CSU researching hemp in hidden test plot


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CORTEZ, Colo. (AP) — Hemp being grown by Colorado State University in southwest Colorado is hidden in a crop of corn at a secret location, but Colorado farmers can ask for a tour of the 12 varieties being tested for growers.

Growing hemp, a genetic cousin of marijuana, is still regulated by the federal government, mostly for research. The researchers have permission from the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

"We're keeping a low profile to avoid any trouble, like vandalism or theft by youth mistaking it for marijuana," said Abdel Berrada, senior researcher with CSU's Southwest Ag Research Station.

Industrial hemp is used to make paper, oil, biodiesel, rope, clothing, soap, and as a substitute for plastic and other products.

Voters in Colorado legalized hemp production along with recreational marijuana under Amendment 64.

"We're excited about the potential for a new profitable crop. They are doing really well in our climate and soil with no major problems or pests," he said. "We're learning a lot, and there is a lot more to know," Berrada said.

In June, the agronomists planted more than 1,000 seeds of 12 hemp varieties shipped from Europe, including Italy, Czech Republic and Hungary, the Cortez Journal reported (http://tinyurl.com/o9smncr ).

The crop will be sent to CSU labs in Fort Collins where seeds and plant material will be tested for genetics, oil content, biomass, fiber content and seed yield.

"We want to identify the right variety that will work best for our area and soils," Berrada said.

The U.S. Farm Bill provides for hemp research exempt from federal drug laws. However, permits issued to local farmers from the state agricultural department under Colorado's hemp law don't have that legal protection and are still vulnerable to federal prosecution.

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Information from: Cortez Journal, http://www.cortezjournal.com/

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