CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Southern Illinois University Carbondale is responding to changing laws and societal views with a new initiative on industrial hemp and medical marijuana.
This would include agriculture and plant biology, along with chemistry, engineering, ecology and other disciplines.
The cannabis science initiative is aimed at creating a program to support agriculture and industry. It’s a response to area farmers and students interested in the opportunities presented by the growing markets for cannabis-related products.
According to the university, researchers in the College of Science and College of Agricultural Sciences started work securing permits and collecting information a few years ago. The first steps are expected to start in the spring with a 5-acre hemp research field.
They say plans call for organizing the program around industrial hemp science and medicinal cannabis science. Along with the hemp field, officials hope to have a program in place by next year that would lead to a certificate in medicinal cannabis production.
Karen Midden, interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, said land for the hemp research field is currently being cleared and the medicinal cannabis program is working its way through the approval process.
The university already offered all but one of the classes included in the certificate program, potentially simplifying the effort.
Officials say, eventually, many SIU research areas could become involved, including most agriculture programs, engineering, chemistry, business, marketing, microbiology, medicine and sports medicine.
The goals of SIU’s industrial hemp effort include studying the feasibility of creating such an industry in Illinois.
Because it was only recently made legal to grow the crop in Illinois, Karla Gage, assistant professor of weed science and agricultural systems, said not a lot is known about how it might fit in with Illinois' existing crops and crop rotations, which are largely dominated by corn and soybeans.
Like with other crops, Gage hopes to study weed control issues in an industrial hemp crop. She also plans to look at hemp’s required growing conditions and adaptability to southern Illinois, as well as harvest methods and impact on the environment.
Gage said the 5 acres will likely be divided into individual test plots, with a portion reserved for interdisciplinary collaborations.