Thursday 17th Oct, 2019

Could SA begin growing industrial hemp?

Trials have found potential for industrial hemp in South Australian as an irrigated summer crop under the state's often challenging weather conditions.

Trials have found potential for industrial hemp in South Australian as an irrigated summer crop under the state’s often challenging weather conditions.

A report released by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) has outlined the success of industrial hemp after two years of trials in the Riverland and South East.

South Australian Primary Industries Minister, Tim Whetstone, said the trials have demonstrated a number of factors for licenced growers to consider when planting the crop.

“The results of two years of trialling nine varieties are positive and will support ongoing investment in the burgeoning industrial hemp industry,” Whetstone said.

“These trials have shown under the right conditions, including planting in free-draining soil and using good quality irrigation water, there was good germination and growth at the trial sites. There were challenges at the Kybybolite trial site in the 2017/18 trials primarily due to the salinity of the groundwater, so the trial was moved to Maauope for the 2018/19 trials.

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“With free draining soil and high-density plantings, the results showed industrial hemp varieties performed successfully during the October to January period, particularly in the hot summer heat of the Riverland where the plants reached more than three metres high.”

The first commercial industrial hemp harvest in South Australia occurred during the 2018-19 growing season, which is anticipated to have a farmgate value of $3 million per year within five years.

The information gathered by the trials will help potential growers looking to order seed for the 2019-20 season.

Initial trials were conducted at Loxton and Kybybolite compared five different industrial hemp varieties. The 2018-19 trials examined six varieties.

“Some of the varieties were dropped during this latest round of trials based on the initial results, in favour of other varieties that were believed to be more suited to South Australian conditions,” Whetstone said.

“The results not only look at growing rates but also assess the grain and fibre yield as to its suitability for a range of uses. To date the State Government have approved 13 cultivation licences and two processing licences for industrial hemp in South Australia.”

A third round of trials for six varieties of hemp are expected to commence, in collaboration between SARDI, the University of Adelaide and the CSIRO.