By: Kay Ledbetter
Calvin Trostle, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist, Lubbock, has recently been named the statewide hemp specialist for the agency.
“We’ve had a lot of excellent work being done by our AgriLife Extension Industrial Hemp Initiative team to prepare Texas for the production of industrial hemp,” said Dan Hale, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension associate director — agriculture and natural resources, College Station, in announcing the new position.
Calvin Trostle speaks to attendees of AgriLife event.
“Dr. Trostle has worked tirelessly in this area and has already been serving in a lead specialist capacity. He will do an excellent job in helping lead our Initiative team’s and agency-wide Extension and research activities.”
AgriLife Extension formed an Industrial Hemp Education Initiative Team to provide information concerning industrial hemp production in Texas after House Bill 1325 was signed into law by the Governor last June.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture was finalizing federal regulations and guidelines, along with the Texas Department of Agriculture writing of state regulations and guidelines and getting them approved by the USDA, Trostle was already at work.
The industrial hemp education team helped develop resources for agents and specialists to utilize across the state in producer and public education programs. Trostle led or participated in about 20 educational hemp seminars from Dumas to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. He also made trips to New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado, where hemp is already legal to grow, in order to learn more about the crop.
Industrial hemp hasn’t been grown in Texas since the 1930s, when there was some hemp production in South Texas. So, there’s no track record of what varieties might work in Texas, and only this year will there be any research on industrial hemp, Trostle said.
Trostle said initial hemp field efforts will begin with implementing the Texas A&M AgriLife variety testing program for hemp. These hemp cannabinoid, fiber and grain trials are planned for Plainview, Commerce, San Angelo and College Station.
“We won’t be able to implement meaningful planting date studies until 2021,” he said. “Procuring funding for any field work will be key in how quickly we can address research questions.”
Another of Trostle’s initial objectives for Texas hemp is investigating and encouraging improved hemp seed quality.
“Apart from business issues, poor seed has been the No. 1 production issue in most states already growing hemp,” he said.
Trostle grew up on a farm and ranch in eastern Kansas. He earned his bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Kansas State University, his master’s in soil chemistry from Texas A&M University and his doctorate in soil science from the University of Minnesota. He joined AgriLife Extension at Lubbock in 1999 after three summers in rice research at the Texas A&M AgriLife center in Beaumont.
The new title of statewide hemp specialist fits in with how has been known in West Texas – as the “alternative crops guy.” After serving in Lubbock for two years and learning more about the region’s farming, Trostle said he chose to pursue a broad working knowledge on many different crops rather than focus heavily on just one or two.
“I believe I made the right decision,” he said. “That approach has positioned me better to start from scratch with learning about hemp.”
He also is currently the state specialist for sunflowers, as well as provides education and applied research support in the South Plains region and across Texas for grain sorghum, sunflowers, peanuts, wheat/small grains, guar, alfalfa, winter canola, summer annual forages and sesame.
Trostle said while he knows this first year or two of hemp work will keep him busy, he will maintain his educational programs on all the crops he’s working with.
“I want farmers of grain sorghum, wheat, alfalfa, peanuts, guar and other crops to know that I remain fully committed to maintaining my Extension support to their cropping needs. I will have to reduce my field work in these crops, but the 21+ years of experience I have gained isn’t going anywhere.”
Trostle can be reached at 806-746-6101 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He has written a monthly hemp newsletter since November and has initiated an AgriLife Twitter account @TXAgriLifeHemp. Trostle also contributed to the AgriLife Extension hemp resources page, along with members of the hemp team.