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Comparative Evaluation of Industrial Hemp Cultivars: Agronomical Practices, Feedstock Characterization, and Potential for Biofuels and Bioproducts

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journal contribution
posted on 13.04.2020, 19:23 by Lalitendu Das, Wenqi Li, Luke A. Dodge, Joseph C. Stevens, David W. Williams, Hongqiang Hu, Chenlin Li, Allison E. Ray, Jian Shi
Industrial hemp has gained resurgent interest recently for applications in various sectors. This study evaluated 11 different industrial hemp [6 fiber-only and 5 dual-purpose (fiber and grain)] cultivars and compared their potential as a commodity crop for biofuel and bioproducts via combined agronomical, experimental, and economic analysis approaches. Composition analyses suggest large variations on the glucan, xylan, and lignin contents among the tested hemp cultivars while the theoretical ethanol yields ranged from 91 to 101 gallons/dry ton hemp stems predicted based on the glucan and xylan contents. Results from dilute acid pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis suggest practical ethanol yields of 70–91 gallons/dry ton hemp stems, with the highest ethanol yield of 91.1 gallons/dry ton hemp stems from the Futura 75 cultivar and the lowest of 70.6 gallons/dry ton hemp stems from the Codimone cultivar. Based on the agronomic data, the per hectare hemp stem biomass yield ranged from 2933 to 8340 kg for fiber-only cultivars and from 3582 to 7665 kg for the dual-purpose cultivars. In addition to the stems, field trial for the dual-purpose cultivars showed grain yields ranging from 555 to 1083 kg/ha. Preliminary cost analysis indicates that overall dual-purpose cultivars have advantages over fiber-only cultivars in terms of potential per hectare gross profit, with Bialobrzeskie and NWG 331 being the highest among all tested cultivars. These combined evaluations illustrate that industrial hemp has a significant potential to become a promising regional commodity crop for producing both biofuels and value-added products.