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Nebraska hemp growers getting closer to harvesting

Posted at 6:39 PM, Dec 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-06 19:39:31-05

PLATTSMOUTH, Neb. (KMTV) — The hemp plant was known to be used thousands of years ago, but the hemp industry in Nebraska is still very new. Due to that, those growing the plant are still on the path of figuring things out, and are hopeful they will be able to help future growers.

"Back in August the plants were about 10-12 inches tall, and now you can see the differences," said Ismail Dweikat, Professor of Hemp Genetics of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. The plants are now several feet tall, to which Dweikat credits the staff at Nebraska Hop Producers for taking great care of the plants.

The process didn't come without growing pains, insects remain a constant threat. That's why your shoes need to be covered inside the greenhouse, so you don't track any in. Those taking part in the pilot program also say while taking care of the plants as you should is critical, education for new growers is just as important.

"If you go with cheap seed or cheap plants there's probably a reason it's cheap and you could lose your whole crop," said Bruce Wiles, with Nebraska Hop Producers.

Wiles is a former corn and soybean farmer, and works with a variety of hemp plants. "We have four different varieties that we started with, we tried to figure out what variety grows well here and what does not grow as well," said Wiles.

He also says once those varieties are narrowed down it will help future growers. Other help has come in the form of banks after federal agencies relaxed some hemp banking requirements including that hemp businesses should not be treated with any more suspicion than other bank customers.

Local hemp growers and the University of Nebraska - Lincoln researchers are hosting a hemp conference in March to help share information on the industry. It's scheduled to take place Tuesday, March 10th, 2020 at the Innovation Campus at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln.