Hemp is a cannabis plant with an extremely rich history and a potential problem solver for a wide range of issues. Looking back in time, during the 1930s the plant was announced as the billion dollar crop and was actively used by Henry Ford for the production of his Mobile T car. However, hemp has had its strong and weak periods through time. With the plant once being an obligatory crop for farmers, in 1937 the Marijuana Tax Act completed stopped the cultivation of the crop and killed the industry.
Due to a dangerous shortage of necessary materials during WWII, the cultivation of hemp was once again revived. Its properties make it a perfect alternative for making rope, clothes, different types of fabric, paper, and more. Unfortunately, once the war was over, hemp was again prohibited for growth and treated as a harmful drug, under the same category as marijuana. The announcement became official in 1970 when President Nixon added the crop to the Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
Is hemp legal today?
In 2013, Colorado was the first U.S. state to legalize the production of industrial hemp once again and under the 2014 Farm Bill, U.S. farmers were again allowed to grow hemp in states, where regulators legalized the production of the crop. From 2014 until 2019, the hemp industry has expanded from zero to 75,000 acres and the future of the plant looks bright.
Expectations for 2019 include a potential rise of 100,000 to 20,000 acres, depending on the demand and the seed supply. In order to successfully continue growing the plant, there is an urgent need for modern and innovative genetics, education, and infrastructure to support the activity. Today, the top countries for hemp cultivation include China, Canada, USA, France, Chile, and North Korea. But what are the main reasons for growing hemp and what is the actual process behind cultivation?
Reasons to grow hemp
Before sharing with you all you need to know about growing hemp, let’s explore why you would want to cultivate the crop in the first place. Apart from its ability to sequester carbon, decrease agricultural pollution, and provide significant profits for farmers, there are additional reasons behind the crop’s cultivation.
Hemp cultivation requires fewer resources.
Hemp is considered an extremely sustainable crop, mainly due to its ability to grow with fewer resources and special care. When compared to corn, of instance, the herb requires much less water, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer, making it preferable from a cultivator’s perspective. With a rich list of uses, hemp is considered a top resource to have and a friendly to the environment alternative to other crops.
Hemp has many uses.
The crop can not only be used for human purposes but it can also serve as a great raw material to feed livestock with, to biofuel production, textiles, or paper. The vast range of areas, in which hemp can be used is difficult to cover in a few words. For example, the crop is a successful isolator and can be used in construction. It can be used for the creation of building materials such as hempcrete.
Hemp is also used in fashion for the creation of cloth and different textures. The plant is especially popular for having a dominant role in sailing back in the days as the majority of ropes were made from hemp.
Hemp can be consumed and has a range of benefits for the human body.
The oil produced from the seeds can also be used for culinary purposes as it is highly nutritious and offers a range of sources essential to the body, like healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, hemp can play an important role in cosmetics as it can hydrate the skin and be the perfect natural alternative for fresh and young-looking skin.
Another use of hemp, one that can be probably considered the cherry on top, is its medical features. A lot of hemp cultivators are actively focusing on breeding hemp with the aim of entering the medical arena, due to the useful compounds called cannabinoids, which are found within the plant. Hemp is low in THC – the psychoactive compound found in cannabis but is extremely rich in CBD (cannabidiol), which is a cannabinoid with special importance to the human body.
CBD oil is booming around the world.
CBD oil, a popular and trendy cannabis product available in a number of countries for consumption, is predominantly made from hemp. CBD oil can be made from all cannabis plants but producers prefer to choose hemp as the plant contains more CBD and less THC concentration in comparison to marijuana, which contains more THC. Sophisticated extraction methods allow producers to separate the THC from the CBD cannabinoids but the process is often expensive and time-consuming.
What you need to know about growing hemp
The process behind growing hemp is certainly rich and interesting. It is worth noting that there are different types of industrial hemp, including oilseed, fiber, and hybrid. The last type is usually used for dual purposes and results in both fiber and seed.
Suitable climate for hemp cultivation
Hemp requires warm weather and will not thrive in desert conditions or mountain regions. What is specific about hemp is that it will bloom if the length of the day is less than 12 hours. In other words, hemp is considered a short day plant. This will occur during different months of the year depending on the location.
The plant is dioecious and therefore includes both genders – male and female. The two differ in terms of growth rates. While male plants bloom and die earlier and faster, female plants flower at a later time period. This causes a separation between the two genders and most cultivators will breed predominantly female plants to avoid negative impacts, secure the harvesting of more seeds, and ensure more fiber productions.
The best soil for growing hemp
Although it is generally believed that hemp can survive in any soil, this is not exactly the case. The best choice of soil for the successful cultivation of hemp is on loose, well-aerated loam soil. In the ideal scenario, the soil will have enough organic matter and will be highly fertile. The advice is to ensure a pH of 6.0-7.5. Experiments reveal that hemp does not breed well in poorly-drained clay or soils with no structure. Alternatively, the plant can also grow in sandy soils but will require additional irrigation and fertilization, which may sometimes be a costly activity.
Planting the hemp seeds
Hemp seeds are believed to survive any temperature as long as it is not freezing. However, for best results, experts suggest soil temperatures of 46°–50°F or 7°-10°C. Ideally, the seeds should be planted once the risk of freezes has past and just before the ideal time for planting corn arrives. To ensure good growth towards the early phases of cultivation, rainfall of about 25-30 inches per year is ideal.
The actual planting process should start by preparing the seedbed. Cultivators should ensure a fine, level, and firm seedbed and plant the seed at around 0.75 to 1.25 inches. You could try planting the seed deeper into the soil but the risk of damping- off will be higher.
Depending on the hemp type that you will be planting (oilseed, fiber, or hybrid), the seeding rate will vary. While oilseeds are typically seeded at a rate of 25-40lb/acre, with 27,000 seeds per pound, fiber crops are planted at a rate between 40-80lb/acre.
Ensuring the right fertility
To produce hemp, cultivators will need to ensure around 100-130lb of nitrogen per acre, 45-70lb or phosphorus per acre, and 35-80lb of potash per acre. Especially regarding seed production, nitrogen fertilization is essential. In addition, phosphorus levels should have medium to high quantities, sulfur should be >5,000 ppm, while calcium should not be found in high quantities (<6,000 ppm). Check the organic matter in the soil and ensure it exceeds 3.5%.
Although you can grow hemp on the same land for a couple of years, pests and especially worms can pose a challenge. A clever way to grow hemp is to use it to diversify existing bean, wheat, or alfalfa rotations.
Ensure sufficient pest management
It is important to keep an eye on the pests which come in contact with your hemp. It is only natural that as the plants grow and flower, they will attract more pests which may pose a threat to the hemp. In addition, look out for potential diseases such as fungal pathogens like gray mold and white mold.
Growing industrial hemp does require a level of research, preparation, and knowledge to be successful. In addition, you will need large amounts of land to successfully cultivate the plant and be able to transform it into valuable and useful for humanity products. We hope that this article gives valuable insight into the process of cultivating hemp.