PIHG realized very quickly after incorporation that, in order to have a sustainable hemp industry in Canada, more plant breeding programs and/or access to new genetics would be necessary for producers. Two reasons for this need are:
- Health Canada regulations require close monitoring and control of THC in Industrial Hemp plants. This monitoring & control is best accomplished through a plant breeding program.
- Health Canada regulations stipulate that only certified seed may be grown, so there is a yearly demand for certified seed.
Hemp Plant Breeding
A plant breeding program has been initiated by PIHG that will support the growth and development of the Industrial Hemp Industry. This Plant Breeding Initiative is giving the expanding industrial hemp industry reliable, productive varieties suitable for Manitoba and Western Canada conditions.
In 2002, PIHG started the plant breeding program by hiring Peter Dragla as their plant breeder. Peter was one of the first Plant Breeders working on hemp breeding in Canada. The material he was working on at the University of Guelph was the foundation for the varieties that have since been registered.
The program has made great advancements to bring superior seed varieties to the industry. Variety selection and breeding emphasis is on low THC, large seeded, high yielding varieties for grain production and low THC, high fibre producing varieties for the fibre industry.
The current focus is on optimizing the EFA’s (essential fatty acids) profile of the seed oil and in particular the level of GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid), a beneficial type of omega-6 fat. Hemp stands out as one of the few plants having natural concentrations of GLA along with 3 other EFA’s required by the body to maintain optimal health.