LEXINGTON, Ky. — The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and Atalo Holdings Inc., a hemp research, development and processing company based in Winchester, are partnering in research efforts to make the crop more commercially viable.

"The UK CAFE agreement with Atalo is a great example of a public university-private sector partnership in which both parties benefit,” said Rick Bennett, the college’s associate dean for research and director of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station. “It will enhance the development of an emerging industrial hemp industry in Kentucky resulting in economic opportunities and new uses for a historical crop."

“The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment has provided excellent leadership in the study of hemp as an addition to Kentucky’s agricultural output. Atalo Holdings has followed their lead at our Hemp Research Campus,” said William Hilliard, Atalo Holdings’ CEO. “We’ve been actively researching the characteristics of hemp seed varieties for planting, harvesting, processing and commercializing fiber and grain crops. We look forward to working with the university to benefit both Kentucky farmers and consumers.”

The partnership will begin with two research projects to improve hemp seed traits. Ling Yuan from UK will lead both projects. He is a professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and research director of the Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center. Tom Hutchens will be the point person at Atalo Holdings. Hutchens is the chief research officer at Atalo’s Hemp Research Campus.

Yuan and his team will try to improve the male-to-female plant ratio. Doing so could allow farmers to plant a hemp crop that produces all male plants or all female plants, depending upon their market. Male plants are better suited for fiber production, and female plants work better for seed and cannabidiol production. Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid used in food and dietary supplements marketed for consumer health and wellness benefits.

In a second study, Yuan’s team will look at potential ways to control shattering to keep seeds on the plants longer. Currently, seeds on a hemp plant will ripen at different times, and many seeds drop to the ground before farmers can harvest them. Finding a way to control shattering would increase producers’ yields and, in turn, their bottom line.

“We have initiated both research projects and are excited about the opportunity to work with Atalo,” Yuan said.

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