Hemp cross pollination could affect cannabis growers. Now, it is up to state governments to research and understand the agricultural impact behind this plant.
Author – Max Richardson-Davis
Edited by Noah Persin & Jon Russell
Cannabis and hemp have been legalized for commercial production/ test crops in a few states across the U.S. Here in Oregon, hemp is now governed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and registrants to the program have their first crops in the ground. This has some caused some concerns amongst cannabis growers.
We discussed cannabis production near hemp in our last post. We introduced Todd Dolatto and covered some concerns breeding cannabis near hemp. What we learned is that there is a 2 mile radius that can be marginally problematic for cannabis producers. However, this is by in large a concern for breeders. The typical commercial cannabis producer won’t have much of an issue from a hemp field that was even just a mile away. There would only be a few seeds per plant. These seeds should not cause a huge issue for people who would be consuming the flower after harvest (either medically or recreationally).
Now let’s discuss cannabis breeder concerns regarding hemp. As a breeder, cross-pollination is a real concern. Genetic history needs to be preserved when breeding for seed stock. To help protect stocks, the ODA usually establishes two or three rings of vector control area. If you are growing breeder seeds then this range is typically three miles. For some crops under specific conditions, it can be as large as five miles, the most restrictive control area the state of Oregon has ever placed on any agricultural plant.
“From a regulatory perspective, there are different reasons for growing a crop and protecting it from pollen,” says Dolatto. “It’s usually common for breeding. In regards to the cannabis plant, it’s quality of product and breeding that come into play.
For cannabis growers, one would presume that a two to three mile distance would likely generate one seed per plant at the most. It would not completely eliminate contamination, but it would certainly minimize it to such a degree, the breeder would continually and consistently be able to generate a high quality of product for cannabis consumers, thus maintaining a high level of confidence in the product and quality of their plants.”
For outdoor cannabis breeders, the type of breeder seed you are creating determines the distance necessary. Foundation seed and/or register seed produced from breeder seed would have a recommended distance of only one to two miles. However, certified seed (defined as seed which is grown to sell publicly to the market), would require a high degree of purity as does breeder seed. This means you may need MORE than five miles away from a twenty acre (five city blocks) hemp farm.
Indoor growers need not be concerned with hemp pollination. Carbon filters are likely to eliminate all pollen regardless of distance. Even if an indoor grow is unfiltered, it is highly unlikely pollen would be able to find it’s any way into a closed room crop. Greenhouses that feature mesh or poly-plastic with filtration systems would also likely eliminate any worry or concern a cannabis cultivator might have.
Certified and breeder seed cultivators, for these reasons, are encouraged to handle their breeding in greenhouses, filtrated rooms or behind closed doors. If this is not an option, breeders should be wary on where hemp is being grown and do their best to avoid those agricultural zones.
For medical growers, hemp cross pollination may not always be the worst thing. There is a great value in crossing hemp with cannabis for the purpose of medicine when done correctly. CBD, a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant known for it’s healing properties can be grown more efficiently in a cannabis plant after it has been crossed pollinated with hemp. Hemp with 3% THC flaunts some very compatible qualities for high CBD cannabis strains and was used by the Stanley Brothers; the Colorado grower’s collective that first created Charlotte’s Web, a strain of cannabis featuring almost no THC and extremely high quantities of CBD.
After speaking with Dolatto, we agree it is in our (Oregonians) best interest to legislate control areas and possibly appalachian zones for hemp. The best places to grow hemp in Oregon would be near the Columbia river and other state river valleys. This is far away from high population areas and it would be reasonable to limit hemp production to those areas in the state only, as there is enough room for expansion. Keeping hemp on the eastside of the Cascades would also limit cross pollination potential, leaving the Willamette Valley and others mostly hemp-free and able to be used primarily to cultivate cannabis.
What happens next in the hemp industry is anyone’s guess, but it seems there is little cause for concern from cannabis growers. Just a matter of common sense.