Common hemp (Cannabis sativa) is a traditional agricultural crop grown in Russia for producing textile fibre and hemp oil. Due to its unique properties, hemp is acquiring new, innovative uses in many environmentally-conscious areas of the national economy. Common hemp has a huge production and consumer potential as it is an absolutely safe, highly productive, almost waste-free and environmentally-friendly crop with unique technical and nutritional properties.

In terms of organic matter production per unit of acreage, hemp occupies one of the leading positions along with sugar beets and potatoes. Almost all parts of the plant have highly nutritious or other useful technical features. For example, hemp seeds have an average oil content of 29 to 33 % depending on the variety and carbohydrate content of up to 48 %. The nutritional value of hemp cake – waste after oil extraction – is 43–50 kg starch equivalents at 19–21 % digestible protein.

The fibre from common hemp stalks is stronger and more durable than many synthetic counterparts. This makes hemp fibre the most valuable and almost irreplaceable raw material for making ropes, cords, twines, cable wire cores and various technical fabrics, especially those suitable for aggressive environments such as seawater. Due to its excellent antibacterial and breathability properties, natural hemp fibre is also a core component of yarns and fabrics that have higher requirements for safety, environmental friendliness and softness, for example for clothing and home textiles.

Modern varieties of common hemp legally permitted for cultivation in Russia are distinguished by the absence of narcotically-relevant concentrations of active compounds and improved biological characteristics allowing to use seeds, stems and the green part of the plant in various areas of the national economy. Common hemp is in demand in the food and light industry, the construction industry, the agroindustrial sector and many other industries.
Because of its enormous economic importance, growing environmental concerns, and the increasing value of readily renewable raw materials, common hemp is considered to be a strategic agricultural crop.

According to modern classification, the Cannabis genus includes one species with two subspecies:
Common hemp (Cannabis sativa subsp. sativa)
Indian hemp (Cannabis sativa subsp. indica)

A third species, ruderal hemp (Cannabis ruderalis Janisch), was formerly recognised, but this combination now has no independent ranking and is synonymous with Cannabis sativa subsp. sativa. This species has no industrial application.
Indian hemp contains high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and is cultivated for the production of psychotropic drugs: bhang, marijuana, hashish and their derivatives. Cultivation of Indian hemp is prohibited by law in most countries of the world.

This is why breeders are constantly coming up with new strains of common hemp with a very low THC content.

There are currently two types of industrial hemp varieties: Southern and Central Russian.
Southern hemp varieties have dark green hexagonal ribbed stems, dark green leaves with 7–11 long broad segments, and dark green, sometimes faintly purple, inflorescences. Stem height of Southern hemp is significantly higher than that of Central Russian hemp under comparable conditions. Seeds are dark grey with a pronounced mosaic and are large in size (the weight of 1,000 seeds is 20–22 g). Depending on the growing location, the vegetation period when sown for combined use is 130–160 days. The varieties are weakly affected by the hemp flea beetle and are not affected by broomrape. Southern hemp is characterised by high fibre yields, low seed yields and a long growing season.
Central Russian hemp varieties have four- to six-sided stems that turn yellow-green when harvested. The leaves are bright green with 5–7 long narrow segments. The inflorescences are compact. Seeds are medium in size, light grey in colour, and may have a light mosaic pattern in rare cases. The growing season does not exceed 120 days. Central Russian hemp is inferior to Southern hemp in terms of stem height, straw and fibre yield, but far superior to Southern hemp in terms of seed yield. The plant is 125–250 cm high, with light grey seeds; the weight of 1,000 seeds is 13–18 g. Seeds have a weakly pronounced mosaic pattern. Local and breeding varieties belonging to the Central Russian hemp group are not resistant to broomrape and are heavily damaged by the hemp flea beetle.
Before 2000, the diversity of industrial hemp varieties was extremely limited.

The State Registry of Breeding Achievements Permitted for Use in Russia contained only two Central Russian varieties (Diana, Ingreda) and three Southern hemp varieties (YUSO-14, Zolotonozhskaya YUSO-11, YUSO-31). These varieties had improved economically useful traits and had a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content in plants of not more than 0.1 %. However, they were weak in resisting the unfavourable environmental factors and diseases typically encountered in the Middle Volga region. Moreover, there were no predominantly oil-bearing varieties, and the oil content of the then-existing varieties was low (less than 28 %).

The research carried out in 2001–2011 resulted in the creation of new initial material of monoecious hemp with high adaptability to a set of biotic and abiotic stress factors as well as in the selection of promising populations with stable low THC content in plants (0.03–0.07 %).

New drug-free forms of common hemp were bred and included into the Russian State Register of Breeding Achievements, including for use in green form (variety Vera and hybrid Slavyanin) and for combined use (varieties Surskaya, Nadezhda and hybrid Maslyonok). 5 copyright certificates and 5 patents were issued for the new varieties and hybrids. These drug-free common hemp varieties are increasingly introduced in hemp farms of the Penza, Tambov, Oryol, Tomsk, Orenburg, Novosibirsk and Altai regions as well as the Republic of Mordovia.
Presently, the Russian State Register of Breeding Achievements includes 14 varieties of common hemp with various purposes bred by four scientific institutions of the Russian Agricultural Academy: the Penza, the Chuvash, the Krasnodar Agricultural Research Institutes as well as the Institute of Bast Crops. In 2016, the Chuvash Agricultural Research Institute patented a new Central Russian hemp variety called Dimra.

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