CROPS of industrial hemp will begin to appear across the state with the inaugural licence holders gaining accreditation.
To date, three industrial hemp licences have been granted, including one to Adelaide Hills harvest contractor Jasper Ball.
The 26-year-old saw the opportunity to introduce a rotational crop to help improve soils and pastures, as well as another farming option suitable for the Adelaide Hills climate.
Mr Ball has applied to grow five hectares for seed at his parents’ 69ha cattle farm in the Adelaide Hills, and expects sowing to begin in October.
He said there were a lot of rules for the application, which he believes would become easier in due course, as Biosecurity SA became more familiar with the process.
“I guess until Biosecurity SA learns more about the applications and process themselves, along with the control measures, they’re trying to be as cautious as they can,” Mr Ball said.
“Their fear is if I grew a paddock of it (hemp seed) someone could plant an illegal crop within the paddock and it would be very hard to detect.”
Mr Ball said the process included identifying the land to be used for the crop, storage facilities, fencing and who growers were potentially going to supply to.
It was then followed up with a police check, and included anyone involved with the operation.
“Even then it was a bit backwards and forwards, especially with marking out the boundaries of the property, as Biosecurity SA wanted GPS locations,” he said.
Besides the new avenue growing hemp seed, Mr Ball runs a small herd of cattle in Woodside, and has progressed from working in vineyards to starting his own contracting business.
Mr Ball’s hemp seed project will require the purchase of a header, which he said would look “a little strange” in the Adelaide Hills.
Aiding the licence holders’ hemp crop prospects is research from trial sites in Loxton and Kybybolite, which will assist the new growers to produce their first hemp crops.
SARDI researcher Mark Skewes, who oversees both locations, reported he was happy with the trial’s progress.
“We’ll be able to give future growers some good information on the best varieties and the optimum time to sow out of this work,” he said.
Across both sites, Mr Skewes reported harvesting had begun on some plots, but yield data was presently not available.
He said there were few differences between the plants at the two sites, although the Loxton crop appeared to be bigger in size, possibly due to the soil and climate differences compared to that of the South East.