Hemp researcher finds American dream in Canada
All-purpose varieties sought
By Bonnie Baltessen
November 30, 2006, page 18
Winnipeg – Ironically, a U.S.-born agrologist came to Canada to live the American dream.
Anndrea Hermann of Hemp Oil Canada said as much – “Canada is the American dream” – here recently at the 2006 Hemp Summit.
A member of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance and respected researcher on the crop, Hermann didn’t speak formally at the conference. She had heard about cannabis as many do – in high school and college – but was fascinated enough to begin researching the product’s medicinal benefits. It didn’t take long to learn about marijuana’s nicer cousin, industrial hemp.
After reading about the benefits of hemp, she couldn’t believe that in the U.S., hemp was strictly verboten. “I was really hurt by that,” she said. “I felt like I was personally being robbed of something.”
In her final year of school her professor asked her what she wanted to do. At the time, Hermann was unsure, but when asked what her passion was, she had no doubt.
She applied for an internship working with industrial hemp-and that meant moving to Canada, where industrial hemp can be grown. Hermann described the move as a life-changing event.
Now a landed immigrant working for Hemp Oil Canada at Ste. Agathe, Hermann is excited by the growth potential in her own plant breeding work. She’s been working with hemp for so long, she said, that she has now trained other Canadian students to do the same. It’s a source of pride for her that students can now look to hemp as a possible career.
“I’ve been told that I’ve walked through more miles of hemp fields than anybody alive today,” she explained.
Hermann said she sees the potential of hemp as vast and barely
tapped, even in Canada. In Europe, hemp has been in use for its fibre for a long time, although the Europeans haven’t yet tapped into the food industry. In Canada, the opposite is true, but research is ongoing here for varieties that will yield quality fibre.
Because hemp for fibre and hemp for seed must be harvested at
different times, it isn’t quite a “use-the-whole-plant” crop, but part of Hermann’s research examines that as well, she said.
She is looking at the different densities of the hurd-the woody part of the plant used for fibre. For precise data she went back and hand-thinned plant stands to densities of 100 to 200 per square metre.
Her research has been on a Manitoba-bred cultivar called Alyssa. She harvested at the oilseed-ready stage and checked fibre content as well, seeking a true dual-purpose plant.
Fibre growers would naturally harvest later for a good yield of hurd in the stalk. However, with her research, Hermann said, “we want to give people the knowledge base that they can say, ‘I can produce this type of fibre from this type of sample, now is this something you can put in your product’.” The dream of an all-purpose hemp variety isn’t out of the question, she said.
She envisioned more of a separated system, allowing producers the choice of where they market their hemp. Under such a system, she said, producers could take advantage of both processing opportunities, while offering farmers who live in areas conducive to hemp cultivars that only produce fibre-quality or seed-quality hemp a chance to produce a crop.
“It would be a matter of what can you grow the best and what can you process the best,” said Hermann.
There is no chance the hemp crop will come under some kind of
political scrutiny here, she said. “This plant facilitates a
goodness, as well as such a great opportunity.”
As for whether her home country will catch up to Canada, she said she felt the U.S. is still a long way off. North Dakota farmers, for example, are ready to move on growing hemp but prohibition, directed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, remains the barrier. 6 years ago