Presentation Title

Evaluating Nutrient Excess in Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa) Agricultural Production

Project Collaborators

Taylor Readyhough (Graduate Student Mentor), Edward Marques (PhD Student Mentor)

Abstract

With the inclusion of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) in the newest 2018 Farm Bill, the acreage being devoted to hemp related agriculture has massively increased. In Vermont specifically, over 1,000 acres of additional hemp production were registered in 2019 compared to 2018, with current 2020 registration and estimates shown only to grow both state-wide and nationally. With increasing demand for products and research related to hemp, the need to improve greenhouse and field-scale production methods also increases. Currently, fertilization practices in the industry are influenced by techniques adopted from prohibition-era cannabis cultivation. These practices, based largely on anecdotal reports due to restrictions on academic research, include the overuse of synthetic fertilizers. Fertilizers rich in Nitrates and Phosphates have been shown to have severe environmental impacts on lake basins like Lake Champlain. This study hypothesizes that biological and synthetic fertilizers will generate comparable yields but synthetic fertilizers will facilitate a greater amount of Phosphate and Nitrate leaching. This study aims to compare the nutrient leaching, and thus pollution potential, of biological and synthetic fertilizers from a prevalent brand in the cannabis industry. Further, these options will be compared to organic alternatives made in Vermont. The study hopes to add to the growing collection of knowledge surrounding hemp production, pushing for a more sustainable and environmentally conscious agriculture system that could affect thousands of Vermont farmers, even more across the nation, and worldwide.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Eric Bishop von Wettberg

Graduate Student Mentors

Taylor Readyhough, Edward Marques

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Program/Major

Ecological Agriculture

Primary Research Category

Biological Sciences

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Evaluating Nutrient Excess in Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa) Agricultural Production

With the inclusion of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) in the newest 2018 Farm Bill, the acreage being devoted to hemp related agriculture has massively increased. In Vermont specifically, over 1,000 acres of additional hemp production were registered in 2019 compared to 2018, with current 2020 registration and estimates shown only to grow both state-wide and nationally. With increasing demand for products and research related to hemp, the need to improve greenhouse and field-scale production methods also increases. Currently, fertilization practices in the industry are influenced by techniques adopted from prohibition-era cannabis cultivation. These practices, based largely on anecdotal reports due to restrictions on academic research, include the overuse of synthetic fertilizers. Fertilizers rich in Nitrates and Phosphates have been shown to have severe environmental impacts on lake basins like Lake Champlain. This study hypothesizes that biological and synthetic fertilizers will generate comparable yields but synthetic fertilizers will facilitate a greater amount of Phosphate and Nitrate leaching. This study aims to compare the nutrient leaching, and thus pollution potential, of biological and synthetic fertilizers from a prevalent brand in the cannabis industry. Further, these options will be compared to organic alternatives made in Vermont. The study hopes to add to the growing collection of knowledge surrounding hemp production, pushing for a more sustainable and environmentally conscious agriculture system that could affect thousands of Vermont farmers, even more across the nation, and worldwide.