Industrial Hemp Production Online


Industrial Hemp Production

Scheduled for Summer 2019

NOTE:  this new course is still in the approval process.  Check back prior to the start date to register.

Course Overview and Objectives:

This course will serve as an introduction to the botany, agronomy, and end-use potential of industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is defined as having 0.3% THC or less. The use of high THC Cannabis as a drug crop will not be covered in this course. This course serves as an authoritative introduction for those students interested in knowing more about this renewable material that is an excellent source of food, fiber and building products.

The content will begin with a focus on hemp origin and importance of the plant from a historical context. The hemp plant has been cultivatedfor over 10,000 years and provided an important source of food and fiber for many civilizations. In 1937, The Marijuana Tax Act was passed making it illegal to produce marijuana and any plant type in association to the cannabis family. However current U.S. Farm Bill Policy has allowed farmers in states that have legalized industrial hemp production to work with research institutions to investigate production and marketing of industrial hemp. This change in policy has spurred the interest of many and has led to renewed interest in this versatile crop and what it has to offer to farmers and industry.

Agricultural production of industrial hemp for food, fiber, and CBD (cannibidiol) production will be the main focus of the course. Focus on variety selection, planting strategies, fertility, weed control, pest management, and harvesting will be included for each food, fiber, and CBD hemp end-use. Harvest management and post-harvest handling will be covered.

Hemp products will be highlighted to show the vast array of end-use potential for this crop and compared to the same products made with other agricultural crops. Lastly an appreciation of environmental and economic implications for agricultural producers and society will be highlighted.

Course Structure:

Readiness quizzes 25%: Most weeks, quizzes will evaluate students’ understanding of the subject. Each quiz will be posted on Blackboard and will cover the course material (power point slides and readings).

Forum requirement 25%: Readings from a variety of sources will be assigned each week. Each student will post to the class website a question or opinion based on the readings, then respond to the posting of another student. Strong opinions and civility are strongly encouraged.

Final Project 30%: Each student will choose a hemp topic of their choice and develop an outreach material that could be utilized by farmers or other stakeholders to learn more about growing and/or utilizing hemp.

Final exam 25%: The final exam will cover all of the semester’s material.


  • Recognizing the historical importance of hemp in the world and U.S.
  • Increase the student’s knowledge of the current regulatory climate of hemp in the U.S.
  • Understanding best practices for growing, harvest, and processing industrial hemp for grain, fiber, and CBD production.
  • Develop a basic understanding of hemp processing for food, fiber, and CBD products.
  • Increasing student knowledge on potential uses for hemp products and how these compare to products currently produced from other agricultural products.
  • Recognizing the environmental and economic benefits and challenges that a hemp industry might create in the U.S.

Accommodation Statement:
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students.  If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services (DS), you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course.  If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements.

Academic Honesty Statement:
Since the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University.  Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty.  Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty.  Instructors should take reasonable steps to address academic misconduct.  Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible.  Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair.  Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent (


  • Class Participation and Discussion Assignments: 50%
  • Homework Assignments: 25%
  • Final Project: 25%

A        =  95-100 total points
A –    =  90-94
B+      =  87-89
B        =  83-86
B-      =  80-82
C+      =  77-79
C        =  73-76
C-       =  70-72
D+      =  67-69
D        =  60-66
F         =  59 or below

Outline of Content:

Topic One

Hemp has been grown as a crop since the dawn of agriculture. It was considered an important and critical source of food and fiber in a variety of cultures and civilizations throughout the world. Even the U.S. has a strong history of hemp production.

General overview of hemp.     

Ancient history of hemp up to 1812.  

The modern history of hemp up to WWII

Topic Two

Hemp has been a prohibited crop in the U.S. since 1937 and now shifts in policy on the federal and state level are allowing farmers and business owners to begin developing hemp focused opportunities.

Current state of Hemp regulations in the United States.

Current state of Hemp regulations in MA and surround states.

Current state of Hemp regulations in Canada and other countries.

Topic Three

This section will cover the lifecycle of the hemp plant as well as taxonomy of this crop and how it’s characteristics influence management and production. The phytochemistry of the plant will be covered including both ecological and evolutionary implications.

Anatomy and botany of the hemp plant.  

Overview, basics of hemp anatomy, plant details.

Pharmacological properties of Cannabis.


Topic Four

Securing high quality hemp seed has been problematic for many growers. Breeding programs for industrial hemp reside primarily within private industry. Basic plant breeding concepts being used in industrial hemp breeding programs will be highlighted. Procedures for producing pedigree hemp will be discussed.

Germplasm resources for industrial hemp.

Breeding genetics and basic breeding techniques.

Production of pedigree seed and field management for seed production. 

Topic Five

Production of industrial hemp will require an understanding of this crop’s water, temperature, soil and nutrient requirements. In addition, common pests and integrated pest management strategies will be needed to produce a high yield and quality crop.

Temperature and water requirements for hemp.

Soil selection and seedbed preparation for hemp.

Nutrient requirements of the hemp plant.

Pests of hemp and management strategies to minimize damage from pests.     

Crop rotations for hemp.

Topic Six

Growing industrial hemp for grain will require implementation of specific cultural practices to maximize seed yields. Harvesting requirements and equipment for this end-use.

Agronomics of growing hemp for grain.

Influence of management, climate and other environment factors on yields and quality.

Harvesting and storage of grain.

Topic Seven

Producing hemp for CBD harvest has special requirements that differ from grain or fiber production. The production of CBD generally requires that the flowers of the plant be harvested and processed to obtain the CBD oils.

Agronomics of growing hemp for CBD and oil production.

Influence of management, climate and other environment factors on yields and quality.

Harvesting of CBD crops.


Topic Eight

Growing hemp for fiber requires specific production practices that will maximize yield and quality of the end crop. Variety selection, planting density, and fertility management specific to fiber production will be discussed.

Agronomics of growing hemp for fiber.

Influence of management, climate and other environment factors on yields and quality.


Week Nine

For a fiber crop of hemp special harvesting considerations must be met to produce a high quality crop. Necessary equipment and optimum timing will be just two factors to consider. Retting of the fiber is necessary and strategies to do so will be discussed.


Harvesting timing and methods for fiber production.

Field retting of the crop and removal.

Storage of fiber.


Topic Ten

Hemp seed can be convert to a variety of products that are being used for human and animal consumption. This section will deal with hemp seed products including “fixed oil” production referring to oil produced from the seed.

Processing hempseed:  Food and feed production and product manufacturing.

Hemp oil characteristics.

Hemp grain uses and products-­ Food and Forage: oil, seed, and meal.


Topic Eleven

Hemp is a natural fiber and has the potential to be used for a variety of products. The anatomy of the hemp fiber will be discussed as well as strategies used to extract the fibers from this plant. Although textiles and are the traditional hemp consumer products other unique/new applications for hemp fiber will also be highlighted.

Fiber Processing and   Decortication technology:   Obtaining fiber from the plant. 

Fiber and textiles:   History, production, characteristics compared to other fibers.  

Hempcrete, Hemp insulation, hemp paper, hemp plastics – oveview of history, comparison other products and potential.

Topic Twelve

Environmental degradation from agriculture can be an issue in most any production system that exists today. Industrial hemp has been promoted by many to be a crop that can provide ecological and environmental benefits to society. Management practices employed by the growers will be important to promote hemp as a crop that can have positive environmental benefits.

Environmental implications of hemp production.

Hemp as part of a sustainable crop rotation.

Hemp for bioremediation.

Environmental advantages of hemp.

Environmental disadvantages of hemp.


Topic Thirteen

Agricultural economics will be an important consideration for the farms and businesses that choose to pursue this crop. Farms will need to be able to generate a return from this new crop while businesses will need to be able to purchase hemp at a price point that allows them to be viable as well.

Agricultural economics of hemp production.

Cost of production for grain and fiber crops.


This class is part of the 15-credit Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program.   If you would like to register for the Certificate program, you may apply here.  For more information, contact Dr. John M. Gerber at;

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