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Oregon State is Opening the Largest Hemp Research Center in the U.S.

By Savannah Hasty

Oregon State University (OSU) has been a renowned agricultural research center since its founding over 150 years ago. The school is continuing this legacy into the modern era of agriculture by supporting the scientific exploration of America’s leading crop: hemp. 

On June 12, 2019, OSU made an announcement about their plans to open the largest hemp research center in the U.S. This decision will put the university on the map as the leading expert on hemp cultivation nationwide.

The opening of the Global Hemp Innovation Center at OSU has opened many doors, both for the university and for hemp farmers throughout the state. With the expansion of their research program, OSU will not only study the growing methods and uses for hemp, but will be able to certify hemp seeds for farmers in the Pacific Northwest. Certified seeds are required for farmers to grow hemp, and Oregon is leading the way to become a go-to destination for American hemp and hemp products.

The Global Hemp Innovation Center will be built within the university’s College of Agricultural Sciences; however, field experimentation will take place state and nationwide. Alan Sams, the dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, believes the research center will further OSU’s goals to become the leader in agricultural innovation worldwide:

“Our faculty are already recognized internationally as the go-to experts for hemp research. The launch of this center signifies our commitment to continue to build upon that established expertise and grow our impact across the state, the nation and globally.”

OSU is already a working partner with hemp agriculturalists across Oregon. In 2019, more than 40 faculty at the school have dedicated their time to hemp education and fieldwork with local farmers. The university itself works hand in hand with the Oregon Department of Agriculture to certify seeds for 48 crops that are popular on Oregon farms. With the construction of the Global Hemp Innovation Center, hemp will become its 49th certifiable crop. 

There is a reason why Oregon is leading hemp production in the U.S. It is located on the 45th parallel, which is recognized as one of the best-suited areas in the U.S. for hemp cultivation. The ideal soil and temperatures, coupled with Oregon’s politically favorable climate have made it a natural leader in the hemp and cannabis industry. 

According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, there are currently more than 50,000 acres dedicated to hemp cultivation statewide, with definitive plans to expand farmlands for the crop. Analysts predict that the amount of hemp currently grown internationally will only be able to meet 2% of demand in the coming years, which is why 2019 is prime time for Oregon to invest in the Global Hemp Innovation Center. 

Jay Noller, professor of crop and soil science at OSU, explains the importance of the new research center:

“We want to understand how to efficiently and sustainably grow hemp for seeds, for hemp fiber materials that can be used in textiles and construction materials, including as an alternate to gravel in concrete, for hemp essential oils that have popular health and wellness uses, and for hemp grain for use in foods and feed. Multi-use hemp is what we are excited about globally.”

Noller will lead all programs at the research center. He and his team at OSU will work with more than 40 scientists at 10 other research centers worldwide to better understand growing conditions and uses for hemp. “It’s not a fad,” states Noller, who has pushed for the expansion of OSU’s hemp research programs for some time. 

Oregon is not the only state with plans to invest in the future of hemp. Many U.S. states and their universities are catching up to the trend and believe in the innovation possible with the plant. CBD oil is certainly the focus of most hemp cultivation, but it can be used for many different industries vital to the American economy.

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