The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is offering a new course designed to “provide students with an understanding of the cannabis classification system and proper management practices for target compounds and products.”
In the fall and spring, Crop sciences professor and director of online masters programs Dr. Dokyoung (D.K.) Lee will teach the course Cannabis Classification and Management, which is a part of U of I’s new cannabis certificate program.
Lee states on his syllabus that “understanding cannabis biology and taxonomic classification is critical for proper management practices for the production of essential oils, psychoactive compounds, fiber, and seed oil and protein, and applications of those products.”
The course is designed to ready students to enter the cannabis production industry by covering everything from the plant’s biology to best production practices, to help better educate the inconsistency and misleading nomenclature of cannabis and cannabis biology, and to discuss the taxonomy and individual subspecies. The subspecies classification will be necessary for proper management practices and harvesting of target compounds and products.
The University of Illinois’s crop consists of about 7,000 individual plants. Some of the plants were transplanted from inside to outside and other trial-plants were started from seed.
Lee and the university will be looking to improve the plants’ genetics for plant architecture (for best spacing and row placement), flowering initiation, protein and oil concentration, fiber production, and seeds production.
“We like for a plant have good architecture for fiber production and/or for seed production,” said Lee. “I would like to have large seeds and lots of seeds for the plants, and those would be idea plants for our program. But at the same time the industry is looking for dual purpose plant, which can produce fiber and grain at the same time, and that would be another benefit so the farmer can plant a large acre.”
Though people can find information in the writings of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson about fiber production and cultivating hemp, farming machinery, implements, and other practices have improved tremendously since the Founding Fathers.
“We still need to know a lot more about the agronomy and how we are going to manage the harvest, planting, weed control, fertilization, spacing and density, and harvest timing for the high quality fiber, and the harvesting methods for fiber or seed” said Lee. “I think we need to develop new practical management practices. If farmers are willing to adapt to this crop, then we can provide that information.”
Lee collected the seeds from the wild, but because the plants are not grown under cultivation, wild plants do not give much information for cultivated plants.
“The first observation we learned since we collected the seeds in the wild, we were surprised how different the plant is performing from the greenhouse to outside,” Lee said. “This will be the true (first outdoor) growing season. We can actually look at their generic variation and how they perform.”
Lee’s fall virtual course, which filled quickly, is a three-hour lecture scheduled for
6:30-9 PM, Thursday.
Students are expected
1) to understand the cannabis taxonomic system
2) to identify Cannabis sativa subspecies
3) to understand target product-specific production management practices.
A spring (in-person) course will be offered from 2-3:20 PM, Tuesday and Thursday.
Other cannabis-focused colleges participating in the cannabis industry includes Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Danville Area Community College, Illinois Valley Community College and more on the way.