Preliminary findings from the first round trial of growing Industrial Hemp and identification of varieties of low THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) has proven that Malawi is suitable land and that five cultivars used in the trial have very low THC. THC is a chemical element that drives people high when they smoke tobacco or ingest alcohol in other words it is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects.
A local private company, Invegrow, began the trials at Chitedze Research Station in November 2015. Using imported certified seed varieties the trial looked into number of issues with main focus of proving possibility of growing the Hemp in the country and to identify varieties with very low THC.
“Results from the analysis at Malawi Bureau of Standards shows we indeed have varieties that conform to European and International Standards of Industrial Hemp which is less than 1% of the THC.” Confirmed, Nebert Nyirenda, Director for Invegrow Invegrow is expected to officially announce the findings but Nyirenda said these results are quite positive because they are confirming what they had already informed the nation about availability of varieties of Industrial Hemp that are used as commercial agricultural crop or industrial crop.
With low THC in the cultivars used in the trial, Nyireda therefore said this essentially mean that the varieties to be grown in the country are exactly harmless to people and that those who may attempt to smoke may find it useless since it won’t have any intoxicating substance that drives people high when they smoke tobacco or drink alcoholic substance. “So, it is a harmless plant as far as making people high, but, it is a valuable plant in terms of how we can convert that plant to various viable end-use products.” emphasized Nyirenda
“Our idea of capturing the imperial data from the trials is basically to help demystify the confraction that is there between Industrial Hemp and what is commonly known as Chamba (Marijuana). So, once we have this imperical information, then we can show people which varieties of Industrial Hemp are indeed available and can do well in Malawi environment and therefore should not be confused or mixed up with its cousin plant although they are from the same genes of cannabis but are not of the same properties.” he explains Tanya Clarke, founder of Invegrow noted that these results means
“Malawi’s climate is definitely suited for this crop” and justified the importation of the low THC certified seeds as the only way to ensure that they try correct variety. Clarke said the Malawi Bureau of Standards used a high standard technology called GC Mass Spec Machines to test for THC.
“We engaged Malawi Bureau of Standards to do this job because we wanted a Malawian institution that is reputed and that is from Government institution to deal with this sensitive issue. Malawi Bureau of Standards is the number one institution for analysis and research for development and have this required facility and the specialist” she said
The requirement of Memorandum of Understanding with Government is that Invegrow will have to do three successive trials and the results would be tabled before a Technology Clearing Committee hopefully by the end of this year. The remaining two trials would be completed by the end of December 2016 and these two trials will rely on irrigation farming since it is now dry season.
According to Nyirenda and Clark, during the next trial expected to begin in this month of April, will see how those varieties would perform in terms of giving other performance parameters like the yields and agronomy of the plant. They both confirmed that the subsequent trials might see how these varieties are doing in terms of seed that can be used to expel oil and oil related products, the fibre and fibre related products and also on other aspects; fertilizer application, irrigation application and requirements. They further said two more varieties from other countries will be tested to bring total number of varieties to seven.
“We think that looking ahead, Industrial Hemp would be a crop that would be innovative, it is a clean crop, it has its own environmental properties, the whole of the plant can be used for some value addition which means creating jobs and creating income unlike other crops that you throw away entire stem or plant just because you are plucking out a leaf. So we believe that this plant, maybe, in 30 to 50 years from now, will be a plant that will be very viable to Malawian situation because we are basically agricultural nation and any crop that is agricultural and has got high value addition will be quite very useful for the country.” Noted Nyirenda
2 hectares were allocated for the research at Chitedze Research Station where five cultivars were tried and most of them grew 2 and half meters high. Two out of five varieties are said to have shown most desirable qualities and one of the variety is specially used for food products, for seed to make hemp seed oil and protein powders. Industrial Hemp crop is at the moment known to be grown in 36 countries around the world and Canada is one of the largest producer for food products made from hemp as well as other Eastern European countries such as Romania and Ukraine. China also cultivates the hemp for fibre products.