Study aims to identify hemp varieties best suited for Australian growing conditions

Study aims to identify hemp varieties best suited for Australia’s climate

A research project worth $1.6 million (AU$2.5 million) in Australia is set to identify hemp varieties that can thrive in the country’s climates and explore other aspects of the hemp value chain.

Lead researcher Tobias Kretzschmar, based at Southern Cross University, explained that the project’s focus areas include securing a steady supply of well-characterized varieties, developing value-add processing methods, investigating the safe and beneficial use of hemp products in livestock and animal feed, and generating information and tools for growers to understand the sustainability credentials of industrial hemp.

AgriFutures, an agency that supports research and development focusing on new and emerging industries and rural communities, is providing funding for the Australian Industrial Hemp Program of Research (AIHPR). The initiative will involve a range of other research organizations and hemp stakeholders to address the industry’s barriers to growth.

Nine trial sites

The Australian Industrial Hemp Program of Research (AIHPR) was developed in consultation with industrial hemp growers, processors, agronomists, and researchers, guided by the Australian Industrial Hemp Strategic RD&E Plan. A variety of hemp types have already been planted in nine locations as part of AgriFutures’ national hemp trials.

Olivia Reynolds, Senior Manager in AgriFutures Australia Emerging Industries Program, stated that hemp has enormous potential to boost Australia’s agricultural productivity.

“The Australian industrial hemp industry is in its infancy but is rapidly growing, and the timing is perfect to plan and implement a pathway for growth,” Reynolds said.

In 2021-2022, hemp fields across Australia totaled just under 2,000 hectares, with income estimated at AU$6 million (US$4.8 million; €4.4 million), according to AgriFutures.

Supporting rural areas

Reynolds’ emerging industries program is a research and development initiative that supports development in rural areas. The program has a broad agricultural portfolio and a specific mandate to develop new varieties of industrial hemp suitable for Australian growing conditions, as well as to advance new technologies, market development, and training.

The government of Australia has identified industrial hemp as a valuable tool in the fight against climate change, as farming contributes roughly 13% of CO2 emissions across the country. Australia has committed to reducing overall emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030 under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Australia has a carbon credit scheme for agriculture, known as the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), which provides financial incentives for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or increase carbon storage.


Additional funding for the AIHPR research is provided by: Southern Cross University, the Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Charles Sturt University, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, the Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Macquarie University, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Murdoch University, Sage Consulting, University of Melbourne, Integrated Veterinary Rehabilitation, Vasse Valley Hemp Farm, and Daniel Weinstock Consulting Services.

Southern Cross University, the AIHPR host institution, has over 15 years of experience in industrial hemp research.

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