OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 News) – ABC4News is getting an exclusive look at the process of researching and growing high-quality hemp to produce CBD oil in Utah.
In a previous report, we showed you how Utah State University in Logan is ground zero for hemp research in Utah and now we look at how growers are using that research to help farmers become the best in the nation in industrial hemp production and why it’s critical to get it right.
Brian Gold of Pineae Greenhouse in Ogden is the largest regional supplier of spring annuals and perennials for Costco and Lowes.
“In this house, we produce young plants and seedlings. Let’s look at the hemp plants here,” said Gold.
Today he’s giving us a look at his newest crop.
“These are varieties that are high in CBD and low in THC. They’re growing here now,” said Gold.
Pineae runs a high tech operation with attention to detail, especially in light management.
“We replaced all pressure sodium lights.”
Gold is applying these practices to growing hemp.
“We’ll get a thicker and more vigorous plant using this additional light.”
Each plant is attached to a little bag filled with beneficial bugs.
“We can’t spray these plants with any insecticides. These insects are predator insects so if mites or drip these beneficial insects will feed on them,” said Gold.
Gold has partnered with USU professors Brian Bugbee and Bill Doucette to bring the most desirable hemp plant for mass production.
“That’s what the great agriculture universities do in this great country – optimize yield and quality,” said Bugbee.
Dr. Bugbee is researching the physiology of hemp and streamlining best practices to grow the complicated cannabis plant.
“These are in 12 hours of dark. They need to sleep a long time,” said Bugbee.
They’re only interested in the female plant because of the flower which contains CBD oil.
“If we don’t let it sleep, it will never flower,” said Bugbee.
That would render the hemp useless. After time in the growth chamber, the hemp flowers are harvested.
“They’re not called marijuana they look the same, hemp doesn’t have THC,” said Bugbee.
To make sure that’s true, flower clippings are taken from Bugbee’s crop lab to Dr. Doucette’s water lab to be crushed and analyzed. This is to make sure, for legal purposes, the plant doesn’t reach a certain level of THC, the compound that gets you high.
“So far THC levels are below the .3% that’s good news,” said Dr. Doucette.
Brian Gold and his team are using their expertise, knowledge and quality control to grow the optimum hemp plant that will eventually be sold to farmers.
All of this work, hopefully, for a big pay off in our community, mankind and to keep Utah, what Gold says a clean state -meaning there is no legal recreational cannabis to ruin crops.
“You can get someone sloppy growing male plants and potentially cross contaminate. Even if you are 4,5 10 miles away if you’ve got male plants that are going to pollinate these it significantly reduces the CBD value from 10% to13% CBD to the 2% range,” said Gold.
Researcher and growers can guarantee they’re dealing with only female plants by what’s called clonal propagation.
A handful of agricultural universities have done research, but what they don’t have is the combination of expertise with technology and working in a clean slate.
“Bruce Bugbee is the leading plant physiologist in the world,” said Gold.
“All of those states are dirty states. They’ve got seed production, you’ve got cross-pollination. Cloning is exploding right now,” said Gold.
A new federal farm bill last December made researching hemp legal.
“Growers in other parts of the country wanted us to do research us but we couldn’t take the money until now. In this crop with the same amount of work we’ll triple the yield and the quality that’s what makes it really exciting,” said Bugbee.
Exchanging information is the idea behind getting a higher quality and return on these crops to hopefully help rejuvenate struggling farms and improve medicine.