News & Events

HempHub project publishes review of Cannabis

Published: Tuesday, 13 October, 2020

HempHub publish in-depth open access review of Cannabis sativa

HempHub is one of the Earth Institute’s Strategic Priority projects that brings together researchers working on Cannabis sativa. The project is led by Dr Antoinette Perry and Dr Rainer Melzer from the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science.

Cannabis is also known as hemp as well as marijuana. It is an extremely versatile multipurpose crop with a multitude of different applications, from carbon neutral biofuel and carbon sequestering building material, to physical and mental health applications. HempHub is establishing a cross-disciplinary group of researchers that jointly focuses on investigating the environmental, genetic, pharmacological and engineering properties of hemp as well as the societal implications of its use.


Members of the project recently published a very comprehensive review of the plant which focuses on the biology of Cannabis and its unusual genetic variability, but also the many diverse opportunities, both sustainability and health related, that the plant presents. The review is called The Cream of the Crop: Biology, Breeding and Applications of Cannabis sativa and it is available as an open access article on

The genetic and morphological diversity of Cannabis is a treasure trove that we are only beginning to explore. It is important that we capitalise on this treasure to construct a multipurpose swiss knife, and not a series of highly specialised tools. (Extract from review)  


Review summary:

Cannabis sativa is an extraordinarily versatile species. Hemp and its cousin marijuana, both C. sativa, have been used for millennia as a source of fibre, oil and for medicinal, spiritual and recreational purposes. Because the consumption of Cannabis can have psychoactive effects, the plant has been widely banned throughout the last century. In the past decade, evidence of its medicinal properties did lead to the relaxation of legislation in many countries around the world. Consequently, the genetics and development of Cannabis as well as Cannabis-derived products are the subject of renewed attention. Here, we review the biology of C. sativa, including recent insights from taxonomy, morphology and genomics, with an emphasis on the genetics of cannabinoid synthesis. Because the female Cannabis flower is of special interest as the site of cannabinoid synthesis, we explore flower development, flowering time well as the species’ unique sex determination system in detail. Furthermore, we outline the tremendous medicinal, engineering, and environmental opportunities that Cannabis bears. Together, the picture emerges that our understanding of Cannabis biology currently progresses at an unusual speed. A future challenge will be to preserve the multi-purpose nature of Cannabis, and to harness its medicinal properties and sustainability advantages simultaneously.

Authors: Susanne Schilling*^,Caroline A. Dowling*,Jiaqi Shi*,Louise Ryan,David Hunt,Eve OReilly, Antoinette S. Perry, Oliver Kinnane, Paul F. McCabe, Rainer Melzer^.

*: These authors contributed equally to this work and should be considered joint first authors

^: for correspondence: susanne.schilling [at]; rainer.melzer[at]