What Farmers Need to Know About Growing Hemp

So, are you a farmer planning to grow hemp for medicinal purposes? Well, it’s the perfect time to start learning as hemp will soon be removed from schedule I substances to become a regular agricultural commodity with a myriad of benefits. Now, it’s estimated that over 36 states are now legalizing the growing of hemp largely due to its medicinal benefits. Due to these reasons, the industry is estimated to grow to nearly $22 billion by 2022. So, if you’re a farmer and you’re looking to learn more about hemp, here’s everything you need to know before making your first move.

What is hemp?

If you’re a beginner in the hemp business, it’s easy to get confused between hemp and marijuana. Although both of them are members of the Cannabis Sativa species, they have huge notable differences that keep them apart from each other. For instance, marijuana has a THC content of 5-30% while hemp has a THC content of less than 0.3%. With such small amounts of THC in its formula, it simply means that hemp oil is not a intoxicant thus making it a major ingredient in the manufacture of medicinal and cosmetic products.

Another major difference is that marijuana plants are known to be thick and bushy with dense buds while hemp plants are known to be tall, thin, and less bushy.

Understanding hemp laws

The legalization of hemp began in the 90s where a number of states introduced legislations to legalize this plant amid serious federal bans. As years went on, new policies were included in Farm Bills which helped to loosen federal rules in the legalization of hemp.

Today, politicians such as Senator Mitch McConnell has introduced amendments into the 2018 Farm Bill that will see the legalization of hemp by lifting the Federal ban. This will not only see a hefty rise in the hemp industry, but more farmers will be motivated to grow the plant.

So, if you’re a farmer planning to grow hemp, the first action you need to take is to check the state laws in your area to ensure that it’s federally legal to grow the plant.

What is hemp used for?

If you’re growing hemp for the first time, one of the questions you need to ask yourself is what type of hemp you’re planning to grow. Are you interested in growing hemp for fiber, seed or CBD?

  • Fiber: for so long, hemp has been used to produce fiber which in return has been used to produce textiles, fuel, paper, and building materials. Since this type of hemp is required in bulk, farmers have opted to grow it in large-scale production to meet the high demand.
  • Seed: hemp can also be grown for its nutritional seeds. These seeds contain low cannabinoid and when processed, they can be used to make hempseed oils.
  • Cannabinoid: finally, we have CBD rich hemp plants. This is the most popular type of hemp as it contains significant amounts of Canabidiol (CBD) that’s used in making of hemp oil as well as other beauty and medicinal products. Growing this type of hemp requires a high level of mastery as the process employs growing of female plants only to prevent increase of seed production which lowers the level of CBD.

Best conditions for growing hemp

Hemp is a sturdy, durable, and annual plant that can grow in a variety of different environments except in extremely dry conditions. It can thrive in warm weather with well-drained soils rich in organic matter. It has a deep tap root system that can locate water to greater depths making it ideal for growing outdoors rather than indoors.

Now, since you’re growing hemp for industrial purposes, it’s advisable that you grow it outdoors rather than indoors as indoor farming involves enormous costs that will cut your profit margin at the end.

Planting hemp requires a strategy. If you live in North America for instance, the best time for planting is when the last frost has passed typically in early to mid spring. Since hemp is a drought resistant plant, it should be planted directly to the farm rather than being planted in a nursery. The seeds usually take 1-2 days to germinate and about 5-7 days to fully emerge.

Soil quality

When growing hemp, the soil pH required is very different from that of marijuana. While cannabis requires an acid soil with a pH level of 6.0 to 6.8, hemp requires a marginally alkaline soil with a pH of about 7.0 to 7.5. The soil should be well aerated, should be extremely fertile and should contain high amounts of organic matter.

If in case you’re unsure about the type of soil you’re planning to use, it’s advisable that you buy a test kit online or take a sample of the soil to an Agricultural Institute Center for testing. Make sure the soil is not badly drained and that rainfall is at least 20-30 inches throughout the growing cycle. Remember hemp is highly susceptible to flooding so poorly drained soil or excessive rainfall can damage your plants if you’re not careful.

Feeding your hemp

As your hemp grows through the cycles, it will require lots of nutrients to keep things up and running. So, as a farmer looking to make a hefty harvest, you need to give your plants lots of nutrients, potassium and phosphorus to cater for various cycles such as seed formation and flowering stages. Below is an estimation of what you need to give your hemp during the stages.

  • At least 80-100 pounds of nitrogen per acre
  • 35-50 pounds of phosphorus and
  • 52-70 pounds of potassium per acre

Pest control

Just like any other crop, hemp is also susceptible to pest and disease. Common garden infestations such as white and gray mold are historically known to infect hemp and reduce production in a great way. Therefore, you have to be very careful with viruses, bacterial and fungal infections. Since most farmers are interested in growing organic hemp (which is by the way beneficial in multiple ways), you have to be very careful with the pesticides you use. Always make sure that any pesticide you buy meets USDA standards. You an also opt to choose crop rotation strategies to prevent disease and pest build-up.

Hemp harvesting

If you’re growing hemp for CBD extraction, you have to harvest it within 4 months of seeding. This is because during this time, CBD levels are at their peak. If you’re growing hemp to harvest seeds, 90 days after seeding will be enough as most seeds will have ripen by this time.

Conclusion

As we conclude, let me mention that most farmers are obviously overjoyed with how hemp is making its way back into the mainstream. Although the industry has faced strict federal laws over the past few decades, it has seen a heck of a comeback which has been sparked by the legalization of cannabis in most states in the United States.

So, if you’re a farmer interested in growing hemp, this is the perfect time to learn everything as the industry is set to explode in the next couple of years.

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