Hemp is often touted as a ‘wonder plant’ with an estimated 25,000 different uses. It grows quickly and dense and is an excellent ground cover crop. Though hemp has now been declassified as a controlled substance, regulations on the market are still tight. Here’s some things for you to know before you jump into growing hemp.

Background

In the not so distant past, the U.S. commercially produced industrial hemp, typically for fiber and industrial uses. In 1970, however, the passage of the Controlled Substances Act classified hemp as a Schedule I drug, thus prohibiting hemp cultivation. More than 40 years later, the 2014 Farm Bill allowed for pilot research of hemp farming, and in 2018, passage of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act (as part of the 2018 Farm Bill) once again legitimized and legalized the cultivation of hemp by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act.  And while recreational cannabis/marijuana cultivation and use continues to be classified as a Schedule I drug according to the U.S. federal government, it is allowed in some states.  Now, as hemp acres increase, ag input companies are adding hemp to their label registrations to ensure growers have the tools they need to be successful growing this “new” crop.

How hemp made a resurgence

In the years since the prohibition of hemp cultivation, natural and synthetic sources were found to replace hemp as an industrial processed fiber. Research found, however, that hemp oils via topical application or oral ingestion may have therapeutic effects. This prompted an interest in commercial hemp cultivation once again.  As mentioned, some industry experts say that more than 25,000 products can be produced with hemp, ranging from construction materials to cannabidiol (CBD) products used to treat various ailments and improve wellbeing. 

“The recent recognition of hemp as an agricultural crop allows it to be eligible for federal monetary support within the scope of federally-based crop insurance programs and research-based funding,” explains Joan Vernon, Global Regulatory Affairs Manager, Agrian.  “However, this does not mean that cultivation is all systems go. There are still challenges that are being addressed.”

For example, while hemp cultivation is now legal in all states, growing cannabis/marijuana is still prohibited by most, so it’s important to differentiate between the two crops.  In fact, the plants bear such a similar resemblance in stature and nature of cultivation that THC content tests are required prior to harvest to determine whether a crop is “hemp” or “cannabis/marijuana.”  If tests come back in excess of 0.3% THC, a hemp crop must be destroyed. This has created a challenge for growers in sourcing true hemp seed that meets the meets the 0.3% or less THC threshold.

New labels come online

“Another limiting factor is that this commodity has not been commercially cultivated since the 1950s,” Vernon adds, “Since then, pesticide and EPA regulations and pesticide residue tolerances have been established without consideration of this commodity for tolerance levels, whether for dermal or consumptive use. This means that there are little to no available EPA registered pesticides to combat economic pests in hemp.”

Many U.S. states that are supportive of hemp and even cannabis cultivation have created their own lists of pesticides that are allowable for application on the crop within their respective jurisdictions. These include adjuvants, biological-based pesticides, and those pesticides that are exempt from EPA residue tolerances, referred to as 25(b) products.

“The pesticide availability challenge is slowly being resolved at the Federal level within the registrant community and at the EPA,” Vernon says. “Agrian is here to assist with the process by displaying the labels and making them searchable and available for viewing through the Agrian Label Center. Each pesticide, adjuvant and nutrient manufacturer/registrant that offers labels for display in the Agrian Label Database have the opportunity and direct say-so to display the scope of intended use for their products. Throughout 2019, Agrian has seen many manufacture/registrants add hemp and or cannabis use to their list of allowed commodities.”

How to find products allowed for use on hemp or cannabis in AGRIAN®

To find products where manufacturers/registrants have allowed their products to use on hemp or cannabis, search the free Agrian Label Center as you would any other commodity. Note, the commodity search term “Hemp” is used to describe the commodity recognized in the 2018 Farm Bill. “Cannabis” is used to describe a recreational or medicinal use of the commodity. While the Federal government does not recognize the legal cultivation of cannabis as a commodity, some states do allow for the production of the plant variety that exceeds the 0.3% THC content.

How to write recommendations for hemp or cannabis in AGRIAN®

To write a recommendation for hemp or Cannabis, first establish which cropping type is taking place in the field or greenhouse. Once that is identified, the user will have to set up the commodity in the system under the Manage Data tool. Hemp or cannabis commodities are available for selection for users in all states, whether it be in California—with a pesticide permit with the newly split commodity codes of “industrial hemp” or “cannabis”—or outside of California where regulations vary. Be sure to check with your state and local rules prior to cultivation and/or crop protection application as they can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Proceed to the Recommendation writing interface, select your growing site, and proceed through the steps of recommendation writing, choosing the products of your choice. If no commodities show up in the drop-down menu for commodities, it could mean one of two things: 1) the product is not registered for use on that crop, or 2) state or local organizations have deemed the use appropriate for hemp and/or cannabis but the manufacturer has chosen to not display this use in the Agrian system.

Agrian is there to help

To search a label in Agrian, simply go to agrian.com. If you cannot find products that are allowed for use on hemp or cannabis in the Agrian Label Center contact Agrian’s Regulatory Department direct at regulatory@agrian.com or call 559-437-5700. Agrian’s Regulatory department will contact the manufacturer to confirm their position regarding hemp/cannabis label use.