The Australian industrial hemp industry is earmarked as having high growth potential within the AgriFutures Australia Emerging Industries Program.
In March 2022, the publication of the Australian Industrial Hemp Strategic RD&E Plan (2022-2027) was crucial to identifying growth drivers and enabling industry to tap into this potential. The Plan was the result of extensive industry research and stakeholder consultation both identifying research needs and prioritising investments.
To achieve the growth target for industrial hemp, an increase in the scale of production, access to regionally suitable varieties, better understanding of the agronomy, more efficient mechanisation for harvesting and processing, and established long-term markets to assist hemp to become a valuable crop in Australia have been identified.
One specific, high priority activity identified was the development of a nationally coordinated industrial hemp variety trial covering current and future, major production environments. The IHVT project will address two goals outlined in the Plan.
Firstly, to enable growers access to hemp varieties suitable for profitable fibre and seed/ oil production, and that have the traits and characteristics required for adaption to the potential production environment. Secondly, to ensure industry participants have a good understanding of prioritised hemp product qualities with regards to functionality and source of variation (genetic, environment, management, processing).
National trial to aid ambitions
The IHVT program was launched in 2021, co-funded by AgriFutures Australia and the participating state and territory government agencies, to address and overcome the challenges facing the industry around varietal selection.
Historically, limited research into production in Australia, and differences in methodology (varieties, timing, data collection) have made it difficult to compare results between studies. The key outcome of the IHVT is to provide individual variety recommendations and times of sowing, across diverse geographic regions of Australia.
Providing a coordinated approach across trials in different regions of Australia and providing access to comparable data will enable growers to make informed decisions on-farm.