A ladybug traverses a hemp plant growing in a private plot in Boulder County in 2014. (Elana Ashanti Jefferson, The Cannabist)

CSU researching hemp in hidden test plot in southwest Colorado

CORTEZ — Hemp being grown by Colorado State University in southwest Colorado is hidden in a crop of corn at a secret location, but Colorado farmers can ask for a tour of the 12 varieties being tested.

Growing hemp, a genetic cousin of marijuana, is still regulated by the federal government, mostly for research. The researchers have permission from the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“We’re keeping a low profile to avoid any trouble, like vandalism or theft by youth mistaking it for marijuana,” said Abdel Berrada, senior researcher with CSU’s Southwest Ag Research Station.

Industrial hemp is used to make paper, oil, biodiesel, rope, clothing, soap, and as a substitute for plastic and other products.

Colorado voters legalized hemp production and recreational marijuana under Amendment 64. In June, agronomists planted more than 1,000 seeds of 12 hemp varieties shipped from Europe, the Cortez Journal reported. The crop will be sent to CSU labs in Fort Collins, where seeds and plant material will be tested for genetics, oil content, biomass, fiber content and seed yield.