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‘Hempy’ New Year!

Phase 2 is underway in Martin County, FL! This property on the rim canal of Lake Okeechobee was acquired in May 2020 and has been in development since. It is now in the transition phase, going from making the property functional with water, electricity, and shelter to now trying to actually get some plant and research work done.

        Hemp4Water is growing a lot of different varieties to find the best plants to grow well in the hot, humid, over irrigated, mucky swamp. This environment is fairly specific to the work and goals of our organization because we are researching ways to clean out the excess Nitrogen and Phosphorus in Florida waterways. We need hemp plants that are going to grow well enough in the environment that they can take up a lot of N and P during their lifecycle, removing it from the water they are growing in.

So far, the research trials have shown some good possibilities and a couple of crosses that look promising. We crossed Tenacious with ACDC, and a CBG/industrial cross that has interests peaked right now. There’s also a couple of other varieties that weren’t expected to thrive but are doing well to date. A strain that another hemp researcher has been working on for several years here in Florida, perfect for the strenuous heat and humidity, is showing great survivability in the poor soils at the Martin County facility and will be tested in the water in future trials. Right now, there are several different varieties growing across the property, a few of which have several plants growing. The best of these plants will be used to develop the mothers, so that we can do clones easily. One is called Tallahassee (which is the commercial side of Tenacious), and the other is called Destin, both doing very well. Overall, we have identified some genetics that look like they are going to do great, ranging from pure industrial strains to some that might have other qualities. They are all expected to survive on the bio-islands as well. Many people have and are interested in donating genetics, so we’ll have plenty of different plants to look at and observe and collect data on for Phase 2.

Currently, the research trials in Martin County are being conducted in soil only. Permitting has to be granted by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the UnitedStates Army Corps of Engineers in order for Hemp4Water to use and conduct work in the water at the Martin County property. Both permits are necessary to begin using the water.

Phase 2 also encompasses scaling up the project. How do we get there? Volunteers!

As development at the Martin County site continues, we will be looking for volunteers to help us expand in the future. People who want to help plant hemp when its time, learn more about hemp, or even share their knowledge or interest in hemp are welcome to contact Steve Edmonds at steve@hemp4water.org for more information on future opportunities.

Don’t forget to follow the Facebook page for more: https://www.facebook.com/hemp4water

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!

What are Water Hubs?

Water hubs are basically cleaning stations.  Really, really, big cleaning facilities that can handle thousands of acre feet of water a day.  I have been working on the concept since around 2013 when I, like several others began searching for ways to deal with millions of acre feet of storm water entering into Lake Okeechobee.

The discharges from the Lake exit via the locks1Caloosahatchee to the west and The St. Lucie via the east and they are controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS).  The federally mandated discharges that have authority to ignore the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act, do so through something called the Water Transfer Rule.  In 2013, 1.7 million acre feet of water was flushed through these rivers causing death and destruction of ecosystems and economies.

It became apparent the only way to stop the discharges was to sequester and redirect the storm water from Central Florida.  I have been brainstorming ways to utilize existing ideas and infrastructure and water management techniques to do this.  I don’t believe it is possible to hold the water in the Lakes and ecosystems of Central Florida without severely jeopardizing several species and the over all ecosystems.

On an average day, not to wet or dry, water is shunted from our rivers to the sea at about 15-20 billion gallons a day.  To put this in perspective, the agricultural community for the entire state consumes about 15 billion gallons per day.  The whole of population south of Lake Okeechobee consumes about 8-9 billion gallons per day.  This waste of water is a result of storm water system design and also a key factor in pollution and legacy pollution.  The water that runs off into our lakes and streams has all sorts of pollutants that accumulate throughout the system.  Just as we recognize the need to keep this water out of Lake Okeechobee, we must realize we need to manage this water so that it stays out of all of our lakes and rivers.

This realization led me to the concept of water hubs.  Large areas that could receive, clean, and then distribute water to where it needs to go in the state.  For all the water we waste, we sue GA for water to irrigate our oysters in Apalachicola, the Everglades thirsts because of flow, we fight daily salt water intrusion in Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville and our Aquifer levels are depleting.

If I had a madeseretgic wand, a great example for a perfect water hub would be the Deseret Ranch property.  It is about 29K acres that is situated between to conservation/wetland areas and connected to a WMA (Water Management Area).  It has the added bonus of about 15 ASR’s or deep well injection sites adjacent to its southern border.  We could utilize the space and existing ecology to receive storm water on the north end of the property.  We could then build a flow system that could incorporate a number of technologies and natural techniques that could begin the cleaning process, the water then flows to the “facility” where natural polymers could be used to remove toxins and heavy metals. Then the water could flow to the southern wet areas, to the WMA to be “polished” or cleaned to acceptable levels.  Finally since the water is cleaned it could be put back in the aquifer via the deep well injection systems.

Once a few of these were operational, you could begin to connect and network them with a series of pumps and pipes and ultimately build out to be able to transport large amounts of clean water to anywhere in the state.  The state of Florida could be a global model for water management and sustainability.   This is the ultimate goal of Hemp4Water.