By Miles Noller, Rural Life Newspaper
AUSTRALIA — A new cultivar is set to launch Queensland’s experimental industrial hemp industry into an era of commercial production.
The variety, code named INSX, is believed to be the first industrial hemp cultivar suited to Queensland’s climate.
Following the legalisation of research into industrial hemp in Queensland more than two years ago, trials have been conducted in many areas, including Atherton, Emerald, St George, Millmerran, Bundaberg, Rockhampton and the Darling Downs.
Most have been relatively unsuccessful, as have trials in other States.
Tasmania is the only State where the European-developed industrial hemp varieties have shown much success.
However, the Brisbane-based Australian Hemp Resource and Manufacture company has successfully grown the new variety in southern Queensland.
Bred from hemp varieties from Asia Minor and central Asia INSX is likely to form the basis for further varietal development.
The company’s managing director Phil Warner said INSX was one of about 20 varieties the company has trialled both in Australia and overseas, three of which could be suitable for Australian conditions.
He said one of the biggest problems with the European cultivars was their requirement for 16 to 18 hours of daylight, when in much of Australia, daylight hours reached only 14 per day.
He said while tests were yet to be completed, INSX was likely to be suitable for fibre production for textiles and a range of other products including industrial filters and building boards.
However, hemp would become viable as a replacement for trees for paper production, only when large tonnages were produced consistently.
Mr Warner said industrial hemp would grow wherever cotton was produced and in the loamy soils of the old tobacco growing districts such as Mareeba, Texas and Bonshaw.
He said the crop preferred a neutral soil that was fairly well drained, and irrigation was likely to be necessary for germination and plant establishment.
Currently there was demand for processed hemp fibre at about $2000 per tonne, which represented an in-field price of about $225 to $275. He said fibre hemp crops would yield about 12-17 tonnes/ha.
Fibre length could be controlled by planting time and if short fibres were required, the crop might take only 70 days to reach the required maturity, allowing two crops per summer season.
Mr Warner said Australia, New Zealand, and the United States were the last three Western countries to “come on line” with hemp production.
He said it was a very big crop in France and Spain, and well established in Russia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Italy and China, and in more recent times, the UK, Switzerland, Holland and Canada had become involved with the production of industrial hemp.
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