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Hemp Seed Bank

Hemp is a rapidly growing industry which means more studies need to be done on the plant to produce the best product. Cornell University’s hemp breeding program is in its third year and will house the nation’s only industrial hemp seed bank. The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service will maintain the germplasm and collaborate with Cornell scientists.

Larry Smart is a horticulture professor at the university’s School of Integrated Plant Science. He says this is a desperately needed resource that will have many future benefits for growers and researchers.

"It provides materials that may hold genes for disease resistance or pest resistance, unique developmental traits for the plant, different crown form and plant leaf shape. In our case also in hemp, different biochemistry that may lead to production of medicinally-active compounds," says Smart. "The seed banks that USDA maintains try to capture the broadest genetic diversity of the species."

He says they’re reaching across the country and the globe to collect hemp seeds and expand the collection.

"Some of who are interested in collecting feral hemp in their states. That would be hemp that was originally grown for fiber in the Midwest," he says. "If others in breeding programs, even commercial breeding programs are willing to share germplasm that they have, then I’m sure USDA would accept that as well as potentially negotiating agreements with other public seed banks in Europe or China, for example."

It’s estimated that cultivars developed at Cornell could be ready for growers within five years.