By / August 29, 2019

Hemp farming basics to get you started in the industry

The demand for hemp has kicked off in many countries, especially with the increasing legalization of the plant. People have discovered the benefits of farming hemp, ranging from being a reliable industrial raw material to being a rich source of protein for the human diet.

The hemp legalization has been most common in Europe and America. In the United States, the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill marked the beginning of a new era for a crop that has been out of the market for close to a century while listed as a schedule 1 drug.

Farmers and other individuals interested to get into hemp farming are now free to do so. They have a chance of investing in a crop that will fetch them higher returns than what they’ve been getting from other crops. For instance, 1 acre of hemp grown for CBD extraction can fetch up to $30,000.

How hemp differs from marijuana

Hemp and marijuana both belong to the cannabis family, however, their levels of THC differs. Hemp has a low THC content of  0.3% while marijuana has between 5%-30% THC. It explains why marijuana is used for recreational purposes and hemp for industrial purposes.

Another distinguishing feature is their physical appearance. Hemp plants are slender and tall while marijuana plants are dense and bulky. These are some of the features you can use to distinguish the two.

As mentioned earlier, legalization is the first step to getting into any hemp-related business. Once hemp cultivation is legal in a state, people then ask themselves what they want to cultivate it for. Do they intend to grow it for fiber, seeds or CBD?.

Hemp field
Hemp can be grown in a variety of soil types (Source)

How to grow hemp

Knowing the type of soil on your farm is the next step. While hemp can be grown in a variety of soil types, it does better in well-drained soils, with enough nutrients and moisture content. The soil should also be well-aerated with a pH of 6 or above. Poorly drained soil can cause stagnation of water during rainy seasons causing damage to crops.

If you are not certain of the type of soil you have and its pH level, you should take its sample for testing to find out if it is effective for the crop.

Hemp requires a moisture content of no less than 80% during germination. Therefore, if you are planning to rely on rainfall, the rainfall amount should be at least 20 to 30 inches. If this rainfall amount is not achievable in your area, you can supplement it using irrigation to give your crops maximum chances of growth.

Enough moisture is also needed during flowering and seed development stages to attain quality hemp seeds. This is a very important aspect, especially if you are cultivating hemp for seeds. Low moisture content during these stages can lead to the production of low grain quality, which is not profitable.

Hemp requires at least six hours a day of sunlight to enable them to perform well. Your hemp farm should thus be in an area with adequate sunlight. If you are a farmer in North America, the best time to plant your seedlings is between early to mid-spring when the temperatures are moderate.

Industrial sized

Plant population is also an important factor to note depending on your reason for growing hemp. If you are growing hemp for CBD, the number of plants per acre should range between 1000 to 16000 and each plant should be tended to separately. When growing it for industrial purposes,  you can plant up to 400,000 plants per acre.

Therefore, when growing industrial hemp, you will have many plants on a one-acre piece of land as opposed to CBD, and this could mean more profit. The other advantage of industrial hemp is that you can harvest its top for seed production and the stalk for industrial purposes, nothing goes to waste.

Hemp needs to be protected against pest infestation and diseases just like any other crop. Failure to do so can lower the quality of your crops. Hemp is susceptible to white and grey mold diseases. Bacteria, viruses, blight, fungi and root rot can also attack hemp.

To protect your crops from such threats, you can use pesticides, which must meet the USDA National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. An alternative way is to exercise crop rotation every four years, which is the best way to keep your crops free from chemicals. Crop rotation is also helpful in improving soil health.

Where to get hemp seeds

Knowing where to get quality seeds should top your priority list. This is because hemp seeds are not so easy to find because the crop is just making a comeback to the market. The seeds are few and the demand is high; you should, therefore, have your seeds ready prior to cultivation.

hemp seeds
While purchasing hemp seeds, ensure that the THC level is less than the 0.3% recommended level. (Source)

While purchasing hemp seeds, ensure that their THC level is no more than the 0.3% recommended level. Any hemp plant with a THC level above 0.3% is considered marijuana and can be destroyed depending on the regulations of your state. You should take this seriously to avoid risking your efforts.

Some places you can get quality hemp seeds are Canada and Europe, as they have been in the hemp business for longer than the US.

When to harvest

Harvesting is the last stage in hemp production. If you are planting hemp for fiber, the best time to harvest is after they have shed the last pollen. When harvesting, wait between 4-6 weeks until they have shed the pollen (when the seeds are 60% ripe). Note that hemp grown for fiber takes 70 to 90 days to be ready for harvesting.

Hemp is a crop in high demand that has everyone’s attention. In the states where it is legal, most people are eager to cultivate it and the first step they should take is to learn about it.

Hemp farmers should find out where to get seeds with a THC content of less than 0.3%. They should also know what they want to grow hemp for, whether it is for CBD, fiber or seeds. Rainfall amount, sunlight availability and soil pH are also crucial points to note.

(Featured Image by DepositPhotos)

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