Janna Beckerman (left) and Ron Turco examine a test plot of hemp. Photo provided by Purdue Agricultural Communication.
Botany and Plant Pathology
Researcher's investigations aim to save specialty growers' money
Janna Beckerman heard rumors that Cannabis sativa L., or hemp, was a disease-resistant crop. Beckerman, a plant pathologist, is used to seeing crop losses from disease. She wanted to know if the rumors about hemp were true.
"It was a mistake," said Beckerman, a professor of Botany and Plant Pathology. "Hemp gets a lot of diseases. It had just as many problems as soybeans, certainly more problems than corn."
In both the field and the lab, Beckerman helps Indiana growers protect their specialty crops including fruit, nursery and greenhouse crops, landscaping plants, and now hemp. She also is one of four creators of the Purdue Hemp Project, which is dedicated to researching the possibility of growing hemp as an industrial crop in the Midwest. Despite hemp's susceptibility to disease, Beckerman said she is undeterred and likes a challenge.
"I like all the moving parts and complexity of trying to mitigate what could be catastrophic impacts," Beckerman said.
Beckerman knows that specialty crops are prone to more issues than row crops like corn and soybean, but hemp comes with its own unique complications. Hemp is still illegal to grow or possess in Indiana, which means the members of the Hemp Project team had to take extra steps to keep their research documented with the Drug Enforcement Agency.