Institute of Bast Crops,
Hemp has been grown in Ukraine for centuries. Before the 1950s the area
under hemp cultivation in Ukraine exceeded 150,000 ha.
Table 1. Area of hemp
production in Ukraine from 1950-1993.
Hemp fibre was widely used in the manufacture of technical products, and
was used by peasants to make cloth, clothes and household goods.
Hemp seeds, after different kinds of processing, and hemp seed oil, were
used as food and for technical purposes.
The large-scale cultivation of
cheaper cotton, and development of the synthetic fibres industry caused
the hemp area in Ukraine, as well as all over the world, to decrease.
This decline was also due to the spread of its use as a drug, especially
in the southern regions of Ukraine.
In 1994, about 4,000 ha were
sown for fibre hemp in Ukraine. Hemp was grown in three zones: the
northern zone (Sumy region ~1,000 ha), the forest and steppe zone (Poltava
and Cherkassy region ~2,000 ha), and the steppe zone (Dnipropetrovs'k
region ~1,000 ha). Hemp fibre is used exclusively to manufacture
technical products such as marine and river cordage, ropes, cores for
steel cables, twines, technical clothes, etc. Since industrial
demand for hemp fiber is not satisfied, and there is a large demand for
hemp products, the area under hemp production in Ukraine will increase.
During 1929-1930 in the Soviet Union large collective farms (kolkhoz) and
state farms (sovkhoz) replaced individual peasant farms. Hemp
growing was concentrated on collective farms or state farms with 100-500
ha sown. In 1931, the All-Union Scientific and Research Institute of
Bast Crops was organized in the town of Hlukhiv to study problems of the
cultivation, harvesting, and processing of hemp. The Institute
exists now as the Institute of Bast Crops of the Ukrainian Academy of
Agrarian Sciences and carries out research on hemp and fiber flax.
For more than 60 years the Institute thoroughly investigated the problems
of the anatomy, biology, and physiology of hemp plants, researched
selection and genetics; developed methods of hemp growing for different
soil and climatic zones, developed technologies of harvesting stalks and
seeds and primary fiber processing, and designed harvesting equipment.
Ukrainian hemp breeding
progressed through two stages. During the first stage, local
varieties with stem fiber content of 12-15% long fiber yield were replaced
by the dioecious hemp varieties with high fiber content. The
varieties US-1, US-6, US-9, Hlukhivska 1, and Hlukhivska 10 were grown in
the northern zone, Yuzhna Cherkasska was grown in the forest and steppe
zone, and Dniprovs'ka 4, Yuzhna Krasnodars'ka, and Krasnodars'ka 35 were
grown in the south of Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus. Due to
acclimatization in different zones of southern hemp varieties, and to use
of different methods of hybridization and breeding, stem fiber content in
these varieties was increased to 22-27%, and in some varieties stem fiber
content exceeded 30%.
The second stage of hemp
breeding consisted in development of monoecious hemp varieties which could
help solve the problems of harvest mechanization. In the early 1960s
the hemp variety Bernburgska Odnodomna from Germany was grown.
Hybridization of that variety with the dioecious hemp variety US-6 of high
fiber content, and subsequent breeding, resulted in 1968 in the high yield
monoecious hemp variety USO-1. Later the varieties USO-4, Poltavska
Odnodomna 3, and USO-16 were developed. Since the 1980s only
monoecious hemp has been grown in Ukraine.
Due to the spread of the use of
illicit drugs, many countries imposed limitations, and even made hemp
growing illegal. According to the laws of the Soviet Union it was
illegal to grow new hemp varieties with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content
higher than 0.3%. Later the allowable THC content was reduced to 0.25%,
and since 1988 it has been reduced to 0.1%. Hemp breeding for low
cannabinoid content was preceded by study of cannabinoid combinations,
through determining different methods of analysis and diagnostics
including express diagnostics, which underlay the methods of breeding hemp
varieties with low drug potency. Several generations of varieties
with different THC content were developed. At present 5 hemp
varieties with low THC content and differing economic indices are being
grown in Ukraine.
2. Agronomic data for Ukrainian hemp cultivars.
fiber content (% d.w.)
The system of seed growing of monoecious hemp varieties preserves a high
level of varietal typicalness. To produce super-elite seeds
and elite seeds staminate plants are removed. Plants in the
first reproduction are grown under the conditions of spatial isolation and
free cross-pollination and the number of starninate plants does not exceed
5%. Seeds of the second reproduction are used to grow hemp only for
fiber and the number of staminate plants does not exceed 25%.
3. Characterization of stem fiber content in gene
Since 1992, following the proclamation of the independent state of
Ukraine, the Institute has been working on the formation of the national
gene bank of bast crops. In 1994, 283 hemp accessions (211 dioecious
and 72 monoecious) were studied. The collection was thoroughly
investigated for fiber and cannabinoid content, stalk and seed yield,
plant height, length of vegetative cycle, and resistance to diseases and
pests. The most valuable accessions were introduced as initial
material for breeding.
4. Characterization of THC content in gene bank
The Institute developed agrotechnical hemp-growing methods for the soil
and climatic, organizational, and economic conditions of Ukraine.
Hemp is cultivated in special short rotations. In kolkhozes and
sovkhozes with large hemp areas, hemp is grown in cereal root crop
rotations. Recently an energy-saving system of soil
preparation in hemp rotations was developed based on the combination of
mold-board plowing and post-plowing tillage. Fertilizers
consisting of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) macro
nutrients and boron (B), bromine (Br), copper (Cu), and Zinc (Zn) micro
nutrients are applied according to the results of soil diagnostics.
Two hemp-growing technologies
are used in Ukraine. The first technology is for the production of
fiber and seed. Hemp is sown in wide rows at row width of 45 or 60
cm. Seeding rate for elite seeds is 60-90 seeds per m2,
for seeds of the first reproduction is 120-180 seeds per m2,
and for seeds of the second reproduction is 180-240 seeds per m2.
Hemp is harvested when the seeds ripen. This technology is
used to grow 30% of hemp in the northern zone, 50% of hemp in the forest
and steppe zone and 100% of hemp in the steppe zone. The second
technology is used to produce only fiber. Hemp is sown at row width
of 7.5 or 15 cm. Seeding rate is 450-500 seeds per m2.
Hemp is harvested after the end of the flowering of the staminate
plants. According to which technology of hemp growing is used,
different harvesting technologies are employed.
To grow hemp for fiber and
seeds direct combining and swath harvesting are used. For direct
combining we use the combine KKY-1.9. The combine cuts plants,
threshes and cleans seeds, and binds stems with twine or spreads them out
in the field. Hemp is harvested when 75-80% of seeds in
inflorescences are ripe as seed shedding losses are minimal. Since
not all the seeds are ripe the humidity level of threshed seeds may be as
high as 20%. To avoid damage it is necessary to dry the seeds to
decrease the humidity level to 12-13%. The Institute worked out a
method of chemical drying of hemp stands by treating them with desiccants
during the 7-10 days before the start of harvest. MgClO3·6
H2O (10 kg/ha) and
Reglon (Diquat) (1 l/ha) are used as desiccants.
Unfortunately, due to the
insignificant area devoted to hemp, mass production of hemp combine
harvesters is not organized. We consider it possible, through the
common efforts of interested firms, to organize joint production of hemp
combines. For swath hemp harvesting we use the cutter GK-1.9 which
cuts hemp plants, binds them, and throws them down. Binds are
threshed by the hemp thresher pK-4.5A. This technology results in
greater seed losses and higher-manual labor costs. Hemp grown for
fiber only is harvested by the cutter GK-1.9 which cuts plants and spreads
them out in the field for dew retting. During dry weather stalks are
turned over to obtain even retting.
After dew retting the
picking-up machine KB-1 picks up the stalks and binds them. Further
operations with loading and unloading binds are connected with high manual
labor costs. We also have the technology and machines for rolling
retted hemp with parallel arrangement of the stalks.
hemp-harvesting technologies in Ukraine differ in many ways from the
technologies used in other countries. In Ukraine processing
technology is based on treatment of parallelizing hemp stems as in the
case of fiber flax. Using this technology we obtain both long and
short fiber. About 30% is long fiber and it is used to
manufacture the most important products, primarily cordage for marine and
This process technology is more expensive and requires the expenditure of
more labor than technologies in other countries. In the years to
come, hemp-growing will be revived in Ukraine and the sphere of hemp usage
will change. Side by side with a traditional use of fiber to
manufacture spun products, use of hemp for the pulp, paper, and textile
industries will increase considerably.
Forests occupy about 13% of the
territory in Ukraine and they are mostly preserved to protect the natural
environment. Hemp can play a considerable role in solving the
problem of acute shortages of both pulp and paper production. At the
Institute we conduct breeding programs aimed at increasing the biological
potential of hemp and raising stalk yield to 12-15 t/ha. Hemp
harvest and hemp processing technologies will be made considerably simpler
Due to the lack of our own
cotton production, and sharp increases in cotton's price on the world
market, the development of the textile and knitting industries of Ukraine
will be aimed at utilizing pure hemp and flax fiber, and blends with other
natural and synthetic fibers in the manufacture of clothes and other
(This paper was presented at the Bioresource Hemp symposium in Frankfurt,
Germany, March 2-5, 1995.)