CORVALLIS, Ore. (KOIN) — Some days, Dr. Bob Zemetra is surrounded by pot plants all day.
The plants inside a greenhouse are used for research at Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center. Zemetra, who is a professor of plant breeding and genetics, explained there is much more to these plants than the recreational use they’re known for.
“Pot plants produce THC. The plants here have to have a low THC. So instead of producing THC, they’re producing the CBD instead,” he told KOIN 6 News. “But hemp plants can also be used not just for chemicals, but for fiber and even grain.”
Zemetra’s work includes looking for benefits that come from creating different breeds.
“You’re just changing what the plant produces as a chemical,” he said. “It’s a mix of genes. So when you make a recombination or a cross, you’re going to get a whole assortment of types of plants.”
One example would be making genetic adjustments for medical purposes.
“If you’re doing CBD, then you propagate the way these plants are. You get a specific chemical profile,” he said. “It’s great for treating some type of ailment. Then we maintain the plant so it stays genetically the same.”
Another example he provided is looking for specific traits and then enhancing the gene pool to get better fiber.
“There’s something in the hemp, certain types of hemp fiber that works best. So then we talk with the people making that. Then we go back and try to see what we can do to improve the plants.”
For Zemetra, who spent several years teaching and researching wheat breeding, improving hemp plants and creating possibilities is what’s exciting.
“There are all those multiple uses that from a breeding standpoint reproduce the plants and then give it to the people in the rest of the program to figure out if it has the traits that they want,” he said. “Then they’ll feed back what traits they want and we’ll try to put those together.”