Farmers have had a major problem in the past with making sure that their final hemp crop doesn’t go over the strict THC limits. Something as simple as a delay in harvesting for a few weeks is all it takes to take some plants over the edge, and flush an entire season’s worth of effort.
Because it is so new to us, many of the things that we know about other crop systems are unknown when it comes to hemp. To change that, one professor at West Virginia University is working to test some of these factors.
Michael Gutensohn was recently awarded $200,000 to study the factors that lead to inconsistent THC levels in industrial hemp. He will be investigating factors in the environment to determine how much they change what’s in the final plant. He will spend the next two years looking at drought conditions, heat, light intensity, fertilizer levels and other environmental factors. He hopes to identify the exact changes that these factors have in hemp as it grows.
“There is enough evidence out there, that under certain circumstances even these industrial hemp varieties that should be low in THC accumulate higher amounts than the legal limit.” Gutensohn told the press, “Plants going hot—so, over the legal THC limit—is a huge problem for the growers. They can’t sell their crop anymore, so either they have to destroy it or they can wait and hope that it will drop again. Of course, there’s no guarantee.”
Gutensohn will also be looking at the genetics of the plant. He will look at the gene paths of the plants as they grow, with the hopes of genetically modifying them to eliminate THC production and boost other cannabinoids.