Call for industrial hemp trial hosts

NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) today launched its annual call for expressions of interest from members of the public wishing to conduct industrial hemp trials next spring and summer.

Some end uses of hemp include plastics, non load-bearing masonry (hemp house bricks), textiles, paper, insulation in car bodies, an alternative to fibreglass, animal bedding, mulch, and an alternative crop in farming rotation.

The oil extracted from hemp seed has been used in skin care products, paint and dog food. The potential for this oil to be used in the production of biofuel is currently being researched.

NSW DPI’s Quality Management Leader, Bev Zurbo, explained the trials are authorised under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985.

She said one of the conditions imposed is that Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of plants in the trial must not exceed 0.3 per cent.

“More than 70 industrial hemp research trials have been approved in NSW since September 1995,” Ms Zurbo said.

“Yields from stems in most trials have increased dramatically from the five tonnes per hectare of the first trials.

“Irrigation trial yields from the north coast and central west are now 10 to 12 tonnes of dry stem per hectare.”

Ms Zurbo said competitive yields in northern Europe and Tasmania usually range from 10 to 15 tonnes per hectare.

“Selection in Australia from the earlier introduced varieties is producing strains that are now well adapted to the relatively short summer day length in NSW,” Ms Zurbo said.

“Industrial Hemp varieties with a later flowering habit are the first step in achieving higher yields locally.”

Plant breeding work is currently underway in Queensland to develop these improved varieties. Late flowering lines in current trials are two to three metres tall, compared to a height of one to one and a half metres for the earlier flowering varieties.

“Markets appear to be growing in Europe and Asia, and their continued growth will be an important prerequisite for a sustainable hemp industry in Australia,” she said.

Expressions of interest for spring and summer industrial hemp trials close on 29 June 2007.