Industrial Hemp Faces Challenges In TX Says Texas T&M

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Industrial hemp acres in Texas were expected to rocket after legalization, but the crop has yet to take off in a state that presents many challenges to it as a profitable commodity, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

There was no guidance for hemp growers in the state – whether for CBD, fiber or grain – until the Texas Department of AgricultureTexas A&M AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension got involved after the Texas Legislature approved production by licensed operators in late-2019, said Calvin Trostle, AgriLife Extension agronomist and statewide hemp specialist.

Hemp crops are regulated by the Texas Department of Agriculture and tested for the psychoactive property THC. Any hemp crop with THC above 0.3% can be impounded and destroyed, so producers must be careful to not allow their CBD, fiber or grain crops mature beyond that threshold.

Since legalization, hemp hysteria has waned due to dramatic market changes and research-based reality checks regarding the challenges and risks of growing the plant in Texas climates, Trostle said.

AgriLife Extension’s initial information regarding varieties suitable for various production models and marketing potentially helped would-be producers avoid millions of dollars in losses over the last two years, he said.

“As an alternative crop, the hemp industry in Texas is still in its infancy,” Trostle said. “There is a massive amount of education going on, but we’re still trying to determine what varieties are adaptive so that we can help producers avoid headaches.”

In early 2019, economic projections of $40,000 per acre profits fueled a surge of interest in producing hemp for medicinal CBD applications. But by late 2019 the CBD market was saturated by established growers in other states and prices cratered.

Around 132,000 acres of CBD hemp were harvested in the U.S. that year and much of the crop was never processed. In 2020, about 65,000 acres were harvested, and as little as 40,000 acres in more than 40 states could meet CBD demand in 2021.

“It doesn’t take many acres to produce CBD for the end-product,” Trostle said. “Around 25 acres producing average yields can fill 1 million bottles that contain about 1 gram of CBD.”

In 2020, TDA reported 2,078 acres of the 5,000 permitted acres for industrial hemp were planted, he said.

Fiber May Be The Future

Fiber might be a viable option for hemp production in Texas, but much more research is needed to determine the correct varieties and management practices to make it profitable, Trostle said. Reducing seed costs would also help.

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