Emerging industrial hemp industry thrives with AgriFutures Australia’s support

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The Australian industrial hemp industry may be in its infancy but AgriFutures Australia has thrown its support behind the burgeoning sector with a series of newly-published industrial hemp reports.

The AgriFutures research reports support the industry’s need to increase the scale of production, better understand the agronomy, develop more efficient harvesting and pest management practices, and establish long-term markets to drive the viability and success of hemp crops in Australia.

AgriFutures Australia’s Senior Manager for Emerging Industries Dr Olivia Reynolds says it’s a crop packed with upside for both consumers and producers.

“Hemp seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and it doesn’t matter where you get your omega-3’s from, with hemp a great plant-based option,” Dr Olivia Reynolds explains.

“And the great news for growers is that it is a sustainable crop that grows very quickly, capturing four times more carbon than trees.”

To realise the potential of the crop, much work has been done to research the use of pesticides on it. This work is now publicly available alongside the outcomes of the 2022 Australian Industrial Hemp Conference, and a research, development and extension plan.

The reports have been produced as part of AgriFutures Australia’s Emerging Industries Program, which focuses on new industries with high growth potential.

Cultivating a valuable crop

The Australian Industrial Hemp Strategic RD&E Plan for 2022-27 focuses on a future where hemp evolves into a valuable crop in Australia.

Stakeholders across the industry were engaged to develop the plan and many voices agreed to one vision – the development, extension and research could enable the gross value of Australian industrial hemp production to far exceed $10 million per annum by 2026. As of 2019-20, the industry’s gross value of production was an estimated $6 million.

The Australian Industrial Hemp Strategic RD&E Plan has five major objectives covering seed and varieties; growing the crop; products produced from the crop; the sustainability of hemp; and the regulatory environment.

Prioritising better pesticides

The development of the Industrial Hemp Pesticide Review and Evaluation Program (PREP) is seen by many growers and industry stakeholders as a crucial step in prioritising alternative or new fungicide, insecticide and herbicide options for the industry to trial.

The idea being that, as much as possible, any new pesticides identified will have the benefit of being compatible with integrated pest management, will have better scope for resistance management, will deliver a sound biological profile, and trade acceptance domestically.

The industry profile of hemp today is burgeoning. In 2020, Australia was home to 2000 hectares of hemp crops, yielding 2000 tonnes for grain and 100 tonnes for fibre. Australian industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) is primarily grown for seed (cereals, baking, health bars)and seed for oil and fibre (textiles, paper, rope, fuel). In fact, seed production accounts for 95 percent of all hemp crops.

Australia trails behind Canada, China and the European Union in terms of value or production and scale of the industrial hemp industry – but it won’t always be the way. It’s an emerging crop but the time is ripe to identify crop protection options that could have a significant impact on the Australian industry.

Forum of the future

AgriFutures Australia has supported the Australian Industrial Hemp Conference since the inaugural event in 2018.

Most recently, the Australian Industrial Hemp Conference was held over four days in Launceston and the report reflects the combined desire of many in the industrial hemp value chain to further develop the industry and capitalise on the potential it offers.

The subsequent development of the Proceedings of the 3rd Australian Industrial Hemp Conference report provides an opportunity for anyone unable to attend the 2022 conference to benefit from valuable industry information.

For more information about the AgriFutures Emerging Industries Program, visit:

Australian Industrial Hemp Strategic RD&E Plan (2022-2027
Australian Industrial Hemp Industry: Pesticide Review and Evaluation Program
Proceedings of the 3rd Australian Industrial Hemp Conference

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