THE FIRST of a series of trial field days showcasing industrial hemp, being grown across the country as part of a national project, is being held at Manjimup in Western Australia's south-west on February 2, with further days pencilled in for SA, Tasmania and Victoria and other events to be confirmed in northern areas.
The trials are assessing the suitability of various regions for growing the crop, which is currently piquing the curiosity of the agriculture sector with its hardiness and potential to generate good gross margins.
Industrial hemp is being grown for hemp grain, which is high in protein and omegas 3 and 6.
The seed is used as a whole grain or as an addition to fortify other food products.
The initial day at Manjimup will feature a look at the second season hemp crop grown as part of the Industrial Hemp Variety Trial co-funded by AgriFutures Australia and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Western Australia.
Industrial hemp is not just attracting interest in the west, with the trials being conducted across Australia, across both temperature and tropical environments.
Data is being collected on performance traits such as grain and fibre yield.
Work is also being done to identify the best production zones and optimum sowing times.
The second year of the trial is evaluating the performance of eight varieties sown on 1 November 2022 and 11 varieties sown on 24 November 2022.
These were sourced from seed suppliers in Australia, and include varieties from Australia, Canada, France and Poland.
DPIRD research scientist, Shahajahan Miyan said he was interested to see whether a pattern emerged in terms of yield differences between the varieties in the trial.
"The early standout in the first-year trial was Ferimon 12, a dual-purpose variety originating from France that produced the highest grain yield and the highest dry matter at harvest, ," he said.
"Four new varieties were added to the second year of the trial, one from Poland and three from France, to add diversity and compare performance under local conditions."
There is considerable difference in harvesting time between early and late sown cultivars.
The early maturing varieties are set to be harvested soon, while the later maturing varieties will be harvested in March or April.
Another trial site in WA is at Kununurra, in the state's north.
AgriFutures Australia emerging industries senior manager Olivia Reynolds said there were big opportunities in hemp.
"With a global industrial hemp market valued at $4.9 billion in 2019, and projected to reach $18.6 billion by 2027, this is a huge opportunity for Australian agriculture to produce an environmentally sustainable multi-purpose crop that can be used for everything from food to fabric and even building materials," Dr Reynolds said.
Industrial hemp, which must be grown under state government permits, has very low tetrahydrocannabinol content (THC) but is high in protein and healthy fats.
Since 2017 it has been legal to sell industrial hemp seed for human consumption.
The Manjimup industrial hemp field day will be held from 9.30am-12.30pm on February 2 at DPIRD's Manjimup Horticulture Research Institute, including morning tea and a light lunch.
Following events will be held at Hamilton, Victoria, Reedy Creek, South Australia and Epping Forest, Tasmania.