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July 17, 2019 | Tom Ballard

Blühen Botanicals makes four-year commitment to research partnership with UTIA

Blühen Botanicals, a fast-growing less than one-year old Knoxville start-up, and the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) have announced an agreement to conduct hemp production research.

The “UTIA/Blühen Hemp Agronomic Research Program,” valued by Blühen Botanicals at more than $350,000, is a four-year commitment for graduate-level research focused on agronomic practices for hemp production in Tennessee. The ultimate benefactors are the hemp farmers in Tennessee and the southeastern United States.

“This research collaboration is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for both parties and for regional hemp growers,” said Don Fowlkes, Chief Agronomist at Blühen Botanicals.

Under terms of the agreement, Blühen’s grant will help UTIA fund multiple graduate-level agronomists and other scientists whose studies will strongly support the emerging hemp industry throughout the state and region. Neal Eash, Professor of Soil Science in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, will serve as the UTIA project leader.

According to yesterday’s announcement, UT is currently researching hemp production and utilization, including genetics, variety trials, fertility requirements, plant populations, production model evaluations, pest management and plant compounds and materials. The work is occurring on campus and at several of the 10 AgResearch and Education Centers across the state.

The 2018 USDA Farm Bill legalized and authorized industrial hemp as a crop. This legislation opens the door for strategic partnerships between public and private entities. Industrial hemp differs from marijuana because of its low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) — the principal psychoactive chemical of the cannabis plant. The collaboration is expected to generate much needed research data that will enhance the success of farmers choosing to grow the crop.

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