Midwestern Hemp Database Project seeks grower participation

Land-grant universities team up with Rock River Laboratory and hemp growers to develop a public hemp database.

Person holding canabis plant

Are you a new hemp grower? Curious about hemp variety performance across the Midwest region? Would you find value in a publicly accessible variety evaluation tool? What about receiving significantly discounted cannabinoid testing in exchange for data sharing via university and private partnerships? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, read on!

Hemp is a fast growing, annual herbaceous plant that can be used to produce fiber, grain and cannabinoids. As a “new” crop to Midwestern agriculture, best management practices (BMPs) and varietal performance of hemp have yet to be determined. The BMPs yet to be developed include planting methods, variety performance, fertility requirements, rotational impacts, harvest compliance, etc. In 2020, several land-grant institutions in the Midwest are collaborating with Rock River Laboratory, Inc. and Pride Analytics and Consulting to develop a public hemp database, including University of Illinois Extension, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michigan State University Extension and Purdue University Extension.

The goal of this project is to provide regional (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan) insight into agronomic performance and cannabinoid development of modern hemp varieties. This is of great importance, as many hemp varieties are being grown across the region without reliable data available regarding their performance. Furthermore, with the impending adoption of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules, this will be an important year to gain information regarding variety performance of hemp in support of future regulatory compliance.

Currently, there is a wide range of variability among hemp varieties and seed sources in the market. Our private-public partnership seeks to provide clarity as to how well varieties will perform in the region and, most importantly, will comply with state and federal regulations. To gain better insight on cannabinoid production throughout flowering, a cannabinoid time course experiment is required, focused on testing cannabinoid development as the crop matures.

This project will rely heavily on dedicated grower cooperation to provide useful information to experienced and new growers interested hemp production. In short, participation in this program provides an exciting opportunity to receive significantly discounted cannabinoid profiling (CBC, CBD, CBG, CBN, CBDA, CBGA,CBDVA, Δ8THC, Δ9THC, THC-A and THCV) at $30 per sample (regular price is $75) in exchange for data on your hemp operation. Please note, these results cannot be used for regulatory compliance in Michigan. Participants will still need to submit a sample to Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

This project is made possible through an extremely generous partnership with Rock River Laboratory, Inc. and Pride Analytics and Consulting out of Wisconsin. Rock River Laboratory, Inc, and their spinoff cannabis testing company, Pride Analytics and Consulting, have been serving the laboratory needs of the agricultural community for more than 40 years. In 2019, they were the highest-volume hemp testing lab in Wisconsin with more than 3,500 samples processed. The laboratory and agricultural experience that they have brought to the hemp industry has allowed their leadership team to take an active role in steering the industry by assisting in standardization of testing procedures and helping to ensure that future hemp legislation in the state of Wisconsin has a firm scientific footing. For more information about them and their review of the 2019 season, check out the recorded webinar: Hemp Grower Spotlight: Rock River Laboratory, Inc.

In order to receive discounted cannabinoid profiling, data on your production system (planting/transplant date, row spacing, fertility, tillage, cover crops, etc.) and agronomic performance (flowering date, yield, etc.), variety name and variety source will be collected and made public via a data sharing tool (Midwestern Hemp Database Project). This project will be similar to that of University of Wisconsin-Madison’s THC:CBD tool. Any identifying personal information will be kept confidential and will not be shared publicly. Additionally, to participate in this study, specific instructions regarding floral sampling and shipping must be followed to ensure acceptance into the program. In exchange for providing your data to the research project, collaborators will provide you with sample collection instructions, and this amazing discount will be applied to your analysis.

Outside of grower dedication and willingness to provide information, we do ask that those of you looking to participate agree to a minimum of two sampling dates per variety (minimum cost to participate: $60 per variety per location) to permit adequate data collection. There is no upper limit on the number of samples that can be submitted for cannabinoid analysis per variety per location. Once accepted, growers will become customers of Rock River Laboratory and Pride Analytics and will be responsible for all fees associated with participation in this project ($30 per sample). If paying with a check, payment must accompany each sample submittal. If paying by credit card, an active card must be on file with them.

Do I qualify?

In order to determine your eligibility to participate in this project, please fill out the online survey for each field site; fill out a separate survey for each non-contiguous field that you wish to have considered for this study. Information regarding state, county, soil texture, variety, seed/transplant source, previous crop, etc. will be collected to determine eligibility.

From there, primary investigators will determine final eligibility of program applicants. Prospective participants will be alerted of their inclusion into the program shortly after the admissions period closes on July 31, 2020. Chosen participants will then have accounts set up through Rock River Laboratory for sample submission and analysis, which will be linked to the information they have previously submitted via the online survey.

The results from cannabinoid analysis, along with other production data (production practices, seed supplier, varieties, etc.) will all be made publicly available, as discussed above, online via the Midwestern Hemp Database Project website.

Cannabinoid time course sampling will start after onset of flowering for each cultivar. Floral samples will be collected from the same plant at multiple time points throughout flowering. As part of the partnership with Rock River Laboratory, cannabinoid analysis will only cost $30 per sample per location. We will require a minimum of two time course samples per variety, per location to participate in this study. All samples must be submitted via Rock River Laboratory’s sample submittal app, Plant Tissue Plus. Accepted applicants will be given login credentials and instructions for Plant Tissue Plus within a week of being accepted.

What is expected of participants?

If selected to participate, growers will be expected to keep records detailing all information pertaining to the project, including row spacing, plant population, planting/transplant date, 50% flowering date, plant height at maturity and plant yield (pounds per acre) when appropriate. The requested information will be entered into an online survey for tracking throughout the growing season. The flowering period lasts approximately eight weeks, beginning with the first visible flower and lasting until harvest. Sampling may begin two weeks after the flowering period begins.

To test for cannabinoid accumulation, the floral material should be sent to:

Rock River Laboratory
710 Commerce Dr.
Watertown, WI 53094

The total number of samples collected at each location for a particular variety will be up to the grower’s willingness to pay for the testing, provided they meet the minimum of two time course samples taken per variety, per location to participate in this study. Participants in this project will follow specific sampling protocols agreed upon by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michigan State University and Purdue University, which comply with USDA regulations. A sampling video illustrating proper sampling techniques was produced by Rock River Laboratory for use in this project. Specific sampling and shipping guidelines must be followed to ensure proper transportation of plant material and adequate sample quality.

Important notes

  • Make certain the information referenced on the sample bag matches your identification information given to the project cooperators.
  • If you are mailing the sample to Rock River Laboratory, please follow all steps in the Shipping Instructions for Industrial Hemp
  • All other information pertaining to shipping industrial hemp and other analysis can be found at the Rock River Laboratory website.

What happens to information you submit to us?

If you choose to submit information to us, any private or identifying information (name, address, license number, etc.) will not be made available in the publicly accessible database and will not be shared with any other entity, except as prescribed by law. As stated previously, once accepted growers will subsequently become customers of Rock River Laboratory and Pride Analytics who will have access to your identifying information to set up accounts for payment and sample submission. In addition, university collaborators (Phillip Alberti, University of Illinois Extension) will have access to identifying data to ensure proper data collection and reporting into the Midwestern Cannabinoid Database.

With the exception of personal/identifying information, all other collected information (seed source, variety, planting date, sampling date, cannabinoid production, yield, etc.) will be entered into a publicly accessible database. All information collected and uploaded to the Midwestern Hemp Database will become a public record that will be subject to viewing and utilization by the general public, unless an exemption in law exists. This information may be used in future research publications.

Disclaimer and limitation of liability

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By participating in this research study, you acknowledge that your participation is voluntary, and you consent to the collection of all data, and consent to making the data indicated publicly available. You also consent to analysis of plant material by the laboratories indicated in this proposal. Please note, these results cannot be used for regulatory compliance in Michigan. Participants will still need to submit a sample to MDARD. If you have any questions, please contact Phillip Alberti at palberti@illinois.edu or 217-300-7392.

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