Despite the rapid growth of the hemp industry, hemp growers are facing the risk of the crop having more than the stipulated level of THC, which renders the plant illegal if it’s more than 0.3%. THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis. Researchers from Cornell University have found that the propensity of the plant to have more than 0.3% THC is not because of the growing conditions, but because of seed genetics.
The horticulture professor and senior author of the study, Larry Smart, said that people thought that the crop was found hot because of the way the farmers cultivated the plant, something in the soil, too hot or too cold weather, drought or something else that went amiss with the growing conditions. Smart said that their study found that the crops become hot not because of the environmental conditions but because of genetics.
Smart and his team of researchers conducted their field trials at two sites, where they studied the genetics and chemistry of the hemp plants. The team of researchers found that the chemicals produced by the plants grown in the two fields were not affected by the difference in the growing conditions. However, when they compared the CBD and THC levels of the plants from the two areas against their genomes, they found that there was a high correlation between the chemical they produced and their genetics.
The paper author and a doctoral student in Smart’s lab Jacob Toth created a molecular diagnostic system to demonstrate that hemp plants used in the study were classified in either one of the three categories of genetics. These categories include plants with two CBD-producing genes, plants with two THC-producing genes, or plants with one gene of each (THC and CBD gene).
Hemp farmers should grow plants with two CBD-producing genes to minimize the risk of the fields being hot.
The team also found that as many as two-thirds of the seeds they obtained of one hemp variety that were supposed to contain low THC levels turned out to have THC levels were above the legal limit.
The Cornell University researchers are hoping that their research will help in solving this problem by providing seed breeders with easy-to-use genetic markers to help determine the plant’s level of THC during their seedling stage on both male and female plants. CBD and THC compounds are produced by female flowers only; however, breeders use the male plants for cross-pollination; thus, it is crucial to know their THC production, said Toth.
The research team also developed genetic markers capable of determining the plant’s sex before the flowering stage, since it is impossible to distinguish young plants’ sex. Smart said that the technology for identifying the plant’s sex is expensive for farmers to test a whole field, but it is ideal for breeders who want to isolate male and female plants earlier in their development for effective cross-pollination.
Smart further said in the future, his lab will focus on breeding hemp cultivars for producing CBD, grain, and fiber.
These findings are likely to be regarded as eye-opening by hemp industry sector players, including SinglePoint Inc. (OTCQB: SING), since it opens up possibilities of addressing the risk of hot hemp.
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