

Larry Smart, a professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS), said in a Cornell news article that cultivars optimized for New York growers could be ready for release in three to four years.

“There are so many uses for hemp,” he was quoted. “We have a tremendous opportunity here in New York for entrepreneurs to develop new products.” Hemp is already being used in food, fibers, fabrics,  biocomposites, and even to make strong, but lightweight automobile door panels.

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