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Warren Wilson College Delves into Industrial Hemp Research

Sullivan Foundation partner school Warren Wilson College will work with farmers and landowners to develop hemp as an economically and ecologically viable crop for western North Carolina, the college reported recently.

Warren Wilson planted its first plot of industrial hemp on college land in July. It was planted under license of the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Program with the state’s Department of Agriculture and Industrial Hemp Commission.

The planting is a collaboration with Green Lights Farm, LLC to research the effectiveness of late-season direct seeding of industrial hemp in Western North Carolina.

Related: Warren Wilson College’s “good food guru” starts a business – and a movement – in Florida.

“This is an exciting development for the college’s agricultural program, and for the diversification of agriculture in the region,” said Dr. Dave Ellum, Professor and Dean of Land Resources at Warren Wilson College. “Industrial hemp is coming to Western North Carolina, and we have the opportunity to provide incredible student experiences through research and education focused on this sustainable and valuable crop.”

Hemp is a crop that has proven useful for building materials, biofuels, fabrics, paper, animal feed, cosmetics, medicines, bioplastics, and many other uses. According to Hemp Industry Daily, North Carolina was the country’s eighth largest producer of hemp in 2017. At the same time, the state’s lawmakers have been working to pass legislation that would ban smokable hemp products starting December 2020.

Research is needed on regionally appropriate varieties, planting methods, harvest methods, processing, lab testing, product development, and marketing. Warren Wilson will share its research with regional landowners.

Related: Warren Wilson College’s free tuition plan results in record freshman enrollment.

Warren Wilson is joining other colleges and universities across the U.S. that are doing industrial hemp research, including North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University.

“Alongside our students we are excited to contribute to the research that is needed while fulfilling Warren Wilson College’s mission and strategic goals,” Ellum said. “We can integrate our burgeoning industrial hemp program into work crews or classes across departments, from environmental studies to chemistry, business and Appalachian studies.”

To keep up with Warren Wilson College’s industrial hemp program and other conservation initiatives, join the Conservation Exchange newsletter at www.warren-wilson.edu/conservation-exchange.

This article was adapted from the original story appearing on the Warren Wilson College website.