By Steve Elliott
The first legal hemp harvest in Kentucky in 70 years has begun at the University of Kentucky. Researchers on Tuesday cut their test plot, which will now remain in the field for two weeks.
The 10-foot stalks will remain on the ground at Spindletop Farm for "retting," the process through which they break apart, said David Williams, an agronomist at the UK College of Agriculture, reports Janet Patton at the Herald-Leader.
"Microbes break down the tissues of the stem," Williams said. "The outside tissues form the bast fibers and the inside form the hurd fibers."
Thirteen varieties of hemp were sown this spring at the University; each will be evaluated for fiber and seed production. More test plots are at other universities in the state, including Murray State.
"It was a good growing season for many crops, not just hemp," Williams said. "Precipitation was excellent this year and more than adequate for growth.
"The only downside to the growing season was that we planted a little bit late, but I don't think that had much effect on the crop," he said.
The seeds had been held up for two weeks in Louisville by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which blocked them because the Kentucky Department of Agriculture didn't have a controlled substance import permit.