USDA to spend $500,000 researching hemp cross-pollination

Researchers from Virginia Tech have been tapped to predict the trajectory of wind-dispersed hemp pollen, a major concern for outdoor growers of marijuana and flower varieties of hemp.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has devoted $500,000 to look at the path of hemp and switchgrass pollens. The goal is to predict how and where pollen grains travel.

“Having a validated and reliable long-distance transport prediction model for wind-dispersed pollen is critical to establishing appropriate isolation distances” for crops like hemp, plant sciences professor David Schmale said in a Virginia Tech statement announcing the grant.

Researchers say the work could help inform laws about distance requirements between hemp varieties that include males and females – generally cultivars for fiber and grain production – and varieties of hemp and marijuana grown for flower production, where female plants are kept away from males to avoid pollination.

The research will be conducted using drones mounted with pollen sensors. The drones will collect air samples to find out how and where hemp pollen grains travel.

Virginia Tech’s research may also look at how far certain herbicides and fungicides travel in the air, a concern for organic farmers worried about chemical drift.

For more information about the USDA grant on pollen drift, click here.