The reintroduction of industrial hemp into Pennsylvania fields comes with a lot of new learning opportunities. New pests and plant diseases could be affecting the yield of this crop.
Every Pennsylvania site where industrial hemp is grown has to be registered with the state government. This program has requirements for inspection and testing. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, “during the 2018 season, 33 permit holders planted and grew approximately 580 acres of industrial hemp.”
During the 2019 season, the number of Pennsylvania permit holders expanded into the hundreds.
The addition of industrial hemp back into Pennsylvania’s fields come with job opportunities for eager individuals to get experience in the industry. Industrial hemp was banned for approximately 80 years in Pennsylvania before being slowly reintroduced first on a research basis and then, on a commercial basis. New pests have since appeared in our ecosystem during the years industrial hemp was banned.
I have learned to identify many groups of insects through an internship at a Bucks County, Pennsylvania, winery. I worked with Dr. Chris Tipping, a DelVal faculty member, to test traps for Catchmaster, a pest control product manufacturer. This summer’s internship studying the spotted lanternfly and testing traps has provided me with the knowledge and background to begin a new project.
I am currently working with an industrial hemp operation, Resurrection Hemp, where he is scouting and identifying insects currently affecting industrial hemp.
Tipping works closely with Resurrection Hemp and thought I would be a good fit for the company.
Throughout the growing season, one of the insects identified as a pest at Resurrection Hemp has been the spotted cucumber beetle. They chew small holes in the leaves, which can provide access for plant pathogens.
Resurrection Hemp has also had some plants with damage to leaves caused by leafminers. The larvae feed between the layers of the leaf, causing a characteristic lesion. After the larva matures, it will emerge from the leaf and fall into the soil, where it will go through the pupa stage before emerging as an adult. The best way to control the leafminers is to remove the affected foliage, which will reduce the population for the next generation of leafminers within the hemp field.
Gaining experience within the fast-growing industrial hemp industry will be valuable for students and professionals who want to pursue careers in agriculture.