Purdue Extension Names First Hemp Production Specialist

Purdue Extension Names First Hemp Production Specialist

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Purdue University is expanding its investment and support of the industrial hemp industry by selecting a hemp production specialist, a brand-new position. Marguerite Bolt earned an entomology degree from Michigan State and just received her master’s degree in entomology from Purdue University. Ron Turco, head of Purdue’s Department of Agronomy said Bolt has been working on a hemp research project for the last three years and is a great fit for the job.

“She also has extensive background in hort operations,” he told HAT. “She worked on a number of greenhouse operations and has grown up in the extension world. She’s from Michigan where she’s had quite a bit of diversity in crop production, so her background really fits the diversity of people who are trying to come into the hemp world. So, we thought it was a great match in that one, she has hemp experience, which is really hard to find, and two she’s got greenhouse and diverse crop experience which is also hard to find.”

Turco said Purdue has been working on industrial hemp in a rather low-key manner the last four years, but it is time to intensify what they do now that Indiana farmers can legally get into the industry.

“There’s been a huge development in the state with 3 or 4 hundred people who are interested in producing hemp, and it’s becoming more difficult for us with our low-key effort to keep up with that need. So, we approached ag administration and they also were feeling the pressure from people in the state with questions about hemp. So, we put together a package that supports this position for a number of years to sort of help this industry start up in the state. If it does get going we will look at a more long-term situation.”

And just what does the future look like for hemp growers? There are possibilities, but Turco says there has to be product demand.

“I think there’s some real opportunity,” he said but added, “It’s never going to replace corn or soybeans, but it could certainly offer a cash situation for folks. It’s really, really critical, the need to create product out of these materials, so out of the fiber side, or out of the oil side, or out of the seed side. We really need to be doing some innovative research along that line. I know we have a history with the soybean world doing very innovative products, so we need to expand some of that skill set looking at some of the hemp materials as well.”

Marguerite Bolt intends to design an Extension program that provides the groundwork for prospective commercial hemp production through public meetings, field days and updates to Purdue’s hemp website. She also plans to build a social media presence for Purdue’s hemp project. Contact her at her easy to remember email address, hemp@purdue.edu.

At Purdue, Bolt’s research with Assistant Professor of Entomology John Couture has focused on the influence of agronomic management practices on hemp-insect interactions.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with hemp over the last two years and I am excited to continue my work on this crop,” Bolt said. “I am committed to applying my communication skills and passion for hemp production to this position in several ways.”

With hemp being a new crop for Indiana farmers, Bolt plans to educate interested growers on how to get started with hemp, including how to obtain a permit and seeds for the crop, which cultivars are best for the region and where to find reliable information. When hemp production becomes fully operational in 2020, Bolt plans to work with the State Chemist’s Office to provide webinars focusing on the application process to obtain a hemp production permit, which will be required for all hemp operations.

With the intricacies of raising hemp still somewhat of an unknown for most Indiana farmers, Bolt also plans to develop and release a series of webinars to address growers’ questions, along with fact sheets and eventually a hemp production guide for Indiana.

Source: Purdue News

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