News Local/State

Researchers To Explore Feasibility Of Industrial Hemp Industry In Illinois

hemp leaf


The Farm Bill, which awaits action from President Trump, would legalize the production and sale of industrial hemp.

A research program is underway at Southern Illinois University to study industrial hemp, which was legalized in Illinois under state law in August.

Hemp is derived from the cannabis plant, but has very low amounts of the chemical THC. It's used in products ranging from foods to carpet, clothes and ropes. But it has historically been banned under the same federal laws that prohibit marijuana.

Karen Midden, interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at SIU Carbondale, said the goal is to help answer questions for farmers who may be interested in growing industrial hemp.

“We’ll look at using hemp in crop rotation with corn or soybeans, looking at best practices and optimal growing conditions and what the environmental impact might be,” Midden said.

Midden said researchers hope to also figure out which varieties grow best in different soil types, what nutrients are required, and when is the best time to harvest the crop.

Researchers at SIU began securing permits to conduct research on cannabis a few years ago. 

The goal is to begin planting in the spring on a five-acre hemp research field.

Midden said the college is also considering courses about cannabis for students, as part of a program that would lead to a certificate in medical cannabis production.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman