Hemp seed breeders need academic research to solve total THC problem

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Hemp seed breeders must collaborate with academic-run, varietal trials to tackle hemp’s total THC problem and move the industry forward, says Matt Haddad, CEO of Trilogene Seeds, an award-winning hemp seed breeder.

“Ninety-five percent of all the hemp grown last year was marijuana. It went hot,” Haddad says. “We need to bring more academic analysis to these hemp varietals, especially with the .3 total THC iron fist coming down.”

This spring, Haddad donated seeds from 12 Trilogene-bred hemp cultivars for the Midwestern Hemp Database (MHD), a collaboration between multiple universities, hemp seed breeders and growers. Now in its third year, the database is documenting the performance of hemp cultivars grown throughout the Midwest. Researchers in 2020 submitted over 750 cannabinoid samples, collecting information on cultivar performance versus production practices and location.

The U.S. cannabidiol (CBD) market, much of it hemp-derived, is expected to reach $13.39 billion in 2024, according to an October 2020 U.S. Cannabidiol Market report.

However, harvesting a profitable CBD hemp crop without going over the .3% THC limit has been challenging for many growers. Farmers with a hemp crop that goes “hot” at harvest are forced to destroy it, losing their investment, Haddad says.

 Indeed, 2020 research data from MHD found that 25% of the CBD-dominant cultivars trialed could not produce more than 8% CBD without exceeding .3% THC. Initial data suggests that cultivars with a stable CBD to THC ratio of 25 to 1 throughout flowering will maximize profitability while maintaining compliance.

Haddad, who has been breeding hemp since 2015, says quantitative, academic-level research helps hemp breeders identify traits, assists growers in finding best-performing varietals for their region and could help convince U.S. regulators to increase what many in the hemp industry think is an unrealistic .3% THC minimum.

In December 2020, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Hemp Economic Mobilization Plan, which would increase the total THC limit for legal hemp to 1%.

“At the minimum, these trials can shed light to the government that hey, a .3% THC limit isn’t realistic for many CBD hemp farmers,” Haddad says.

Trilogene Seeds is an award-winning hemp breeder using data science and a collaborative approach to develop new, compliant hemp cultivars for U.S. and international markets.

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