Education and On-farm Research to Improve Long-term Sustainability of Hemp in the Northeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2021: $204,331.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2024
Grant Recipients: University of Maine Cooperative Extension; University of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Dr. John Jemison, Jr.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension


  • Agronomic: hemp


  • Crop Production: application rate management, crop rotation, nutrient management, tissue analysis

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem and Justification:  With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp production was legalized creating the opportunity to grow a new crop with the potential to diversify farm income in the Northeast.  Since hemp was illegal for eight decades in the US, growers have limited locally-based research information to draw from to guide production.  Contrary to popular opinion, hemp is a challenging crop to grow well in our humid climate.  With little growing experience and limited research-based fertility and pest management information, hemp farmers and agricultural service providers need information and training on how to grow this crop sustainably.  Growers frequently talk about their “hemp field” as if they have no intention of rotation, and that hemp has few pests and needs little fertility.  This perception must be changed to produce hemp sustainably.  We need experimental data to demonstrate 1) the benefit of adopting sustainable rotation practices; and 2) effective levels of nitrogen (N) to sustain yield and quality, and not harm the environment.  Growers and manufacturers can then offer sustainable, locally-grown hemp products at profitable price points supporting local farms, improving the regional economy, and diversifying farm revenues.


    Solution and Approach :  Our goal is to involve 100 northeast industrial hemp growers in an intensive 15-hour training program in the winter of 2022 and 2023 and document producers’ improved understanding of the crop’s: 1) legal requirements; 2) unique biology and therapeutic benefits; 3) complicated pest and fertility management; and 4) harvest and post-harvest handling.  These same growers will continue building their knowledge by being involved with field days, virtual office hours, and on-farm trials. The on-farm trials will build their confidence in developing N fertility regimes and build our overall understanding of hemp nutrient demand.  Of the participating farms, 50 will report improved rotations, reduced production costs, and/or improved hemp yields of 200 lbs per acre on 100 acres.  At the research stations, replicated research trials will be conducted to assess the effect of a one-, two-, or three-year crop rotation on hemp yield and quality.  We will also conduct N response trials to better define optimum N rates and fanleaf chlorophyll (SPAD) values and ratios to guide growers’ fertility programs.  To document grower’s improved capacity to produce hemp resulting from the work of this project, we will assess pre- and post-training learning and action data from beneficiaries.  In year 3, we will assess adoption of improved rotation, changed fertility practices, and improved income resulting from this project.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Of the 100 farmers attending the 15-hour intensive training program, 80 will document improved confidence in hemp production, 50 will report improved rotations, reduced production costs, and/or improved hemp yields of 200 lbs per acre on 50 acres.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.