Kentucky's first hemp crop growing quickly; sprouting interest - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky's first hemp crop growing quickly; sprouting interest

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky's first legal hemp crop in more than 50 years is growing quickly.

After just six weeks in the ground, the hemp seeds planted May 27 at the University of Kentucky, have grown to about 5-feet tall.

"Six weeks in, it's looking just fine," said UK agronomist David Williams.

UK planted 13 varieties of hemp. The big question is what kind grows best, and under what conditions.

"We would like to find out, at least among the 13 varieties that we're testing right now, which ones are the best yielding varieties for the climate in Kentucky," said Williams.

Right now, researchers are dealing with a lack of rain, but, at least for now, they don't plan to irrigate the hemp crop.

"Typically, a crop like this, farmers would not irrigate, and we would like for this information to be as close to reality as as we can possibly keep it, so we won't irrigate unless it becomes a matter of crop failure," said Williams.

UK's 1/10th of an acre is one of five hemp pilot projects now growing across the state.

"We've seen a lot of successful reports from our pilot projects," said Adam Watson, who oversees the hemp project for the Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture.

The hemp plants do closely resemble their intoxicating cousin, marijuana.

In fact, the project sprouted controversy when the DEA initially confiscated Kentucky's hemp seeds after they arrived from Italy.

But the Department of Agriculture believes the trouble will have been worth it, because the crop is already getting interest from potential customers.

"The department's been approached by a number of different processors who are looking for raw hemp commodities to actually utilize or evaluate for use in their own industries. We actually have one buyer lined up for the projects in western Kentucky," said Watson.

Researchers say it's still too soon to reach conclusions but, so far, they're encouraged.

"There's just lots we don't know yet. So, yes, it's fun. It's exciting," said Williams.

The plants will be harvested in September, and by then they may yield more answers about the future of the hemp industry in Kentucky.

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