The latest round of industrial hemp trials have been planted to examine the potential to grow the crop for grain production in Western Australia.
It is the second year of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development project, which has expanded field trials from its Manjimup Research Facility to include a site at Busselton and later a site in the tropics.
There has been increasing interest in growing industrial hemp, which is not intoxicating but high in protein and omegas 3 and 6, for use as a flour, seed, protein and oil, in bread, cereals, milk and dairy products.
Project leader, research scientist Shahajahan Miyan, said the focus of the trial was on different times of sowing, using 12 industrial hemp cultivars.
"We are comparing sowing times of the first day of the months of October, December, January and March at the two sites to determine the optimal time and environments for planting," he said.
"Another site at the department's Kununurra Research Facility will be sown during April to examine time of sowing and crop performance in the tropics.
"Hemp sown for human consumption only requires 100 to 160 days to grow before it is harvested.
"All the trials are irrigated, as hemp is a summer crop that does not perform well without adequate water."
The hemp seed varieties being trialled come from Australia, France and Canada, which are sown into clay loam soil.
The trials have been planted at a sowing rate of 100 plants per square metre, while the Manjimup site has additional plantings of 100, 200 and 300 plant/m2 to continue a 2019 sowing rate trial.
The trials are being harvested at maturity, after which the seed will be measured for grain, protein and oil content.
While no large scale seed crops are grown commercially in WA at the moment, the State Government announced support in 2019 for five projects to explore the crop's potential under its Industrial Hemp Grants Scheme.
Projects include further cropping trials, processing potential, compounds for ingestible and topical applications and determining market requirements.
The department is also leading a livestock feed hemp project to inform the potential for grazing on stubble to use the whole plant and improve overall profitability, while meeting food standards.
The livestock feed project is being undertaken in partnership with Charles Sturt University and the ChemCentre and is sponsored by AgriFutures Australia.
For more information about industrial hemp visit the department's website agric.wa.gov.au and search for 'hemp'.