First legal hemp crop planted in KY since WW II era - WDRB 41 Louisville News

First legal hemp crop planted in KY since WW II era

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- An historic event took place Tuesday afternoon on a small plot of land at the University of Kentucky.

The first legal hemp seed was planted in the state for the first time since the 1940s.

Advocates for industrial hemp hope the yellow flags outlining the field signal the start or, more correctly, the re-start of a viable cash crop for Kentucky.

For its historic significance, the event was almost anti-climactic. Researchers poured small bags of hemp seed into a planter and placed them in the soil.

It's the first time since just after World War II that hemp has been legally grown in Kentucky.

"It's a new beginning for Kentucky; a new chance to look at opportunities that may be before us, and answer those questions that producers have," said Adam Watson, who heads the hemp program for the Dept. of Agriculture.

Questions such as, what variety of hemp grows best here.

The 13 types of seeds that will grow on this small plot of land - about one one-hundredth of an acre - will help answer some big questions.

"We'll definitely monitor for pest problems, insects, weeds, any diseases caused by fungi - all the other common problems that you have in crop production. We'll keep a close eye on all of that," said University of Kentucky agronomist David Williams.

The seeds are among those seized, and then ultimately released, by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Kentucky's Dept. of Agriculture believes the state is now on the cutting edge of a growth industry.

"We know there are states that some have programs related to medicinal marijuana and things of that nature, but I think Kentucky is definitely leading the nation when it comes to industrial hemp," said Watson.

This is one of eight hemp pilot projects being conducted around the state. These seeds will be harvested in October.

"What we're doing, hopefully, is contributing to science-based knowledge for the farmers of Kentucky to make intelligent choices regarding which varieties will produce the most yield," said Williams.

"Bottom line. It's historic," concluded Watson.

The University of Louisville is planning research on whether hemp can be used to de-toxify brownfields - old industrial sites. But that project is still a year away.

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