Industrial hemp grower and country music legend James Blundell will open the gates to his southern Queensland property where a range of different industrial hemp varieties are being trialled for their suitability to the local growing conditions.

Mr Blundell, a passionate advocate for the hemp industry, will host one of two field days being held in Stanthorpe (Queensland) and Narrabri on February 6 and 8, respectively.

The sites are among nine across the country that make up the AgriFutures Australia national Industrial Hemp Variety Trial (IHVT) program, which aims to provide growers with independent information about the performance of grain-only and dual-purpose (grain and fibre) varieties suited to specific geographic locations within Australia.

Farmers interested in adding industrial hemp to their crop rotations are invited to attend to learn more about crop requirements, yields and varietal selection.

The field days are a culmination of a three-year research project to determine best performing varieties and sowing times for each growing region.

Mr Blundell said he was excited by the opportunities presented by the emerging hemp industry and wanted to encourage more growers to become involved.

“The variety trial is an important step for hemp becoming a stable industry in Australia,” Mr Blundell said.

“I’m a big fan of the varieties called Ruby and Orion 33, but the plant is so responsive to latitude, longitude, soil types and temperatures that what works at home may not be the best variety in other areas.”

An optional agronomy session at the field days with AgriFutures Industrial Hemp agronomist John Muir would provide more in-depth information for those who are thinking about planting industrial hemp.

“The penny is definitely dropping, and I can see the traction of the industry moving from intrigue and novelty to greater understanding of the enormous use benefits of industrial hemp,” Mr Blundell said.

“If I can grow it, anyone can.”

The final year of the IHVT program is evaluating the performance of a range of different varieties sourced from international suppliers including from Canada, France, Poland and from local Australian suppliers.

University of Sydney Associate Professor Guy Roth coordinates the IHVT sites in Stanthorpe and Narrabri and said the field days would include a field walk where participants can view the condition of different varieties and a presentation of results.

“Field day visitors will be able to see how the different varieties are growing and the impact of sowing times ahead of harvest,” Mr Roth said.

AgriFutures Australia emerging industries program senior manager, Dr Olivia Reynolds, said the field days aimed to bring together farmers, processors, food retailers and commercial investors to learn more about industrial hemp and the diverse opportunities it offers Australian agriculture.

“The global industrial hemp market is projected to reach $18.6 billion by 2027,” Dr Reynolds said.

“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 building materials.”

Following on from the IHVT program, AgriFutures Australia is funding a $2.5 million Industrial Hemp Program of Research to assist with the growth of the industry.

Industrial hemp can only be grown under state or territory government permits, and while it contains very low tetrahydrocannabinol content (THC) industrial hemp is high in protein and healthy essential fatty acids. Since 2017 it has been legal to sell industrial hemp seed for human consumption.

The need for the IHVT was identified in the Australian Industrial Hemp Strategic RD&E Plan (2022-2027) developed by AgriFutures Australia, which sets out a clear pathway to grow the industry. The plan has five major objectives covering seed and varieties; growing the crop; products produced from the crop; the sustainability of hemp; and the regulatory environment.

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