Hemp research a win-win for new Midwestern crop

hemp plants in Illinois field

Industrial hemp, used for fiber and food, is one of the newest crops in Midwestern fields, but high demand has outpaced available data. University of Illinois Extension commercial agriculture educators are working with growers to source field data and provide cutting-edge research through the new Midwestern Hemp Database.

Philip Alberti, an Illinois Extension commercial agriculture educator, identified the need for research-based information on hemp production while leading popular programs on hemp production and regulations.

“As this is a new crop, we simply do not know what is and is not working in the Midwest,” Alberti says. “This project allows us to learn a lot in a short period of time while allowing growers to conduct their own analysis.”

Changes in the law have resulted in high demand among Illinois producers for agronomy and outcome information, but hemp's relatively recent history meant that production data was in short supply.

Win-Win for Growers, Researchers

In the mutually beneficial project, hemp producers submit information about their crop and university staff analyze and share that data with the public. In exchange for their involvement, growers receive discounted cannabinoid testing on samples.

“The database is an interactive platform, updated weekly, that helps guide growers,” says Alberti. “Together, we’re working to understand the performance of production practices and several hundred hemp cultivars used in the Midwest.”

The interactive database will not only be useful for processors, but also regulators. Data from the Midwestern Hemp Database was used to support rule changes in the USDA Final Rule.

"The impending adoption of these rules has made 2021 another valuable year to gather information for producers,” Alberti says.

The database is a collaborative project between four Midwestern land grant universities: Michigan State, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Purdue University.

Join the Project

Producer applications are now available for the 2021 growing season online at go.illinois.edu/HempDatabase