Cornell University to house hemp seed bank

Cornell University is expected to play a major role in the continuing development of the industrial hemp industry in the United States. USDA’s Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS) has received $500,000 in federal funding to create the nation’s only industrial hemp germplasm repository or seed bank co-located at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, N.Y.

Researchers will be able to use the seed bank to identify pest- and disease-resistant genes that will provide them with the tools to breed new varieties. USDA-ARS personnel will maintain the germplasm at the repository and will collaborate with Cornell scientists, where they already partner on research for grape, apple, cherry, tomato and Brassica crops.

Christine Smart, professor in the Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology section of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell, said these resources will allow researchers to breed hemp varieties that will grow well under different conditions. Smart said the cultivars developed at Cornell could be ready for growers within five years.

“The more germplasm that scientists have access to,” Smart said, “the better the chances are that we’re going to breed plants that are useful, whether it’s for managing pests or specific climates.”