SIU to plant hemp and begin research - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

SIU to plant hemp and begin research

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CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University plans to create new programs to study industrial hemp and medical marijuana. Governor Bruce Rauner recently lifted the ban on planting commercial hemp to expand the number of crops farmers can harvest. 

Sales of industrial hemp are on the rise, so to keep up with the growing market, SIU hopes to train farmers to grow the crop in southern Illinois potentially adding it to their rotation with corn, wheat and soybeans. 

News 3 talked to SIU's interim Vice Chancellor of Research, Jim Garvey, about this potential new cash crop, "As farmers are weighing their options, this might be a really good option for them."

Garvey says a lot is unknown about how well the crop would grow in our soil. So to learn, researchers will plant hemp in soil that hasn't been cultivated in many years in a remote, secure location about 12 minutes from campus at Touch of Nature. 

Garvey hopes research will determine best cultivation techniques and how much pesticide is needed to reduce weeds. 

"It might be a lot cheaper and environmentally sustainable than some of the other crops that are out there," said Garvey. 

Garvey wants to make it clear, hemp has very little THC and is not the same as medical marijuana. While SIU is interested in studying medical cannabis, they'd rely on professional growers to handle the cultivation. 

Garvey adds both initiatives will be credit-giving programs, not degree programs. 

"We are in the process of developing the course work for the certification and we are probably looking at about a year from now," said Garvey. 

SIU hopes being a leader in hemp research will draw people from all across the nation.  

Land for the hemp research field is currently being cleared, and SIU plans to begin planting hemp in the spring. The medicinal cannabis program is working its way through the approval process.

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