Research and Agriculture: A new crop for Quebec

April 2013

Macdonald researcher Jean-Benoit Charron is intent on giving Quebec’s agricultural community the tools it requires to boost the productivity of a promising new crop.

Banned in North America in 1938 and internationally in 1961, Cannabis sativa L., more commonly known as industrial hemp, was reintroduced to the Canadian landscape in 1998 under the regulatory authority of Health Canada. Notably, Cannabis sativa L. contains less than 0.3% of the psychoactive drug delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and is safe for human consumption. In 2011, the area licensed for hemp production across the country totaled 15,720 hectares – only 2% of this land was under cultivation in Quebec.

Hemp was one of the earliest domesticated plants and is one of the fastest growing biomasses known: demand for its grains and fibres is growing rapidly, especially in markets where its growth is prohibited, such as the US, where annual retail sales of hemp-based products are estimated to exceed $350 million per year. It is known for its high protein and omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acid content and gluten-free properties. It can be transformed into a myriad of products, ranging from papers to textiles and plastics and fuel.

Charron believes that hemp research, which is at an embryonic stage in Canada and particularly in Quebec, has a role to play in giving growers the tools they require to have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Funded by the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Dr. Charron and his team aim to improve the quality and yield of the crop by conducting a series of experiments that will investigate the management practices of approved varieties that are being contracted and grown in Canada, the environmental stress tolerance capacities of industrial hemp, and the distribution of endogenous fungal and bacterial endophytes and their impact on plant growth when used as bioinoculants. All of this research will pave the way for producing plants that will meet the needs of food and fibre producers worldwide.

Says Charron, “This research project will provide Quebec growers with tangible guidelines in order to grow hemp more effectively in the province and will thus give a competitive edge to the Quebec hemp industry.”






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