Finger Lakes Hosts Nation’s First Hemp Seed Bank

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ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – The USDA Agricultural Research Service in Geneva, New York is creating the nation’s first hemp seed bank.

Industrial hemp has been used for fiber, oil, and medicinal uses. It is in the cannabis family but has low levels of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

That means you can’t get high on hemp.

Christine Smart, professor in the Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology section of the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS), said the seed bank will allow plant breeders to develop more resistant varieties. Hemp crops are already showing vulnerability to some insects and diseases.

“We want to enable farmers to grow the crop in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner,” she said, “so they can have an economic profit, and certainly having plants that are resistant to the diseases and insects that we have here is really critical.”

Photo: Justin Muir, Cornell University

Larry Smart, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Sciences, in a greenhouse examining industrial hemp. Credit: Justin Muir, Cornell University

Larry Smart, professor in the Horticulture Section of SIPS, said climate change is another reason for creating the seed bank. “We are experiencing more heavy rains as a result of climate change in New York State,” he said. “So, that is one of the environmental stresses we would like to develop cultivars to withstand.”

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently announced that the project will get $500,000 of federal funding. The new seed bank will be located at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York.