Nebraska hemp research targets lubricants and plastics

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In Nebraska, university students have planted their first industrial hemp crop as part of a research project to develop biobased products from the partially restricted plant.

Tom Clemente, biotechnology professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, tells The Lincoln Journal Star that the goal is to genetically engineer hemp to produce oils for use in industrial lubricants and plastics. The leftover pulp and fibers can be used to manufacture products such as paper and cardboard.

“You want to maximize the number of products you’re making per acre,” Clemente says. “When you’re just selling biomass, it’s tough to make a buck off that.”

Industrial hemp contains very little tetrahydrocannabinol—the compound responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects—UNL still had to receive special dispensation from the DEA to obtain the seeds from Canada and Italy. The researchers are also using feral hemp collected from nearby fields and ditches, although DEA says those plants must contain below 0.3% THC or else they will be destroyed.