22nd Century Group recently announced it had completed its first successful industrial hemp harvest in partnership with the University of Virginia.
In January this year, the two organisations signed an agreement whereby 22nd Century Group would invest approximately $1.1M in sponsored research funding over the next three years with view to creating unique industrial hemp and medical marijuana varieties.
This year’s trial involved identifying promising oil and fiber varieties that could be grown throughout the USA’s tobacco belt region.
“We have learned a lot from this first year’s planting and we are planning to take full advantage of the proposed amendments to Virginia’s industrial hemp laws with expanded plantings in 2018,” said Dr. Michael Timko, the principal scientific investigator at UVA.
Among the collaboration’s future goals is the production of cannabinoids for human therapeutics.
22nd Century Group hit the headlines earlier this year after announcing it had developed a zero-THC strain of industrial hemp in partnership with Canada’s Anandia Laboratories. While industrial hemp is very low in tetrahydrocannabinol, the presence of the psychoactive compound at any level creates regulatory headaches. A strain of hemp with zero THC but high in non-intoxicating cannabidiol (CBD) could have a significant commercial impact.
Dr. Paul Rushton, Vice President of Plant Biotechnology at 22nd Century, said the company’s zero-THC strain would feature in the UVA hemp program next year.
The company is also involved in an ongoing phytoremediation project in Virginia, where hemp varieties developed for the task are being grown on contaminated and compacted mining lands in the state. In addition to taking up contaminants, the deep tap roots of industrial hemp aerate the soil while also helping to bind it and add organic matter. While hemp used for phytoremediation can’t be used for food purposes, it can still be used for fiber applications.
Results from the phytoremediation trial, also being carried out in partnership with UVA, are expected soon. The varieties used in the trial are similar to those deployed to mop up radiation resulting from nuclear accidents at Chernobyl, Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan.
Phytoremediation is expected to be big business, with 30,000 sites requiring soil remediation in the United States.