UMES researchers conduct hemp cultivar trial | University of Maryland Eastern Shore Marketing Retarget Pixel

UMES researchers conduct hemp cultivar trial

  • Cannabinoid shows promise as a potential cash crop for Eastern Shore farmers

    Tuesday, June 1, 2021
    Dr. Papaiah Sardaru and Dr. Sadanand Dhekney

    University of Maryland Eastern Shore researchers involved in its Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Program took to the fields early last month for a hemp cultivar screening trial.  

    Some 43 cultivars were planted that will be screened for cannabinoid production on the Eastern Shore, where it shows promise as a potential cash crop for farmers. 

    The study will track cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels at weekly intervals following flower initiation, according to Dr. Sadanand Dhekney, an associate professor in UMES' Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences.  The research team will also record biomass yield in various cultivars. 

    Industrial hemp includes the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of the plant with a THC concentration of no more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis. 

    “Industrial hemp cultivars grown for seed, fiber or cannabinoids, including CBD, exhibit diverse growth and flower characteristics in response to specific environments,” said Dhekney, the hemp research program director.  “This makes it critical to screen hemp germplasm that will perform well in the soils and climate of the Eastern Shore.” 

    The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill) paved the way for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set regulations and guidelines to implement a program for the commercial production of industrial hemp in the U.S.  Maryland farmers are required to partner with institutions of higher education for hemp cultivation under a research program such as UMES' Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Program established in 2019.

    Dr. James Bresette, Dr. Sadanand Dhekney & Dr. Jurgen Schwarz

    UMES has the research capabilities, plant breeding, biotechnology, plant pathology, plant protection, food quality and processing necessary for such an undertaking, Dhekney said. 

    “The way the partnership works is the growers work with the university to design a research project that would be carried out in their fields to answer a specific research question,” he said.  “The product from the research could be sold by the grower to make a profit.  At the same time, it would allow the university to gain science-based information from the project.” 

    Under a 2020 pilot program, UMES had eight growers from the Eastern Shore and western Maryland partner with the university to grow industrial hemp.  Farms were selected, Dhekney said, based on geographical location, soil and microclimate, the owner's previous experience farming, availability of farming equipment for crop management as well as other stipulations set by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.  

    So far this year, seven growers have signed partnership agreements with UMES to grow industrial hemp for cannabinoid production. 

    “Information gained from these activities are shared with producers and stakeholders through research publications, extension activities and (an) annual industrial hemp conference,” Dhekney said.

    By Gail Stephens, agricultural communications, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences,, 410-251-7009.