By Sabra Jackson, Staff Writer
Three Murray State graduate students have been growing hemp since June for research projects on four of Murray State’s farms.
Patrick Hooks, Cheryl Shi and Cheyenne Hooks are participating in three research projects within the Hutson School of Agriculture under the direction of Tony Brannon and Brian Parr, both in the Hutson School of Agriculture, as well as Jason Robertson, West Farm Manager.
Patrick Hooks, from Owensboro, Kentucky, is studying the regulations and policies of hemp and production rates. He is using four varieties of seeds on four plots to study how each variety grows in different soil types.
“We are still trying to figure out what is best and what is not best for each crop,” Patrick Hooks said.
Patrick Hooks said this is a new crop for the area, so the program is hands on, and it is a “learning as you go” experience.
“I have learned that there’s a lot of hurdles around hemp,” he said. “There’s a lot of production hurdles and there’s a lot of policy hurdles.”
Patrick Hooks said it has been difficult to explain to people there is a difference between marijuana and hemp.
For Murray State to grow hemp, the tetrahydrocannabinol level, THC, must be lower than 0.3. Anything higher would be considered marijuana. THC is the chemical that is responsible for the side effects of marijuana.
Shi, from Hainan, China, is doing her project over the different content of CBD and THC in the different varieties of hemp.
CBD is the acronym for cannabidiol, which is the key compound in THC. CBD is currently being medically tested, and it is believed to be favorable for seizures, migraines and joint pain. As of right now, it is used as a dietary supplement.
The research is fairly new, so Shi said they will not be able to find out which varieties are better for oils and which ones are better for fiber until the project is complete.
Shi said they collect a sample from each farm to test the CBD and THC.
Cheyenne Hooks, from Ashland, Tennessee, is using hemp to feed chickens on the West Farm to see if hemp will transfer into the egg and make a difference in the size of the eggs.
Cheyenne Hooks said they are working with the chemistry department to analyze the eggs once they have been laid.
She said hemp has not been approved for livestock consumption, which motivated this project. She said she would like to present it to the USDA or FDA once the study is complete.
“We won’t really know anything until we run the statistics at the end of the study,” she said. “What we observed, it seems like most of [the chickens] really enjoy it.”
Brian Parr, assistant dean of the Hutson School of Agriculture, said the agriculture school has worked with two companies, CV Sciences and Kentucky 21st Century Agri, K21A, to make the research projects happen.
He said they have been working with CV Sciences for the last two years and have recently started working with K21A.
K21A has partnered with Murray farmer Joseph Kelly to help the university harvest the hemp and answer any questions they might ask.
Parr said K21A is interested in seeing the commodities processed into more usable products.
“They are taking the hemp seeds once they have been pressed and the oil has been removed in it,” Parr said.
Parr said because the seeds are high in protein, the hemp is being tested to use in animal feed.
“I think we are really ahead of the game on the whole animal feed scene,” Parr said.
The hemp locations for Murray State are West Farm, Pullen Farm, Huston School of Agriculture Farm and a farm donated to Murray State in Ballard County.