ELGIN, N.D. (AP) — A rural Elgin farmer is taking part in a statewide pilot program to see if hemp has potential as a crop for growers in North Dakota.

Clarence Laub views the 10-acre hemp plot near his family farm south of Elgin as an experiment, the Bismarck Tribune reported. He is one of seven growers in LaMoure, Grant, Foster and Benson counties who are participating in the hemp program sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture.

Since the crop was planted on June 1, emerging growth has been fairly uneven and spotty across the field because the seeds have received less than an inch of rain for most of the month, but recent precipitation has made a big difference. Laub has seen new plants coming in and patches where plants are at least a foot tall, and he’s hopeful that he’ll have enough hemp seed to process after a small harvest.

“The first time you will have failures, but you have to be able to go through it and learn from it. It’s trial and error,” he said.

Laub is rethinking his planting technique for future hemp crops.

Next year, he plans to use a no-till drill and get more depth consistency in the range of three-fourths of an inch. This year, he put the crop in with a hoe drill, and he thinks that might have placed the seed a little too deep for best germination.

“I’m hoping I could get a more uniform stand,” Laub said.

If he has a decent harvest, Laub will also experiment with using a cold press to run the seed through it to separate the oil from the meal, because each element has a marketable use.

Rachel Seifert-Spilde, plant protection specialist for the state Department of Agriculture, said the hemp crops in LaMoure County are more than four feet tall, but plants haven’t been progressing as well in the western part of the state due to less rainfall.

Although she hopes the hemp program can continue, Seifert-Spilde said it will depend on the department’s budget.

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