Industrial hemp is a new crop for South Carolina and there is still a lot to be learned about what it takes to successfully grow the crop in the Palmetto State. That’s why there will be two educational sessions on industrial hemp at the SC AgriBiz & Farm Expo on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at the Florence Center in Florence.
In the first educational session set for 2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, David DeWitt, Justin Ballew and Dr. Nathan Smith with Clemson Extension will provide an overview on industrial hemp’s first year in South Carolina and the outlook for the future. Ballew will discuss insect and disease issues observed in 2018; Smith will talk about budget work compiled on first year grower experiences and DeWitt will give an update on current programs and the 2019 plans.
In addition, Jason Eargle with Brackish Solutions, one of South Carolina’s first industrial hemp companies and one of a handful of selected participants in the state’s inaugural hemp pilot program in 2018, will discuss his firsthand experiences with hemp in South Carolina. Eargle was instrumental in formation of the pilot program and believes hemp can be the best alternative and more lucrative crop than any other grown in the state.
A second industrial hemp educational session will be held from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. the same day where South Carolina hemp growers will be on hand to discuss their experience with the crop.
Information on the genetics of hemp, what varieties to plant and weed control methods among other production topics will also be presented.
There are currently no herbicides labeled for hemp production in South Carolina.
DeWitt, who will conduct the second session, said the program is designed to give current hemp growers and potential hemp growers the production information they need to successfully grow the crop in South Carolina in 2019.
“By the middle of January, it will be time for hemp farmers to be lining up plants and deciding what varieties they want to grow and what kind of inputs they will need. The first thing farmers need to know is where to get a good source of seed,” he said.
The 2014 farm bill authorized departments of agriculture to create industrial hemp research programs. The South Carolina General Assembly passed and the governor signed House Bill 3559 in 2017 making it legal for industrial hemp to be grown in South Carolina for research purposes. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture is the administrator of the application and permitting process.
The legislation creates the South Carolina Industrial Hemp Program allowing certain colleges and universities to work with growers to conduct research or pilot programs contingent upon funding. In partnership with SCDA, Clemson University is dedicating efforts to help ensure farmers have access to resources they may need for success. In the program’s first year (2017-2018) up to 20 permits were granted in South Carolina with 40 permits granted for the second year (2018-2019).
Jody Martin, manager of the SC AgriBiz & Farm Expo, said the educational sessions on industrial hemp are just part of the many educational offerings at the expo set for Jan. 23 to 24. Educational sessions on trade, the farm bill, maximizing corn and soybean production and other topics will also be presented. The expo will also include more than 100 exhibitors of farm equipment, supplies and services.
“We hope everyone who attends the industrial hemp sessions will take time to visit the many exhibits at the expo and stay for the annual taste of South Carolina that begins at 6:15 p.m. at the Florence Center as part of the expo. It’s a great chance to sample many tasty culinary offerings featuring Certified South Carolina products while networking with many agricultural leaders,” Martin said.
For more information on the SC AgriBiz & Farm Expo, https://www.scagribizexpo.com/.