Reducing Farmer Risk through the Use of Triploid Hemp Genetics

Project Overview

LNE21-430R
Project Type: Research Only
Funds awarded in 2021: $101,168.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2024
Grant Recipient: University of Connecticut
Region: Northeast
State: Connecticut
Project Leader:
Dr. Jessica Lubell
University of Connecticut

Commodities

  • Agronomic: hemp

Practices

  • Crop Production: varieties and cultivars

    Proposal abstract:

    Hemp is a new and profitable crop for cannabinoids. Hemp is a diploid, dioecious species, and female plants are desired, since their inflorescences produce the greatest quantity of cannabinoids. When female plants are pollinated, they set seed, which significantly reduces cannabinoid yield. Despite farmers best efforts to remove male plants from their fields, crops remain susceptible to pollen drifting from neighboring farms or feral plants. One way to eliminate seed set is to develop triploid hemp, which produce gametes with imbalanced chromosomes that are non-viable. There are many horticultural examples of triploids that are sterile including watermelon, banana, citrus, and hops. My lab developed triploid hemp plants and it needs to be demonstrated that triploids will not set seed, maintain high cannabinoid content, and that their horticultural production potential is sufficient to allow farmers to successfully grow the crop. This project will compare triploid plants to standard diploid plants both in the greenhouse and the field. In the greenhouse, controlled pollination studies using genetically male pollen will test plant sterility. Plant performance and cannabinoid production will also be evaluated. In the field, horticultural performance, cannabinoid production and ability to resist pollen under real world conditions will be evaluated. Many northeast farmers have completely lost their hemp crop due to inadvertent pollination by plants found in the wild or on nearby farms. If triploid hemp proves to be seedless, then it will enable farmers to grow high cannabinoid yielding hemp without risk of crop loss due to pollination and seed set. In a recent survey of 28 farmers and extension specialists, all respondents were extremely supportive of university research to evaluate the sterility and growth performance of triploid hemp. As part of the process of fully vetting the sterility of triploid hemp, a research farmer will test plants in their annual variety trials. Farmers will participate in annual on-site demonstration events where they may view research plants, receive preliminary research results, and provide feedback on the project.  

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Evaluate the sterility and growth performance of triploid hemp plants developed through breeding. Greenhouse and field studies will be conducted to confirm that triploid hemp is infertile or exhibits reduced fertility. Sterile triploids would allow northeast farmers to grow hemp without the risk of seed set reducing cannabidiol (CBD) yield or hemp escaping cultivation to the wild. In addition to sterility, triploid hemp will likely possess greater yield and CBD content. Adoption of seedless triploid hemp would improve sustainability and profitability for northeast hemp farmers.

    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.