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Nicholas Heller

Mentor Department



Farms and farm families across the country, especially in Illinois, are struggling financially to produce corn and soybeans. Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) is a new option for an economically viable crop with over 25,000 recognized end uses. Industrial hemp was legalized for production and processing in Illinois in 2019. Numerous media articles have referenced industrial hemp production as a “gateway into farming” for young adults, women, and minority groups, but there are not yet studies to support this assertion. As of 2017, only 8% of Illinois agricultural producers were under the age of 34, 29% were women, and 99% identified as white. One purpose of this study is to identify the general demographics of Illinois industrial hemp farmers. This will help us to better understand the role of industrial hemp production in increasing diversity in agriculture. For the 2019 growing season 631 individuals applied for and received a license to produce industrial hemp. This number does not include industrial hemp processors or certified labs for testing industrial hemp plants. Industrial hemp promises to be an environmentally and economically sustainable crop which is new again to Illinois - prior to the 2014 Farm Bill, industrial hemp production had been banned for over 70 years. Thus, there have been no local agronomic research trials and no published best production practices for Central Illinois. For other crops produced in Illinois, there are decades of advanced agronomic research to support farmers in making decisions such as seeding rate and depth, weed control, and insect and disease management. This lack of research in industrial hemp farming makes producer decisions difficult and is one of the many challenges faced by industrial hemp farmers in Illinois. We will conduct an industrial hemp fiber production trial over the 2020 growing season to begin reducing this problem and will focus primarily on seeding rates of fiber varieties for various end uses.


Authors: Rebecca Dwyer, Maria Boerngen, Nicholas Heller

This project has not received IRB approval.

Agronomic and Demographic Discovery of Illinois Industrial Hemp Production

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