OSU hemp center leads environmental sustainability and equity efforts

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Hemp has the potential to become a major agricultural commodity in Oregon and the United States, with hemp plant fiber being used in manufactured products, including clothing, construction materials and packaging. Meanwhile, hemp seed oil is being investigated for use in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, foods and nutraceuticals.

In 2019, Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences launched the nation’s largest research center devoted to the study of hemp and announced that OSU will begin certifying hemp seed for planting in Oregon.

In February of 2021, the Global Hemp Innovation Center (GHIC) hosted the inaugural National Hemp Symposium with the National Academies of Sciences Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources (BANR). Then in October, GHIC launched its second annual Hemp Field Day at the Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center. Both events drew hundreds of attendees to hear insights and developments from industry leaders and policymakers about future visions for a hemp-based economy. Many of the topics involved hemp water trials, as well as GHIC’s outreach to people of color.

OSU scientists are working with the University of California, Davis, to understand how varying types of water applications can affect hemp products. They are testing multiple experiments across five locations, striving to understand more about this hardy crop. Furthermore, GHIC has also been coordinating a study with 16 other land-grant universities to analyze how different hemp varieties perform in several growing regions around the United States. The data collected will be critical for hemp growers around the globe, for proper irrigation and environment are key to a healthy plant.

With its recent partnership with a historically Black land-grant university and a Hispanic serving university, GHIC increases opportunities for students with the Hemp Equity Program. GHIC is devoting 10% of its discretionary resources to advance equity, inclusion, and diversity initiatives. Systemic racism has historically restricted access for underrepresented persons to emergent agricultural business opportunities, such as those newly presented by hemp. Thus, this effort strives to assist through providing networks and resources for diverse youth, family, and communities.

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