Ireland: Breaking the farming stigma around hemp

Hemp is a “high-value crop”, is very pest resistant, low maintenance to grow, and has over 50,000 different product applications. And yet, one of the biggest things holding it back is the “stigma” that surrounds it.

Assistant professor at University College Dublin’s School of Biology and Environmental Science Susanne Schilling has a background in plant genetics and evolution. Since 2019, she has been working on hemp, and describes herself as being “relatively recent to the topic, just because it’s really a newly-emerging crop”.

Knowledge is lacking in this area, Ms Schilling explained, unlike for the “well-studied crops such as rice, wheat, where we have lots of genomic information. We know a lot about the different plants and the compounds, how they grow when they flower, but we don’t know all of this for hemp,” she said. “And that is what our group is working on at the moment.”

Earlier this month, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris awarded €37.3m to 62 collaborative research projects between academics and institutions in Ireland and Northern Ireland under the first funding call from the North-South Research Programme. One such project to receive funding is ÉIREhemp — an “all-island approach to sustainable high-value functional polysaccharides from low-value agricultural hemp waste products”.

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