OSU Launches Hemp Center

Publish Date: Summer 2019

Oregon State University has launched the nation’s largest research center devoted to the study of hemp, and OSU will begin certifying hemp seed for planting in Oregon.

The Global Hemp Innovation Center will be based in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences with research taking place across the state and world. Currently, there are more than 40 OSU faculty representing 19 academic disciplines engaged in hemp research, teaching, and extension services. The center will serve as a research hub connecting faculty and researchers engaged in plant research, food innovation, pharmacy, public health, public policy, business, and engineering.

Hemp has the potential to become a major agricultural commodity in the United States and abroad with hemp plant fiber being used in manufactured products, including clothing, construction materials, and packaging. Meanwhile, hemp seed oil is being investigated for use in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, foods, and nutraceuticals. For example, hemp has a long tradition of use in treating ailments by eastern medicine.

Oregon State’s decision to launch the new hemp center follows Congress’ adoption of the 2018 Farm Bill that removed hemp from the list of controlled drug substances and initiated the creation of a framework for hemp to become a fully legalized commodity in the future.

According to the Brightfield Group, an analytics firm that tracks the cannabis industry, the hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) market is expected to grow from $618 million in 2018 to $22 billion by 2022.

As it launches its seed certification services for hemp, the seeds will be for use by farmers that are registered by the state. Oregon State will be the only university in the nation presently to certify hemp seed.

By the end of June, OSU researchers will plant the university’s third crop of hemp plants at 10 university experiment stations located in different climates and soil conditions throughout Oregon. Up to eight plots of hemp totaling no more than five acres will be planted at each experiment station. Hemp material will be harvested as the plants are flowering and will be provided to OSU researchers for study. No pollen or seeds will be produced from this year’s research crop.

Jay Noller, professor of crop and soil science at OSU, will serve as director and lead researcher for the new center.

Oregon State researchers are working with faculty at universities in Europe and China to explore the propagation and uses of hemp. Meanwhile, Oregon State will host in Corvallis a National Academies of Sciences symposium on hemp in the coming months.

Beginning in 1936, the federal government prohibited the propagation of hemp plants. Oregon authorized hemp cultivation in 2009, but the Oregon of Department of Agriculture did not license its first hemp grower until 2015. Just three years later, Oregon ranked third in the United States in licensed hemp acres planted behind Montana and Colorado. The 2018 farm bill decriminalized the propagation of hemp, and it is anticipated that over the next year the federal government will have a framework in place to commercially produce and utilize hemp grown in the U.S.

As of mid-May, Oregon has licensed 1,342 growers to plant 46,219 acres of hemp this year, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. That total is nearly six times greater than the 7,808 acres planted in 2018. Nationally, the number of licensed acres devoted to hemp cultivation increased by 204% from 2017 to 2018, according to Vote Hemp, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization.

Both Oregon and OSU have a long history of hemp cultivation and research. The university, then known as Oregon Agricultural College, partnered with scientists in the U.S. Department of Agriculture to host a national hemp research center from the 1880s until 1932.