Good-Bye 2020!

Hemp4Water has been busy in 2020 working with researchers towards quantifying how much Nitrogen and Phosphorus a single hemp plant can take up, and therefore remove, from a contaminated body of water. There were a few hurdles to jump over – or crawl under or kick down – as is par for the course in 2020, but so much knowledge has been gained, too. Let’s have a look at some of the Hemp4Water highlights and honorable mentions from 2020.

In the first quarter of 2020, Hemp4Water was able to initiate Phase 1 of their two-year research project under the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Industrial Hemp Pilot Project, in partnership with South Florida State College (SFSC). Phase 1 was designed to basically quantify how much a single hemp plant will take up when it’s situated on a water body that has a fair amount of Nitrogen and Phosphorus present. How much will it uptake on its own when its floating on the bio-island.

Most of the year was spent figuring out which hemp strains were best for the Florida environment, and most importantly, how to keep them alive! Trying to grow juvenile hemp plants proved to be challenging because they basically struggled to the point of failure in the harsh conditions present in the trials, whether on land or in the water on floating bio-islands. Insects, pesticides, too much or too little water, plant pathogens like bacteria or fungus, birds, and mammals all love juvenile cannabis plants, making this juvenile stage highly susceptible to failure. From seed to about 18 inches tall, the attrition rate of hemp plants is extremely high even if you’re just past the germination phase, so Hemp4Water has developed their best practices, which now includes starting all plants at a minimum of 18 inches tall for growing on bio-islands. Once the change was initiated, the survival curve for plants was completely inverted from a 95 percent failure rate to a 95 percent success rate. Using 18+ inch plants or clones is a positive finding from the Hemp4Water and SFSC Phase 1 research trials that should hold true through the hemp industry as a whole. Difficulty with these susceptibilities during the early growth stages has been a common observation in other hemp fields in the state as well.

Even if you’ve got great seed, even if you’ve got healthy clones, there is a lot of uncharted territory within growing hemp in Florida that is probably going to bring about some failures, but with that comes more experience and knowledge to share; and that’s what we’re seeing all over the state. The newness of this crop in Florida brings about a huge learning curve all the way around for the industry.

Now that Hemp4Water and SFSC have stable plants growing in trials, they are gearing up to begin data collection. The lead scientist and chemist working on these trials, Dr. Mary Kate Calvin, has been preparing by calibrating the mass spectrometer and learning how to do the measurements required to determine what is in the plants in terms of Nitrogen and Phosphorus. Not only will they be able to collect data on the uptake of the plants, but they will also be able to determine what is in the biomass itself.

Phase 1 is all about data collection. Keep an eye out for future blogs about the results of Phase 1 trials, what’s going to be happening in Phase 2, how to help out our nonprofit Hemp4Water, and all the details in between!