The potential to grow industrial hemp in the tropics is showing promise, with the second year of field trials flourishing at Kununurra.
A recent field day at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) Frank Wise Horticulture Research Institute showcased the progress of an Industrial Hemp Variety Trial, co-funded by AgriFutures Australia.
The 1.4 hectare plot is one of nine sites across seven states and territories evaluating variety performance and time of sowing, including another Western Australian trial at the department’s Manjimup Horticulture Research Institute.
The hemp crops are harvested at maturity and assessed for yield and quality, including grain protein and oil content.
DPIRD research scientist Rhys Flynn said 12 varieties were being evaluated at the Kununurra site in the second year of the three year trial.
“The hemp seed varieties have been sourced from Australia, France, Canada, China and Poland, including a few lines that are particularly suited to the tropical environment,” Mr Flynn said.
“The trial was planted at a rate of 150 plants per square metre at sowing times of 4 April, 4 May and 1 June 2022.
“The first year Kununurra trial results showed that time of sowing and variety type significantly affects grain yield and plant establishment.
“Establishment posed the biggest challenge for the north, with soil temperatures considered less than ideal for March and early April planting.”
The second year crop is nearing maturity, currently standing at 0.6 to 1.9 meters high, which will be harvested between early June to late July – depending on maturity.
The northern trial complements the Manjimup trial, which is evaluating 11 varieties sown at two intervals in November to be harvested in February and March.
Hemp seed is not intoxicating and was permitted for human consumption by Food Standards Australia New Zealand in 2017.
It is high in protein and contains vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids –particularly omega-3 fatty acids – and used as a seed, flour and oil in bread, cereals, milk and dairy products.
AgriFutures Australia emerging industries program senior manager Olivia Reynolds said the Kununurra trial site provided valuable insights for northern Australian producers interested in growing industrial hemp.
“The outcomes of the Industrial Hemp Variety Trial will help position Australia’s agriculture industry to take advantage of the opportunity to produce an environmentally sustainable, multi-purpose crop,” Dr Reynolds said.
With the global industrial hemp market projected to reach $18.6 billion by 2027, Dr Reynolds said industrial hemp provided diverse opportunities for Australian agriculture.
“Industrial hemp is extremely versatile and can be used for everything from food to fabric and even fenceposts,” she said.
“Industry will identify the key drivers and determine which products are the most profitable and meet consumer demand.”
For more information about the industrial hemp trial visit AgriFutures Australia's Industrial Hemp webpage.
A hemp workshop to learn more about crop production in WA will be held on Thursday, 22 June at DPIRD at the department's Bunbury Office.
For more information and to register visit the Hempgro website.
Megan Broad/Jodie Thomson, media liaison, DPIRD
+61 (0)8 9368 3937