University News

WIU Ag Professor Researching Wild Hemp with Help of Research Grant

June 21, 2019

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MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University School of Agriculture Professor Win Phippen will log numerous miles this summer as he begins an effort to harvest and study wild hemp plants from each of Illinois' 102 counties.

Phippen has undertaken a yearlong research project to evaluate the hemp strains for THC levels. The project is being paid for by a grant from the University Research Council, funded by the WIU Office of Sponsored Projects.

After being issued the only permit from the Illinois Department of Agriculture to harvest wild hemp, sometimes called "ditch weed," for research, Phippen will take cuttings from three-five plants in each county. Because Phippen holds the permit, he is the only person allowed to do the harvesting.

"This project addresses concerns of high THC hemp being grown in the wild," he said. "We are going to try to get plants from at least 25-30 counties, but we will do the best we can."

In an effort to increase the number of cuttings he and his students are able to study, Phippen is asking WIU alumni to help with the project. He asks anyone who has found wild hemp growing in their county to notify him by email. He is looking for GPS coordinates for the plot in order to make the most effective use of time during the plant's harvest period July 12-26.

He has already identified plants in McDonough and Warren counties.

Phippen will bring the cuttings back to the new School of Agriculture greenhouses, north of campus, and plant them. He will also evaluate each plant's THC level, and other plant characteristics.

"We will grow the plants and collect the seed, then make the 'clean' seed available to producers looking for seed from ideal Illinois growing conditions," he said.

The wild industrial hemp is grown for the CBD oil in its leaves and flowers. CBD oil is not an illicit drug and is now available in the mainstream market. Industrial hemp was legalized in August 2018, and since permits for growing became available May 1, 421 applications, representing 15,563 acres of Illinois farmland have been approved.

Those who refer Phippen to wild low THC plants will have the honor of naming the seed variety.

To contact him about the location of wild industrial hemp, email

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Office of University Communications & Marketing