Have you ever thought about growing hemp? Here are some useful tips to get you started.
First you need the proper permits from your state. Along with the state permits we were required to be a part of the Michigan Industrial Hemp Research and Development Act. The state requires you give GPS coordinates of your fields, drying facility and storage. It's also important to file reports on how many plants, what variety, spacing and lab tests. The lab testing of your crop is crucial because if you go beyond the 0.3% THC, the entire field must be destroyed and nobody wants to see that.
Now, the decision of what kind of hemp farmer am to be? If you are raising hemp for seed, it is planted much like wheat, very close together and at a high population. These are not the large cannabis plants you are familiar with. They are very skinny and usually tall. This variety of seed is very cheap and is either cold pressed into oil for beauty products or processed for food. Hemp seeds are very high in protein, omegas and vitamins. Hemp seed oil has been used as food and medicine in China for at least 3000 years. To harvest the seeds, once again it is very similar to wheat. A combine will separate the seeds from the plant where you will take them to be dried for storage. Do not confuse hemp seed oil with Cbd oil.
The remaining plant material can be used to make various hemp products such as building materials, plastics and fabric. Ford and Mercedes are currently experimenting with hemp fiber in new models.
Hemp farming for seed oil and fiber is completely different than farming for Cbd oil. When selecting your seed for Cbd you have some options, some very pricey options, in 2109 it was about 1$ a seed. These varieties of plants have been specifically selected and cloned to have very high Cbd and very low THC. We chose "Cherry Wine" because of its shorter maturity date and its ability to produce in cooler climates. This was important because we farm in Northern Michigan. We also chose feminized seed and I'm glad we did. When farming for Cbd, you do not want male plants. Male plants have seeds, and when the plant starts producing seeds, it stops producing Cbd. Spend the extra scratch and get feminized seed. Your seed should also come with a COA (Certificate of Analysis). If it doesn't, don't buy it.
Choose your soil wisely. Hemp plants have very aggressive roots and will soak up any chemicals or heavy metals that are in the soil. You won't know that your plants are contaminated until your lab results much later. Remember, these plants look and smell like marijuana so I would plant them out of sight to the public.
There are two main planting methods. You can start your plants in a greenhouse then transplant, or plant your seeds directly in the soil. We did both, with interesting results. The plus, all of the transplants survived the heavy rains in the spring, the negative, they did not produce as well as the direct seed to soil. My advice would be, even though the seed to soil plants were bigger with more flowers, I would recommend the greenhouse, then transplant for a more uniform field.
One of the biggest challenges you will have is weed control. There are no herbicides allowed to prevent and kill weeds in hemp. Remember, you are growing a plant for health and wellness, no chemicals allowed! I found the best method was going "old school" with a hoe. I know, it seems archaic, but it works. I tried cultivating, using a rototiller, pulling them by hand. Nothing worked as well as hoe.
My biggest fear was the deer would take a liking to the sweet smell of these plants. To my surprise they never once took a nibble.
When the plants begin to flower, you need to walk your crop every other day looking for males. If you find seeds, you need to pull the plant and destroy it. Those seeds from that male plant will pollinate your entire crop. This will drastically reduce the amount of Cbd you will yield.
Now it's time to start testing for Cbd and THC. The longer you leave your plants out the higher your Cbd percentage will rise. What also rises is your THC percentage. You must test often and monitor wisely. Do not let it go over 0.3% or the state will enforce you destroy your entire field. They call this "HOT" and this would mean you spent a lot of time and money to have a useless field of hemp.
Your final challenge will be the harvest. This sounds like the fun part, right? Going out and harvesting all those flowers you've been tending to all year. It is fun and it is rewarding. You have two choices again, you can strip the flowers from the plant or you can hang dry and strip them later. Once again, we did both. The traditional way is to hang dry. We had too many plants to hang everything. The goal is to dry the flower down to 13% moisture. Tricky part is your heat can't exceed 90 degrees or your drying too fast and will lose Cbd. We had success building large tables and keeping the heat around 80 degrees with large indirect fans. Once you reach 13% moisture you can now bag it and store it. Be careful, every time you handle the flower, you are losing precious Cbd.
You now have Biomass. Large bags filled with mostly flower and some leaves. Hopefully rich in Cbd and ready for extraction.
Industrial Hemp is growing in popularity because of its numerous health benefits and the potential for renewable fiber. I absolutely support other farmers to grow and experiment with this crop. I truly believe you will see more and more hemp products in our future.