Cornell University To Be Site Of First Industrial Hemp Seed Bank In The U.S.

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(Photo/Cornell–Professor Larry Smart examining industrial hemp.)

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Cornell University will soon house the first ever industrial hemp seed bank (germplasm repository) in the United States, which will be co-located at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva.

Senator Charles Schumer made that announcement Friday (August 2), after helping to secure $500,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS).

“I fought tooth and nail to secure this federal funding while also working to strip back the burdensome federal restrictions that held our farmers and growers back from growing industrial hemp as an agriculture commodity,” said Senate Minority Leader Schumer. “[I did it] because I knew the potential this crop had to transform the upstate New York economy.”

The USDA-ARS will collaborate with Cornell University scientists to manage the facility. The two groups already partner on research for grape, apple, cherry, tomato and Brassica crops.

Cornell Professor Larry Smart teaches in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Sciences and says the hemp repository is a desperately needed resource.

According to Smart, the seed bank will enable researchers to identify pest-resistant and disease-resistant genes, giving them the tools to breed new varieties. He says getting to the root of crop health is essential for providing better resources to New York hemp growers.

Beyond New York, the new seed bank will benefit hemp growers all across the nation.

Professor Christine Smart is in the Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology section of SIPS and said these resources will let them breed hemp varieties that will grow well under different conditions:

“The more germplasm that scientists have access to,” she said, “the better the chances are that we’re going to breed plants that are useful, whether it’s for managing pests or specific climates.”

Smart also said she thinks cultivars developed at Cornell could be ready for growers within five years, and that understanding and cultivating these living, genetic resources provide the most promising ways to support growers.

The market for hemp has already skyrocketed in the U.S.

According to Cannabis Financial Network, the hemp industry was projected to grow from $400 million in 2016 to $2.1 billion in 2020.

“The hemp seed bank and the research potential it gives our Cornell and USDA-ARS scientists will be vital resources for New York state farmers,” said Kathryn J. Boor, the dean at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We are grateful to Sen. Schumer for his hard work to secure this federal funding.”

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