Dr. Heather Darby, an Agronomist with the University of Vermont, served as the program chair for the Hemp Track at Cannabis Science Conference East and gave the first talk to kick off the session on day 2.
As acreage of hemp increases in the Northeast and growing practices are established, the impacts of crop loss due to lack of or improper agronomics, fertility, pest and disease management, storage, and drying are becoming more evident. Clearly, the industry is growing rapidly and scientific-based research and education is critical to help farmers succeed with this new commercial crop. Dr. Heather Darby’s presentation on Friday, September 16th covered practical aspects of field-based hemp production including grain, fiber, and flower crops. Basics of soil, pest, and crop management were also covered with some focus on post-harvest management.
In a previous interview with Cannabis Science and Technology Dr. Darby explained how she got involved in the hemp industry. She grew up on a farm in northern Vermont. “It was a dairy farm, but we were always dabbling in all kinds of diversification. So, I think I was always inspired by my mom and dad to kind of always look outside the box, and look for new opportunities,” said Dr. Dr Darby. “When I started working at UVM and I started to hear that it might become possible to actually research hemp and work with farmers to adopt and grow hemp on their farms. I got really excited, looked at it as a new opportunity, and started moving forward to develop research and outreach for the farming community.”
Dr. Darby would also like to see more hemp research in the future. "In every facet of growing hemp, there's so much to be done—and research is way, way behind where it should be," she said. "Part of that, of course, has been because it's been illegal to research hemp and grow it. So there hasn't been much done in the United States or really anywhere else."
"There's not a ton of literature to draw from, even from other growing regions. So, I think practically speaking, there's a huge need on the marketing and development end for hemp products and hemp markets, and that's really important clearly for farmers to be able to grow and then have a place to sell their crop," she added. "We need more information on how to properly fertilize, breeding, and what varieties to be growing, and then, of course, some people are really struggling with pest and pest management. So helping develop research around that as well. So I wish it was only one thing, but there's a lot that needs to be done."