Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

Industrial Hemp to be evaluated as low-desert crop – from the Imperial Valley Press

Industrial hemp plants

Note – CDFA has established the California Industrial Hemp Program, in accordance with state statute, and is working to develop a registration process, fee structure, regulations, and other administrative details as necessary to provide for the commercial production of industrial hemp. This work is ongoing. 

By Oli Bachie,  University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Agronomy Advisor for Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties.


Hemp, Cannabis sativa L., is a dioecious annual plant that has not been grown legally in California for many years due to regulatory restrictions.  In recent years, the restrictions have been loosened and many industry groups have shown research interest with industrial hemp. A 2015 federal law removed hemp from the list of controlled substances as long as its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content did not exceed 0.3 percent.

State Senate Bill 566 (the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act), defines industrial hemp as a fiber or oilseed crop, or both, that is limited to the non-psychoactive types of the plant and the seed produced, having no more than 0.3 percent THC contained in the dried flowering tops.

The bill emphasizes that industrial hemp be grown only if it is on the list of approved seed cultivars and would require the Department of Food and Agriculture to determine the methodology and procedure by which the list of approved seed cultivars may be amended, as specified.

Industrial hemp is a versatile fiber crop and is known to produce food, fuel, feed, fiber for textiles, bio-composite plastics and other advanced manufacturing materials, oils for industrial and cosmetic purposes, and pharmaceuticals, with more than 25,000 linked products.

In terms of resource requirements for production, at least one study suggested that it is possible to produce three times the amount of hemp fiber as cotton from the same amount of land with lower impact in terms of water, energy and the ecological footprint. Hemp is considered to consume 66 percent to 76 percent less water than cotton. It is heat-tolerant and produces excellent fiber.

The University of California Cooperative Extension-Imperial County intends to conduct research on industrial hemp at the UC Desert Research and Extension Center. The objectives of our trials are to test adaptability and potential yield of some selected cultivars. The outcome of our research will help to identify cultivars that may withstand heat, high temperatures and other environmental conditions of the low desert.

We will evaluate seed and fiber (straw) yield and productivity, strictly following the guidelines specified by the U.S. Farm Bill (Agricultural Act). According to this bill, industrial hemp must be grown or cultivated for research purposes conducted under an agriculture pilot program or academic research with a THC concentration of no more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

If levels exceed this value, the trials should be destroyed. In summary, our trial(s) will confirm if industrial hemp can withstand the dry and hot weather and be productive under mostly long photoperiod seasons of the low desert. Seasonally repeated trials will identify the best planting dates, adaptability and suitability of hemp varieties for California’s low desert environment.

Note: This is not an endorsement of hemp production by growers or any other interested party in the low desert. This is to simply state that the university will soon be conducting industrial hemp adaptability and yield potential under the low desert environment. We encourage growers and the farm community to share their concerns on our intended trial(s) with the UCCE Imperial County.

Link to Imperial Valley Press

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