Industrial hemp has been used by human beings for thousands of years. Many of the methods we use to manufacture hemp textiles today have been handed down through generations. Of these, retting is a critical step in the hemp fiber extraction process that works to separate important plant materials.

The practice of retting finds its roots in hemp fiber extraction and in other naturally occurring materials like flax. Whether it be with hemp or flax, retting is critical in transforming natural materials into textiles like clothing, furnishing, and bedding.

To better clarify this important step in industrial hemp processing, we put together this brief exploration into the hemp retting process.

What is Retting?

As seen with other ingenious manufacturing techniques, retting utilizes natural processes to accomplish laborious tasks. The retting process takes place after the stalks of hemp plants have been harvested and are ready to be turned into textiles. The goal of retting hemp is to prep stalks for the separation of valuable fibers from other plant materials.

The retting process utilizes water and bacteria to decay tissues that surround bast fiber in hemp stalks. By putting stalks in the right environmental conditions, hemp farmers literally let them rot to initiate the fiber separation process. The USDA puts it this way, “Retting is a microbial process that breaks the chemical bonds that hold the stem together and allows separation of the bast fibers from the woody core.”

The process of retting is used by people around the world to help transform natural materials like flax, hemp, kenaf, jute, and ramie into usable textiles.
Studies show that a number of different bacteria work to break down plant materials when retting hemp, these include “Bacillus mycoides, B. subtilis, Erwinia carotovora” and many more.

Different Types of Retting Processes

In experimenting with the retting process, people have devised multiple ways to separate plant materials using bacteria and moisture. Today, the most popular forms of retting are field retting (also known as dew retting) and water retting.

Field Retting

In the practice of field retting, harvested hemp stalks are left outside on the ground for weeks after they are harvested. By simply cutting down hemp plants and leaving them in the field, farmers allow water and bacteria to work together to decay the stems. Depending on weather conditions, the field retting process often takes 2-3 weeks.

Field retting works most effectively in humid locations with high dewpoints. These regions of the globe harbor the right environmental conditions for rapid bacteria growth.

Water Retting

With water retting, farmers soak the stems of hemp plants directly in water to initiate the breakdown of plant materials surrounding valuable fibers. Water retting takes place in holding tanks or ponds where producers can carefully monitor bacteria activity, as well as the overall state of the hemp fibers.

Water retting is a great option in parts of the world where environmental conditions are not favorable for field retting, such as deserts and dry climates.

Retting Hemp

As the hemp industry continues to take shape, producers are working hard to figure out which manufacturing processes are profitable. Importantly, hemp farmers must not only choose a hemp retting process that makes sense in their location, but they must also fit it into their budgets.

While both field retting and water retting are viable options for fiber extraction, field retting is the most commonly used practice for retting hemp. Water retting produces higher quality fibers than field retting. However, as water retting requires extensive infrastructure, water, and labor, it is too costly to make sense for most hemp farmers. In the end, the value of hemp fibers made from water retting doesn’t outweigh the costs of producing it.

Hemp growers must harvest and manufacture their products in a very specific order. To this end, retting hemp takes place after plants are harvested with commercial hemp farming equipment like combines.

Hemp Fiber Processing

The hemp fiber extraction process occurs along a carefully choreographed chain of events. Each of these steps must occur in the correct order to meet the demands of the industrial hemp supply chain.

Please note, the stems of industrial hemp plants produce two types of useful materials: bast and hurd. Throughout history, industrial hemp plants have been grown almost exclusively for bast production. Hemp bast produces the long, string-like fibers for which industrial hemp is known. Conversely, hurd is the wood pulp-like substance in the inner stem of the hemp plant.

The hemp fiber extraction process was developed to isolate bast from the rest of the hemp plant material. While hurd was once considered a waste byproduct, today it is being utilized for such products as insulation. As will be seen below, hurd is removed during the scutching step of the extraction process.
The steps of the hemp fiber extraction process are as such:

  • Cultivation: industrial hemp plants are grown specifically for fiber production.
  • Harvest: plants are cut after the flowering period when fibers are the strongest.
  • Retting: water and bacteria break down plant materials.
  • Breaking: hemp stems are broken down further with a “hemp breaking machine.”
  • Scutching: stems are smashed to separate valuable hemp bast fibers from less desirable hemp hurd materials. The hemp hurd materials are removed for other products.
  • Hackling: hemp bast fibers are further cleaned using a comb-like tool.

When hemp stalks are finally finished being processed they are ready to enter the next phase of the supply chain. At this point in the process, fibers are sold to textile manufacturers who make countless products from clothing to building materials.

Contact High Grade Hemp Seed with Questions

At High Grade Hemp Seed, we are proud to produce some of the finest CBD genetics in the world and take great pride in educating our customers about industrial hemp.

Please contact us to learn more about how to process hemp or how to separate hemp fibers.

Harvest time is extremely exciting for all hemp farmers. After a year’s worth of planning and hard work, you finally get to realize the fruits of your labor. While a good harvest is a cause for celebration, there are still several steps you need to take to get your hemp flowers ready for market. Properly drying and curing your flowers is critical for preserving delicate cannabinoids, trichomes, and terpenes.

It’s wise to think about your harvest plans early on in the growing season. Far too many growers put hemp crops in the ground without even considering how they will dry and cure their flowers. This lack of foresight can have dire financial consequences.

To help you get ahead of the curve this harvest season, we’re here to explore the process and importance of drying and curing flowers in more detail.

Drying Hemp Flowers and Curing Overview

There are several reasons why properly drying and curing your hemp flowers is important. For starters, following the best practices for drying and curing will protect flowers against mold. These critical steps also protect the aesthetic “bag appeal” of your flowers. Similarly, correct drying and curing will ensure your flowers have the right moisture consistency for trimming and processing.

Consider the Whole Harvest Process

Drying and curing are two important steps in the harvest process. Importantly, every step must happen in a specific order so you can get your hemp flowers ready for market. After hemp plants are harvested, they are dried, bucked, trimmed, and finally cured. Skipping any of these critical steps can ruin a crop or greatly inflate labor expenses.

Facilities for Drying Hemp Flowers

You need the right type of infrastructure to properly dry and cure your hemp harvest. Commercial operations generally have dedicated “drying facilities” where they can carefully control heat, humidity, and airflow. These buildings should also be completely dark on the interior.

Environmental Requirements

To dry hemp flowers correctly, you must create the right environmental conditions. Experts feel hemp flowers dry best at temperatures between 60-70 deg Fahrenheit and at humidity levels between 50-60%. This careful balance will ensure flowers dry at just the right speed.

How to Dry Hemp

The process of drying hemp flowers is focused on getting them to the right moisture consistency. In doing so, you create the best consistency for trimming, while also protecting the integrity of trichomes, terpenes, and pistils.

We advise our clients to aim for moisture consistency between 10-15% when drying. This amount of water will ensure flowers retain their structure, while also not molding in the bag.

When harvesting, most hemp flower producers choose to cut entire plants, then hang them upside down for drying. If you have the correct environment in your drying facility, you can pack plants tightly on a line to maximize square footage. If your humidity levels are high, packing them too tightly could cause mold issues.

Airflow

Proper airflow is critical when drying hemp flowers. Throughout drying, you should keep air moving in your facility with wall fans, industrial blowers, and inline fans. Even more, you should exchange the air in your drying room with fresh air from outside with vent fans, booster fans, or HVAC systems.

Equipment

Producers use a variety of equipment for drying hemp flowers. Hemp drying technology includes dehumidifiers, heaters, blower fans, carbon filters, inline fans, and commercial HVAC systems. Your chosen equipment will largely be dictated by the environmental constraints of your geography.

Importance of Curing Flowers

Inexperienced farmers often fail to recognize the importance of curing hemp flowers. However, curing is the last critical step in the harvest process to get your flowers ready for the market. Not only does proper curing protect the structural integrity of your flowers, but it also brings out the very best terpene expression of your hemp crop.

Proper curing practices help you avoid leaving your hemp flowers too dry or too wet. There are a number of reasons why the incorrect moisture content in hemp flowers can do serious damage to a harvest.

If you put damp hemp flowers directly into a plastic bag without curing them, you are inviting disaster. Not only can excess water in flowers cause your harvest to mold, but it can also wreak havoc on your crop’s terpene profile. Importantly, proper curing allows bacteria to break down chlorophyll in hemp flowers. If you skip this step, your harvest will likely smell like hay instead of delicious terpenes.

Having the right moisture consistency in hemp flowers is also critical for retaining their structural integrity. If you don’t cure your flowers, you risk drying them out too far. When this happens, flowers are easily destroyed during transport through the hemp product supply chain.

The Best Way to Cure Hemp Flowers

The process of curing hemp is aimed at keeping flowers looking and smelling fresh long after harvest. By rotating your flowers between sealed and open containers, you allow chlorophyll to break down, while also ensuring the uniform distribution of water throughout flowers.

For most commercial hemp producers, curing often takes several days. The best way to cure hemp on a commercial scale is to place flowers in air-tight bins or barrels after they are dried, bucked, and trimmed. At the outset, you should seal the container tight for 12 hours, then open the container and “burp” the flowers for another 12 hours. Repeat this process over several days while continuously lessening the time that the container is open for burping.

When your hemp flowers are “springy” to the touch, and stems “crack” when bent with force, your flowers are cured and ready for final packaging. To remove the guesswork, we recommend you track moisture levels throughout the curing process with a hygrometer.

Contact High Grade Hemp Seed

Not only do we provide the best hemp CBD genetics on the market, but we also employ some of the top growers in the industry. Contact us today to learn more about properly drying industrial hemp and CBD hemp harvests.

As seen with most applications for hemp, animal bedding made from hemp is both functional and environmentally friendly. Just as a hemp CBD farm can help sequester carbon from the environment, while also providing valuable wellness products, the benefits of industrial hemp are multi-faceted.

In the best-case scenarios, industrial hemp outperforms the materials which it replaces. This is certainly the case with hemp building materials such as insulation, as well as agricultural products like hemp animal bedding. Importantly, hemp bedding can be effectively used in both commercial and hobbyist applications.

Hemp is a far more environmentally-friendly source for animal bedding than traditional sources such as hay and wood chips. Incredibly, industrial hemp bedding is also better for the health of animals and people. To help give you a clearer picture of the benefits of hemp bedding, let’s walk through the fine points of this amazing product.

What is Hemp Animal Bedding Made From?

Unlike CBD products made from hemp flowers, animal bedding is sourced from the stalks of industrial hemp. The fibers of industrial hemp stalks have been used for thousands of years to make things such as rope. There are various usable parts within the stalk of the hemp plant.

Traditionally, people have utilized the long fibrous material on the outside of the hemp stalk known as “bast.” Hemp bast is extremely strong and is commonly made into durable textiles and papers. Conversely, “hurd” is the smaller material within the inner core of the hemp stalk. Importantly, hemp hurd makes up over 70% of the usable material taken from industrial hemp.

Until recent years, hemp hurd was largely considered a waste byproduct of bast production. However, innovative companies have begun utilizing hurd in new materials such as hempcrete, hemp insulation, and animal bedding.

Environmental Benefits of Hemp Animal Bedding

The environmental benefits of hemp animal bedding are multifaceted. Looking to hemp farming, hemp plants are far quicker to grow than the trees used for wood chips. Even more, hemp crops themselves are better for the environment than most traditional crops.

Wood chips are one of the primary sources of animal bedding. Yet, an acre of trees takes far longer to mature than an acre of hemp plants. In fact, most trees aren’t ready to harvest for 20-80 years, while hemp plants mature in just four months. Needless to say, over a period of time, an acre of hemp will produce far more animal bedding than an acre of trees.

Straw is the other major source of animal bedding used today. Commercial hay farms employ many environmentally degrading practices common with industrial production. Oftentimes, hay farms practice mono-cropping techniques that leach the soil of valuable nutrients. Even more, the use of harmful pesticides is a common practice in commercial hay farming.

Unlike most industrial farms, hemp farms actually rejuvenate the soil in their given locale. Interestingly, hemp plants contribute to a process known as “bioremediation.” They do so as they naturally remove harmful toxins from polluted soil when growing. Hemp plants can also be effectively grown using minimal organic pesticides.

 

What Types of Animals Can You Use Hemp Animal Bedding For?

Hemp bedding can be utilized anywhere that traditional animal bedding is used. Even more, it works great indoors and outdoors. People even use hemp pet bedding inside their homes for animals such as hamsters and guinea pigs.

A few animals that benefit from hemp bedding include:

  • Chickens
  • Horses
  • Cattle
  • Pigs
  • Goats
  • Rabbits
  • Hamsters
  • Guinea pigs

There are a few places where hemp animal bedding is particularly effective. For example, the chicken farming industry is heavily dependent on imported wood chips. Switching to hemp bedding for chickens can help lessen the environmental impacts of tree harvests while also giving American farmers the option to buy locally. Horse owners are already turning to hemp animal bedding because it is significantly better for their animals’ health. As they are extremely expensive to care for, it only makes sense to lessen their exposure to dust with hemp horse bedding.

Is Hemp Animal Bedding Better Than Traditional Materials?

Not only is hemp bedding more environmentally friendly than bedding made from wood and straw — it outperforms both materials, too. And, because it doesn’t produce much dust, industrial hemp bedding is better for your animals than traditional options.

Hemp animal bedding lasts longer than straw or hay bedding — as such, it reduces the amount of animal bedding you need to purchase each year. Similarly, with more durability, it reduces the labor needed to maintain clean living conditions for livestock.

Hemp animal bedding also performs extremely well on the job. Industrial hemp animal bedding is far more absorbent than its traditional counterparts. In comparison, straw can hold about two times its weight, while wood chip bedding can hold around three times its weight.

Hemp bedding is also better for your animals. For example, animal bedding made from wood chips is notoriously dusty. When used inside barns, wood chips can wreak serious havoc on livestock with respiratory issues, such as horses. Especially during winter when horses are kept inside, studies show an increase in respiratory issues with the use of wood chip animal bedding.

Is Hemp Animal Bedding Better for People Too?

Government studies show “for people with respiratory conditions” such as asthma and emphysema, small amounts of dust can make breathing difficult. Similarly, for healthy people, “breathing in high concentrations of dust over many years is thought to reduce lung function in the long term and contribute to disorders like chronic bronchitis.”

By switching to hemp bedding, you can avoid the health risks associated with breathing in excessive wood chip and straw dust. For added benefit, you spare yourself from having to wear a respirator on the job every day. Whether you are protecting family members or employees, health and safety will always remain a top priority.

The applications of the hemp plant are infinite. Whether it be with building products or animal bedding, hemp is more eco-friendly and functional than most traditional materials. At High Grade Hemp Seed, we’re committed to spreading education about this amazing plant and all of its sustainable wonder. If you are interested in learning more about hemp animal bedding, or hemp CBD, please contact us today.

In the few short years since hemp was legalized, farming methods have grown leaps and bounds. As we continue to learn more about hemp cultivation, growers are constantly refining their practices. Within the process of learning, there has been a consistent debate over the best means for starting a hemp crop.

When speaking with hemp farmers, it becomes quickly apparent that people have differing opinions concerning clones and seed starts. Most notably, some growers swear by clones, while others will only grow from seed starts. Each school of thought has its own proponents and critics.

At High Grade Hemp Seed, we want to present you with the full picture of the clone and seed start debate. While we are strong proponents of hemp seed starts, we believe it is valuable to explore each side of the story.

Hemp Seeds, Genetics, and Plant Sexes

It’s best to start this exploration by first introducing hemp seeds, genetics, and plant sexes. This will give us solid context to view the clones vs. seeds debate.

In cultivation circles, the term “genetics” is used to describe the unique traits of a particular hemp strain. These expressions are shown in such defining characteristics such as plant structure, terpene profile, cannabinoid content, flowering periods, and rate of growth. As the legal hemp industry continues to mature, breeders like High Grade Hemp Seed continually produce new genetics.

When a hemp breeder develops a new strain, the seeds contain a specific genetic profile. Importantly, hemp farmers are always searching for those strains that are a good fit for their farming methods. It’s generally agreed that plants grown from seed have the potential to produce better than those grown from other methods.

The final point to consider is that only female hemp plants produce CBD-rich flowers. As such, hemp farmers must be careful to only acquire seeds, seed starts, and clones that are “feminized.” In doing so, they ensure their crops are almost 100% certain to be females.

What are Hemp Seed Starts?

In the plainest of terms, hemp seed starts are baby plants that have recently sprouted. Seed starts are invaluable to farmers because they save on time and materials needed to sprout seeds. Even more, reputable sources such as High Grade Hemp Seed provide feminized seed starts. With these quality strains, you can count on your plants being female.

Besides logistical conveniences, there are several reasons why growers favor seed starts above other methods. A big selling point of seed starts is the fact that they come pathogen-free. Even more, if you get your seed starts from a company like High Grade Hemp Seed, you can trust they are robust and ready to be transplanted to the field.

All things considered, hemp seed starts afford a highly reliable way to start a growing season at a commercial farm.

 

What are Hemp Clones?

Hemp plant clones are exactly what they sound like. They are exact genetic replicas of a single hemp plant. Oftentimes, growers will find genetics they like and keep what is referred to as a “mother plant” of a particular strain. To create clones, you cut branches 5-8 inches in length off of the mother plant. Once cut, the fresh end of the clone is dipped in a “rooting hormone.” The clones are then placed in an environment that promotes vegetative plant growth – where they eventually grow roots.

People enjoy growing hemp from clones as the practice is predictable concerning both genetics and plant sex. Oftentimes, farmers find a hemp strain that does well at their operation, so they keep a mother plant to retain the genetics. Growers also favor clones because the process allows them to operate independently of a seed supplier.

What is Better: Hemp Clones or Hemp Seed Starts?

The process of deciding hemp seeds or clones is complicated. Oftentimes, your preference will boil down to your approach to hemp cultivation.

If you are a hobbyist grower who is only looking to cultivate a few CBD plants in your backyard, cloning could be the way to go. Using the cloning process, you can keep a single mother plant and not worry about getting new genetics with every crop. For personal use, clones provide neat, self-contained production.

When compared to home growers, commercial hemp farmers face entirely new sets of challenges. When you base your livelihood on a hemp crop, you should take every precaution possible to ensure success. Importantly, on a commercial scale, the slightest issues with genetic abnormalities or pathogens can have devastating effects. Reasons such as this make a very strong case for using hemp seed starts.

Most professional growers agree that plants grown from seed are capable of producing more than those started as clones. Even more, hemp plants that are started as seeds produce “tap roots.” Importantly, organic gardening experts tell us “a tap root acts as an anchor for the plant which aids in better support and water and nutrient uptake.” Many professional outdoor growers lean towards seed starts for this very reason. Finally, growing hemp from seed removes any chance of inheriting pests and diseases from a mother plant.

A final point to consider when choosing between seed starts and clones has to do with a phenomenon known as “genetic drift.” This term refers to the tendency for clones to lose their vitality after several rounds of cloning. While the DNA of a clone will always match that of the mother plant, hemp clones can eventually weaken if the mother plant is not properly cared for. Taking clones from a weak mother plant will lead to a subpar crop.

Quality Seed Starts from High Grade Hemp Seed

High Grade Hemp Seed is well aware of how competitive the commercial hemp industry has become. As such, we always advise our clients to take every step they can to ensure bountiful harvests. This process includes starting your hemp farm from seeds or seed starts, as opposed to clones. In the end, hemp plants grown from seeds have a much better chance of enduring the environmental rigors of commercial production.

High Grade Hemp Seed has a wide selection of hemp cultivars that are available as seed starts. Not only are our genetics robust enough to withstand outdoor growth, but they are also feminized within a 99.8% certainty. Strains such as Matterhorn, Berry Blossom, Red Bordeaux, Merlot, and Trophy Wife will get your farm up and running with a competitive advantage. Contact us so we can get your operation started with the best seed starts around.

Hemp is one of the most diverse plants on earth. Not only are CBD flowers great for health and wellness, but industrial hemp has near-endless applications with building materials, plastic composites, biofuels, and bioremediation. Many of these primary uses for industrial hemp are also beneficial for the environment.

Since hemp was nationally legalized in 2018, people have made major strides incorporating the plant into new environmental initiatives. Moreover, there are countless new hemp businesses born every day which are dedicated to promoting this renewable resource. These new advocates fully embrace the benefits of industrial hemp.

What is Industrial Hemp?

Today, the term “hemp” is used to denote any species of cannabis sativa plant that contains less than 0.03% THC. Within the subcategory of hemp, crops generally fall into two categories: CBD-producing plants and industrial hemp plants.

Hemp that is grown for CBD features delicate flowers which are prized for their cannabinoid content and terpene profiles. These crops are carefully grown to produce quality flowers for human consumption. Within this market segment, High Grade Hemp Seed specializes in quality CBD genetics.

Rather than being grown for prized flowers, industrial hemp is grown for its fibrous stalks and nutritious seeds. Manufacturers and scientists have discovered thousands of ways to use the industrial hemp plant, many of them being extremely beneficial for the environment.

What can Industrial Hemp be Used For?

Construction Materials

The applicability of industrial hemp for construction is nothing short of spectacular, especially compared to traditional materials. Not only are hemp-derived building materials highly durable, but they also come from a renewable resource. To this end, hemp stalks mature in just four months, while most trees take 20-80 years before they are ready to harvest.

Lumber is a noteworthy product that is from industrial hemp. Hemp wood was engineered to meet and exceed the construction properties of hardwood trees, such as oak. With that said, hemp lumber can be used anywhere hardwoods are used in construction — such as cabinets, flooring, and home interiors.

Hempcrete is another amazing material that is made from the stalks of industrial hemp. According to Mother Earth News, hempcrete “is created by wet-mixing the chopped woody stem of the hemp plant (hemp shiv) with a lime-based binder to create a material that can be cast into molds.” Builders enjoy hempcrete because it is breathable and features great insulating properties.

Contractors use hempcrete on the interior of buildings, including walls, ceiling, and insulation. While hempcrete is not considered “load-bearing” like regular concrete, it is gaining attention from eco-friendly builders because it comes from a renewable resource.

Hemp Biofuels

Industrial hemp can be made into biofuels, including diesel, ethanol, and methanol. Hemp biofuels have the potential to replace fossil fuels in several important applications, including diesel engines and home furnaces.

Looking at the environmental movement, hemp biofuels offer a clean, renewable alternative to fossil fuels. As most are aware, fossil fuels are limited on planet earth. To illustrate, a study by Stanford University reveals that our oil supplies will likely deplete within 30-50 years. On top of that, the burning of fossil fuels is the leading cause of global warming.

Due to logistical limits on mass cultivation, hemp biofuels cannot replace fossil fuels in their entirety. However, as we continue to search for ways to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, hemp offers a unique green energy source. Hemp biofuels can be implemented to offer incremental relief from fossil fuels as we search for greater solutions.

Paper & Plastic Composites

As seen with construction materials, industrial hemp has a number of eco-friendly applications with paper and plastic. These highly sought-after materials offer some of the most promising applications of industrial hemp to date.

When compared to paper made from trees, industrial hemp shows incredible promise. As previously mentioned with lumber, hemp plants grow in just a fraction of the time it takes to grow trees. Even more impressive is the fact that one acre of hemp produces as much paper as four acres of trees. Manufacturers also report that hemp paper is stronger than paper made from trees. It is also easier to recycle. For both environmental benefits and practical use, hemp paper is set to revolutionize the paper industry.

Composite plastics are yet another amazing application of industrial hemp. You can make several types of plastics from hemp, including cellophane, celluloid, rayon, and many more. Hemp plastics show amazing promise as an eco-friendly replacement for plastics made from fossil fuels. Not only are hemp plastics biodegradable, but they are highly renewable. Due to the novelty of the process, hemp plastics are expensive to produce. However, it is likely that the process will become cheaper as the hemp industry continues to expand worldwide.

Carbon Farming

Carbon farming is another interesting example of industrial hemp uses. Carbon farmers utilize processes that reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. An example of a carbon farming technique is no-till cultivation. By not overturning the ground soil, carbon farmers keep CO2 in the ground, as opposed to releasing it into the atmosphere.

Beyond carbon farming practices, hemp farms also act as “carbon sinks.” In the natural world, carbon sinks are environments that soak in more carbon than they expel. Whether it be a forest preserve or hemp farm, carbon sinks lessen the amount of ambient CO2 in the atmosphere. By removing CO2, carbon sinks help reduce the effects of global warming.

Hemp plants themselves have very interesting characteristics when it comes to carbon sequestration. During photosynthesis, hemp plants pull carbon from the atmosphere, where it permanently bonds to plant fibers. The sequestered carbon remains forever bonded to the plant material unless it is burned or composted.

Bioremediation

Bioremediation is a forward-looking practice where farmers, biologists, and ecologists work together to restore polluted tracts of land. According to the University of Hawaii website, “Bioremediation technologies utilize naturally occurring microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and yeast, to degrade hazardous substances into non-toxic or less toxic substances.”

Hemp plants are powerful catalysts for bioremediation. When planted on polluted land, hemp crops naturally absorb harmful toxins from the soil. Studies show that hemp helps remove petroleum, metals, pesticides, and solvents from the earth. The environmental impacts of bioremediation and hemp are far-reaching, it will be fascinating to see how this practice develops in the future.

Summary: The Benefits of Industrial Hemp

Due to current environmental crises, scientists are constantly searching for solutions to our problems with global warming and resource management. On several fronts, the hemp plant shows amazing promise in curbing such monumental issues. Whether it be by replacing non-renewable resources, or helping clean up the biosphere, the environmental benefits of industrial hemp are plentiful.

The Environmental Benefits of Industrial Hemp (Infographic)

Commercially cultivated hemp is skyrocketing in the U.S., thanks to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed hemp from the list of controlled substances and legalized its growth. Hemp production can be broken down into three distinct categories: grain, fiber, and the compound cannabidiol (CBD) for consumer usage. Regardless of the hemp you are producing, one thing remains true: you need to manage and minimize the economic impact of hemp insect pests on your crop.

Since hemp has not been cultivated broadly in so long, the crop is considered new again, as is the research into what pests and insects may cause economic harm to the crop and hemp pest management. Hemp, while certainly not invincible, is considered resistant, or at least tolerant, to many diseases and pests. Whether you have an existing hemp farm or are considering stepping into this lucrative industry, having tips and ideas for how best to manage hemp insect pests is important.

1. Knowledge is (Hemp Pest Management) Power

While much is still unknown about hemp and how it resists or is affected by pests, some hemp pests have been identified. But not every pest is an economically impacting pest. The first step in the fight for control of hemp insect pests is understanding if it’s a battle worth fighting.

Another reason to closely monitor and understand pests’ impact on hemp plants is the possible effect on the ability to wholesale cannabis grown for its CBD. While it is not yet fully known or understood, there is a query as to whether hemp insect feeding will increase the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

This could create a potential issue, as the THC levels must remain below the set threshold of 0.3 percent in dry-weight CBD, as ruled in the 2018 Farm Bill. Elevated THC because of pests could render the harvest unsellable. And if the THC level is above 0.5 percent, not only is the entire crop subject to being destroyed, but a violation will be issued by the USA. Three violations in the course of five years could bar you from growing commercial hemp for five years.

Don’t let hemp insect pests interfere with your options of crops. And while there is a lot not yet fully known, a few pests have been identified as dangerous to a successful hemp crop. Know your enemy.

The corn earworm, Eurasian hemp borer, hemp mite, cannabis aphid, and Japanese beetle have all been deemed an economic threat, damaging to hemp, that should be mitigated.

2. Understand How Pests Cause Damage

Not all hemp insect pests are created equal— and depending on the hemp production you are growing, you should fully understand the risks each pest presents, as well as the necessary pest management approach to use against them.

The Japanese beetle, for example, readily feeds on the hemp flowers and is a potentially significant defoliator. Other beetles, such as flea beetles, seem to present a minor threat to the plants. As such, Japanese beetles are more costly to hemp raised for CBD or CBG yield as opposed to ones raised for their fiber.

It’s also important to fight the battle within your geographic area. While southern corn rootworms have the largest geographic territory, they are predominantly found east of the Rockies. Japanese beetles tend to stay east of the Mississippi.

Grasshoppers, particularly in eastern Colorado, have damaged hemp crops differently from other defoliators by causing extensive damage to the twigs and weakening the stems.

Different pests can also damage the hemp at various stages of its development. For instance, spider mites attack plants in an indoor/greenhouse environment but tend to dissipate when transplanted to the field. The hemp russet mite, on the other hand, can cause widespread damage, regardless of the plants being cultivated indoors or outdoors.

 

3. Integrated Pest Management (IMP)

Once you have an understanding of the potential pest threats to your crop, based on geography, the kind of hemp you’re growing, and the risks of certain pests’ ability to cause economic harm, you can develop a multi-pronged approach to hemp pest management. Because this is such a new-again industry, integrated pest management for hemp is also new, an ongoing work in progress. But from what we currently know, the following steps will help in your goal of a successful hemp crop.

Prevention: Preventing hemp pests like mites, aphids, borers, and corn earworm is the best and first line of defense. And while you may not be able to prevent all hemp insect pests, there are certainly some tactics you can employ to reduce the likelihood:

Quarantine and inspect new plants before introducing them to the larger crop population.

  • Reduce the desirable habitat of pests by ensuring good drainage.
  • Reduce standing water.
  • Do not plant your hemp field beside a cornfield.
  • Control weeds and overgrown vegetation.

Monitor: Keeping a close eye on your hemp crop and regularly inspecting it will allow you to minimize the impact of pests by voluntarily removing affected plants or treating them quickly to prevent spread.

Natural Predators: Introducing or attracting natural predators such as soldier bugs or lady beetles into your crop can keep hemp pests like aphids in check. Introducing plants like lavender among your hemp plants will attract these “good guys.”

Intervention: If additional help is needed to ward off damaging hemp insect pests, there is good news! The EPA has recently approved ten pesticides for commercial use in cultivating hemp. Nine of these are biopesticides, meaning they are either:

  • Biochemical — Naturally occurring or synthetic versions of naturally occurring substances to control pests.
  • Microbial — Microorganisms that control pests.
  • Plant-incorporated protectants — Pesticides naturally produced by plants, with added genetic material.
  • Biopesticides are derived from natural materials and are considered lower risk than traditional chemical pesticides.

Start Strong, Stay Strong

As the hemp industry continues to grow, more data will be gleaned as to what pests are potentially harmful to which kinds of hemp and in what environments. This ongoing collection of knowledge will lend itself to better hemp pest control and how to maximize hemp profitability.

One of the best things you can do to grow a hearty, robust crop of hemp is to start with a hearty, robust strain of hemp seeds. Want to know more about the right hemp strain for you? Reach out to High Grade Hemp Seed today.

Ask a dozen farmers whether or not hemp requires fertilizer, and you’re likely to get a dozen different answers. Some farmers swear that hemp doesn’t need a drop of fertilizer. Most farmers, however, believe at least some hemp fertilizer is necessary. While certain farmers may think less is more, many successful farmers treat hemp like any other crop, meaning they educate themselves on hemp fertilizer requirements, test their soil, and regularly fertilize their crop.

The Case for Using Hemp Plant Fertilizer

While hemp has a well-deserved reputation as a robust crop that can grow in a variety of soils and climates, that doesn’t mean it does best when planted and left alone. Like most other crops, hemp requires the big NPK, or nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A hemp crop can also benefit from receiving the right combination of micronutrients and even some beneficial fungus.
Farmers who are serious about making the best return on investment from their hemp crop need to give their plants every possible advantage. That includes providing the right nutrients to help every plant grow strong and healthy. For many farmers, profitability can increase dramatically on the margins. Healthy hemp plants that provide a 1% increase in CBD or CBG content could an increased profit of thousands of dollars per acre. That can more than make up for the extra time and cost it takes to build and implement a custom fertilization plan.

Start with a Soil Test

Set your hemp crop up for success by prepping your soil before you begin planting. Hemp has specialized nutritional needs, and if you can make your soil as welcoming as possible to hemp seeds or hemp starts, your plants have a higher chance of thriving.
This starts with a soil test. After all, you can’t fix your soil if you don’t know what the deficiencies are. Work with an agronomist or with your existing fertilization company to take soil samples of your field. Make sure the person or company you’re working with has experience with hemp.

Your soil specialist will be able to interpret your soil results and provide you with a fertilization plan to get your soil ready for planting season.

 

Hemp Fertilizer Components

What are the fertilizer requirements for hemp? While the exact products and ratios will vary based on your soil, goals, and personal preferences, the basic chemical components of hemp plant fertilizer are the same.

Nitrogen

Like many crops, hemp is hungry for nitrogen. In an interview with the website Growing for Market, Zach Menchini, a representative for fertilizing company Concentrates, Inc., suggests adding 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre, increasing to 120 pounds per acre if the soil is particularly nitrogen deficient. Fish emulsion is a popular product farmers use to add nitrogen to their fields.

Phosphorus

Some farmers make the mistake of assuming hemp fields need a large amount of phosphorus to support big, healthy hemp buds, but the truth is that hemp does well with a standard amount of phosphorus. Menchini suggests applying 50 pounds of phosphorus per acre.

Potassium

Hemp is a big consumer of potassium compared with most other crops, so farmers should make sure they add enough to their field. Menchini recommends 80 pounds of potassium per acre. One of the best ways to add potassium to your field is through the use of kelp extract. Kelp extract is relatively expensive, so not every farmer will have the budget for this particular soil amendment. (This is a good reason to create a robust crop plan, including a conservative budget, before planting hemp.)

Calcium

Calcium is another ingredient in industrial hemp fertilizer requirements. Menchini mentions that a common mistake farmers make is to apply their phosphorus at the same time as their calcium. Phosphorus is not a very mobile chemical, and when it comes in contact with calcium, it can bond with the calcium, turning in unhelpful calcium phosphate. This is a good reason to start fertilizing your fields early so you have the time to allow the soil to absorb nutrients in the right order.

Sulfate

Adding a relatively small amount of sulfate to your fields, roughly 20 pounds per acre according to Menchini, can help your hemp thrive.

Boron

Not every hemp field will require boron. Unfortunately, soil tests aren’t very good at measuring boron. It’s a smarter idea to have your testing company perform a leaf analysis of your crop about mid-way through the season to see if you need to add boron.

Fungus

Don’t mistake fungus for mold (which is part of the fungus family and can be a major problem for your hemp crop). In his Growing for Market interview, Menchini mentions that mycorrhizal fungi can act as a symbiotic partner to hemp plants. Inoculating seedlings with mycorrhizal fungi can greatly increase the absorptive abilities of the plants by basically acting as an extended root system.

Lime

Hemp does best in slightly acidic soil. If your soil test shows that your soil is too acidic, one way to push the acidity down (toward a more alkaline soil) is to apply lime. Menchini suggests a maximum limit of two tons of lime per acre.

Compost

Compost can be a great way to build up a strong soil structure and bring more organic life into your soil, but take care in the compost you use. Some compost contains a high amount of salt, while other compost may push your potassium levels too high. Only work with a compost supplier who regularly tests their compost and reviews the potassium and salt levels of your compost before applying it to your field.

Frontloading Hemp Fertilizer vs. Fertigation

Some farmers love using slow-release fertilizers to “frontload” their soil before planting. The idea is that the slow-release fertilizers will consistently provide hemp plants with just the right amount of fertilizer in the right ratio throughout the growing season.

While frontloading offers a significant amount of convenience and can help limit labor needs throughout the growing season, it may not give farmers the best crop possible. Farmers who want to boost their margin as much as possible often choose to continually fertilize their crops throughout the growing season.

One of the most popular new ways to fertilize in this manner is through fertigation. As you may have determined from the name, fertigation is a combination of fertilization and irrigation, and it means adding liquid fertilizer to an irrigation system. Fertigation allows farmers to address nutritional deficiencies at any point in the growing season, and it can also reduce soil erosion and water consumption. One drawback, however, is that fertigation applies the same amount of nutrients to your entire crop. If only certain plants or clusters need a fertilizer boost, it may be smarter to apply nutrients in smaller batches.

Watch Out for Nutrient Burn

While ignoring your hemp fertilizer requirements could lead to a less-than-impressive yield, adding too much fertilizer can also harm your plants. Overfertilizing your hemp can lead to “nutrient burn.” Even the most experienced farmers may face nutrient burn (or “nute burn”), but it’s more common in the fields of new hemp farmers.

According to Grow Link, “Plants don’t have a mechanism to deal with ‘overfeeding,’ and so plants taking in more nutrients than they can handle get sick.” Fortunately, nutrient burn is relatively easy to spot, and it can even be reversed in some cases if recognized and addressed quickly.

Some of the early warning signs of nutrient burn, according to Grow Link include:

  • Bending leaf tips
  • Deep green coloration
  • Slight yellowing or browning at the edges of the leaves

Keep your eyes on the tips of your leaves. If nutrient burn is happening, this is where you’ll see the first signs. As the nutrient burn worsens, you’ll notice more yellowing and browning in the leaves as well as leaves curling and twisting more noticeably.
The best way to address nutrient burn is to cut off all the infected parts of the hemp plant, including any browning or yellowing buds, followed by flushing your soil with heavy irrigation using pH-balanced water.

Create a Hemp Feeding Chart

Unless you plan on frontloading hemp fertilizer, you’ll need to set up a schedule for fertilizing your hemp crop before and during the growing season. Experienced farmers may be able to set up their own feeding charts after receiving their soil tests. New farmers, however, should strongly consider working with an agronomist or reputable fertilization company to develop a personalized feeding chart for their soil, crop, and goals.

Choosing the right hemp fertilization plan can go a long way toward keeping your crop healthy and happy all the way through to harvest. To give yourself another leg up, make sure to choose high-quality hemp seeds and starts. At High Grade, our hemp strains have all been proven through rigorous breeding and testing protocols. We only sell hemp strains that meet our exacting expectations for the best genetics. Contact us today to learn more about our CBD and CBG hemp strains.

Industrial hemp is traditionally more resistant to diseases and pests than many other cash crops; however, hemp can be susceptible to mold. This is especially true for hemp grown for CBD or CBG. Hemp flower tends to absorb moisture, making it a tempting target for mold. If mold does appear in your hemp crop, it can grow quickly, damaging your plants, lowering your yield, or even ruining your harvest. If you plan on growing industrial hemp, then you need to know how to prevent and treat mold on hemp plants.

A Quick Introduction to Mold

Mold may be an enemy to farmers, but it actually serves a useful purpose in the greater ecosystem. This fungus is made up of countless tiny spores that drift through the air and land on surfaces. Mold is everywhere and can be virtually impossible to completely eliminate. (It even started growing aboard the International Space Station!) Mold spores feed by releasing enzymes that break down organic material, such as plants.

In the wild, mold serves as an important decomposer, breaking down dead plants, animals, and waste and returning those particles back to the soil. In order to grow and thrive, mold needs the right type of environment. The key ingredients that mold loves are:

  • Moisture
  • Humidity
  • Stagnant air
  • Darkness

The best hemp mold prevention strategies focus on depriving mold of the ingredients it needs to thrive.

The Most Common Types of Hemp Mold

So far, scientists and researchers have discovered over 100,000 different types of mold, but you don’t need to be on the lookout for all of them. In fact, many types of mold are harmless or can even be helpful. Instead, farmers should focus on just a handful of mold that can damage hemp plants, including:

Gray Mold

Gray mold often attacks plants through openings or wounds in the plant, though it can also infect healthy plants. The calling card of gray mold is brown or gray-brown spots on wet hemp buds. Also, look for yellow discoloration on stems. Gray mold will destroy hemp flowers, making it unhealthy to smoke.

Powdery Mildew

If you notice that your plants look like they were dusted in white flour, you may have a case of powdery mildew. This type of mold loves hot, humid conditions with little airflow. Look for powdery mildew on the foliage of hemp plants. Aside from powder-like spots on the leaves of plants, also look for yellow-to-brown ascomata.

White Mold

White mold can be distinguished by dark brown lesions on the stems of the hemp plant. Stems with lesions break and shred easily, revealing an unappealing cloud of mycelial growth.

Sooty Mold

As its name implies, sooty mold appears like a fine layer of soot scattered across the leaves of your hemp plant. Sooty mold doesn’t directly feed on a hemp plant. Instead, it eats the leavings of common plant insects, like aphids, leafhoppers, and whiteflies. While sooty mold won’t directly harm hemp plants, it can cover the surface of hemp leaves, disrupting photosynthesis and damaging the overall growth and health of the plant.

Fusarium

Perhaps the scariest hemp mold for any farmer to face, fusarium can strike lightning-quick and destroy an entire hemp crop. Fusarium attacks from below, damaging the root systems of a plant. By the time a farmer notices that their hemp plants are beginning to wilt, it’s often too late. The roots of the plants are already destroyed beyond repair. If a full-blown fusarium infection occurs, there is little a farmer can do to save the crop (which is one reason why hemp crop insurance can be so valuable!).

How to Prevent Mold on Hemp

The best way to prevent hemp mold is to remove the elements that help mold thrive. The easiest way to do this is to grow hemp inside of a greenhouse where you have much more control over the growing environment. Greenhouses can be costly, and not every farmer has the budget or infrastructure to grow their hemp crop indoors. If you don’t have a greenhouse, you can still lower your chances of finding moldy hemp in your field one day.

Here are several hemp mold prevention techniques for greenhouse growers and outdoor crops.

Indoor Hemp Mold Prevention Recommendations

  • Install a hygrometer in your greenhouse to monitor the temperature and humidity of your grow room.
  • Set up an efficient exhaust system within your grow house to keep humidity under control.
  • Install fans in the room to blow above the plants and under them. Good airflow can help prevent mold from getting a foothold onto your plants.
  • Add a dehumidifier to your grow house to eliminate humidity. As your plants reach maturity, they will require more water, where their leaves will release into the air, creating more humid conditions inside the grow house.
  • Replace your HVAC filters on a monthly basis.
  • Install high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to catch as many mold spores as possible.
  • Use UV lights in your HVAC system to kill off mold spores.
  • If you have the budget, consider installing antimicrobial flooring.
  • Consider defoliating your plants as they reach maturity. Cutting off some of the bottom leaves will increase airflow to your plants and lower humidity levels. Cutting off bottom buds will also allow your plants to redirect their energy to growing larger top buds.
  • Carefully inspect your plants every day and be on the lookout for the most common types of hemp mold.

Outdoor Hemp Mold Prevention Techniques

  • Plant your hemp in a field with the most direct sunlight possible.
  • Give your seeds or starts some space to promote airflow and make it more difficult for mold to infect multiple plants.
  • If you live in an area that gets cold temperatures and rain in the fall, consider purchasing early finishing varietals or autoflower hemp seeds.
  • If a long and heavy rain is predicted, cover your crop with tarps to help prevent water-soaked buds.
  • Set up fans in your field after a rain to dry your plants and create more airflow.
  • Install a drip irrigation system if you have the budget. Drip irrigation feeds water directly to the root systems of the plant, unlike pivot irrigation, which can result in wet leaves and lead to hemp leaf mold.
  • Inspect your fields each day and be on the lookout for moldy hemp.

What to Do If You Spot Mold on Hemp Plants

Mold can attack your hemp plants at any stage of growth or even after the harvest as you dry and cure your hemp, so you must always be vigilant. If you do spot moldy hemp, first identify the scope of the problem. If you notice just a few spots on the leaf of a single plant, you may be able to defoliate that plant and save it. However, if the plant is already deeply infected, then excise the plant and carefully monitor the plants in close proximity to the infected plant. If your plants are wet, use fans to dry them.

If you notice a larger infestation in your crop, your best option might be to eliminate the infected plants and immediately harvest the rest of your crop. This is especially true if your hemp flower is wet and you don’t have the means to dry them.

Be sure to toss any infected hemp buds. Moldy hemp buds aren’t just unpleasant to smoke, they can endanger the health of smokers, especially someone who is immunocompromised. Don’t take that risk!

Choose Hemp Seeds That Are Resistant to Mold

One of the best ways to prevent moldy hemp is to choose hemp seeds strains that are genetically bred to resist mold and other diseases. At High Grade Hemp Seed, we have spent years developing some of the most robust hemp strains available on the market. Contact us today to learn how our seeds can protect your future hemp harvest from mold.

Thinking of growing hemp on your farm? The popular crop can be highly lucrative, but only if farmers do their homework. Part of the planning process will require you to determine your hemp equipment needs. While buying new hemp farming equipment can represent a significant investment, the right equipment can also save you loads of time and effort and help you harvest a better quality crop.

In this article, we’ll take a look at all the industrial hemp equipment you’ll need during the tilling, planting, irrigation, harvesting, and processing phases of CBD and CBG hemp cultivation.

What Equipment Do You Need to Grow Hemp?

The answer to this question is a little more complicated than it might seem on the surface. Firstly, the legalization of hemp in the United States is still a relatively new situation. While the crop has shown a lot of promise regarding profitability, most farm equipment companies have yet to bring hemp farming equipment to market. That seems to be changing. Kennco, in particular, is actively marketing some of its existing equipment models to hemp farmers, and farmers may have more hemp-specific equipment to choose from in the near future.

Secondly, the best equipment for your farm will depend on what crop you intend to pursue. Hemp is typically grown for fiber, seed, or cannabinoids, like CBD or CBG. The equipment you need to grow and harvest hemp for fiber differs from the equipment you need for CBD or CBG hemp (and again, we’re focusing on what you need for the latter).

Finally, many farmers may be wondering if they can repurpose their current equipment to use on hemp. Happily, the answer is yes in many instances. Farmers who previously grew wheat, corn, tomatoes, or many other cash crops should be able to use or customize some of their existing equipment to assist with their new hemp crop.

Hemp Tilling Equipment

The way you prepare your soil will play a big role in the ultimate success of your hemp crop. Farmers looking to grow hemp for CBD need to give their plants a good amount of space, so that they have enough nutrients and energy to produce potent buds. This means broadcasting seeds is off the menu. Instead, farmers should prepare raised beds and plan for roughly 1,600 plants per acre.

Hemp farmers planting a large number of acres would do well to invest in an industrial raised bed shaper, a piece of equipment that can efficiently produce tight and even beds. Farmers who grow tomatoes are likely to already have an industrial raised bed shaper and can repurpose this equipment for hemp.

The next piece of industrial hemp equipment farmers should consider is a plastic mulch layer, which puts down strips of stretched plastic along farm rows. (It can also remove previous sheets of plastic.) This handy tractor attachment helps farmers conserve water, maintain a more consistent soil temperature, and control for weeds.

 

Hemp Planting Equipment

The equipment you use for planting your hemp will depend on whether you plant seeds directly into the soil or use starts or clones instead. Based on our experience, we usually recommend that our clients begin seeds in a greenhouse or purchase starts instead of planting seeds directly in the field. Seeds are more likely to germinate in a greenhouse and grow a strong taproot, which will give them a better shot of survival in the field.

However, if you choose to directly seed your fields, then a seed drill will make the process quicker and more efficient. Seed drills will place seeds at the correct depth in the soil and cover the seeds, protecting them from weather and hungry critters.

For farmers interested in using starts or clones into the field, the best hemp planting machine is a transplanter. A good transplanter will plant your starts nice and straight and maintain the proper distance between plantings to give your shoots the space they need to grow. The right transplanter will also handle your young plants delicately so as not to cause trauma during the planting.

Hemp Irrigation Equipment

Hemp is known for being a less thirsty plant than cotton and many other cash crops, but it still needs around 30 inches of rainfall during its growing season. That means most farmers will need to install an irrigation system. Fortunately, hemp does well with many of the most popular irrigation systems that farmers already use, including pivot irrigation, micro sprinklers, and drip irrigation.

Many farmers who plan on transitioning to hemp from another crop will already own a pivot irrigation system. This type of irrigation can certainly be used on hemp, though the exact water levels will depend on the farmer’s region and climate.

However, we encourage new farmers with no existing irrigation structure to consider investing in a drip irrigation system. Also known as “micro irrigation,” drip irrigation applies water directly to the root zones of plants using applicators placed on or below the surface of the ground. These applicators are often porous tubing, perforated pipes, or lines of drip tape connected through a PVC main pipe.

Drip irrigation requires far less water than more traditional irrigation methods, which can be helpful to farmers in parts of the country where water is both scarce and expensive. Drip irrigation also ensures that water gets right to the roots of the hemp plant, reducing the chance of weeds or mildew on leaves.

Hemp Harvesting Equipment

Perhaps more than any other stage of the hemp growing process, finding the right hemp harvesting equipment has been a puzzle for many farmers. Hemp is a tough, fibrous plant that is becoming infamous for defeating many traditional harvest machines. It can become wrapped in machines with rotation or ball up under a disc mower.

Additionally, farmers need to decide whether they want to harvest hemp for biomass or harvest for hemp flower before determining which equipment is ideal. Hemp biomass will result in less concentrated CBD or CBG, but it is far easier and less labor-intensive to harvest than hemp flowers. Large-scale hemp farms tend to harvest hemp biomass, while many smaller-scale boutique farms focus on hemp flowers.

Farmers looking to harvest hemp biomass would do best to invest in a CBD-specific hemp harvester. These machines are newly on the market and are designed to carefully cut each hemp plant and place them on a trailer. The gentleness is key, because a traditional harvester or combine can easily damage the delicate flowers of the plant where the majority of the cannabinoids, terpenes, and resins reside.

For smaller-scale farms looking to harvest hemp flowers, there is only one piece of equipment currently available to help with the harvest: human hands. That’s right, hemp bud farmers typically recruit labor to hand-cut buds from the hemp plant in order not to damage or contaminate the flower.

Hemp Processing Equipment

After the hemp biomass is harvested, it must be processed in order to extract the cannabinoids and other chemical compounds clients want. This can be done through three different methods: solvent extraction, CO2 extraction, or steam distillation.

CO2 extraction is the safest and most efficient processing method, but it also requires expensive and specialized equipment. Steam distillation is more cost-effective but much less efficient than CO2 extraction, meaning farmers won’t get the most from their hemp biomass. Solvent extraction is an interesting middle ground, cheaper than CO2 extraction but more efficient than steam extraction. However, it has drawbacks of its own, particularly the risk of leaving behind residual solvents, which can affect the purity of the end product.

Many hemp farmers choose to ship their hemp biomass to a processing facility rather than invest in expensive and complicated equipment. Some larger-scale farmers prefer to rent equipment from processers, while some of the largest farms do buy their own equipment and process their own hemp biomass.

Want to Know More About Farm Equipment Needed to Grow Hemp?

Determining the right equipment needed to farm hemp isn’t a black and white issue. If you are just starting to grow hemp on a couple of acres, you probably don’t need to invest in state-of-the-art equipment. If you are transitioning your fields, you can likely repurpose or retrofit some of your existing equipment to use on your hemp.

A lot comes down to your goals, the size of your hemp acreage, the equipment you already have, and your budget for new equipment. If you still aren’t sure what industrial hemp equipment is right for you, then it’s a good idea to consult with an agronomist with experience in the CBD or CBG hemp space. You may also want to consider working with a farm equipment consultant.

Finally, hemp farming equipment can only take you so far. Make sure you start your hemp operation right with the best quality hemp seeds.

 

Many small-scale farms are family operations, but keeping a hemp farm running with only the efforts of a small group of people may not be possible. Hemp can be a labor-intensive crop, especially when harvest time comes around. To make sure you get your harvest in, it might be time to consider bringing on hemp farm labor.

How do you find the right hemp farmworkers? And as you’re hiring and budgeting, you’ll have to ask yourself, “How much do hemp farmworkers get paid?” Many hemp farmers around the country are facing these questions in real-time. The relatively recent legalization of hemp farming in America means these answers are still developing. In this article, we’ll provide our best guidance and tips on how to find and manage hemp farm labor.

Do You Need Hemp Farm Labor?

A few good farmhands can go a long way in managing and harvesting most crops, especially when equipment can perform most of the work. For example, if you plant hemp for seeds, you can harvest your crop with a combine and very little human labor.

However, harvesting hemp flowers for CBD or CBG is different. Hemp buds are delicate and bruise easily. They can also become contaminated if they are not handled gently. While effective hemp specific harvest equipment is evolving, the best way to harvest hemp flowers currently is by hand. In fact, the 2019 Hemp and CBD Factbook put out by Hemp Industry Daily found that 63% of hemp was harvested by hand in 2019. Harvesting hemp by hand isn’t fast or easy. Workers typically cut the flowers using a sharp instrument, such as a machete, shearer, or tobacco knife.

Farmers are also on a punishing clock. Those who live in more volatile climates may need to harvest their mature hemp flower before an early frost or hurricane season hits. Additionally, THC levels rise quickly as a hemp plant matures, and a delay in harvesting can tip the balance, sending plants over the 0.3% THC threshold, which can ruin an entire crop.

Farmers need to be smart about harvesting their hemp flower quickly and effectively, which could require the use of hemp farm labor. If you’ve never hired hemp farmworkers before, you’ll need to plan carefully to make sure you can find enough workers, train them properly, keep them through the harvest, and meet federal and local employment law.

Tip 1: Start Small

Many farmers underestimate how much labor they’ll need to manage and harvest their hemp crop, which can lead to harvesting delays and financial pain. The best way to prevent this from happening is to start small. Consider planting a single acre of hemp your first year so that you can get an idea of how much time and effort your crop will require. This is also a great opportunity for you to test your soil, learn how to cultivate the crop, and get a sense of how well your seeds perform.

Tip 2: Accurately Estimate Your Hemp Labor Needs

The last thing you want to do is realize you have too few hands in the middle of your harvest. If you followed the first tip and started small during your first year of hemp farming, you should be able to estimate how many people you’ll need to help you harvest a larger field. However, if you plan on jumping in with both feet, then consider that Kentucky hemp farmer Joseph Sisk estimated that he needed one laborer for every five acres in an article for Ag Pro Magazine. Sisk also reported that it took his crew five weeks to harvest his 200 acres of hemp. Make sure you continue to test throughout your harvest and grow your labor force if your THC levels begin to rise.

 

Tip 3: Consider Staggering Your Harvest

Want to get more work from a smaller crew? If you live in a climate with a long grow window, consider staggering your planting so you won’t have to harvest your entire hemp crop at the same time. A staggered harvest means you can hire fewer laborers who can harvest over a longer period of time. Choosing autoflowers or early finishing hemp strains, along with full-term hemp seeds to round out the harvest, will help you spread out the maturation time of your crop.

Tip 4: Determine Your Workforce

Once you know how many laborers you’ll need, it’s time to consider what your workforce will look like. If you’re only planting a few acres, you may be able to hire and manage your own laborers. However, as your acreage, and, therefore, your workforce grows, you may need to implement another level of management. This is when it might be time to consider hiring hemp farm labor management, like labor supervisors and foremen. As your operation continues to grow, you may also wish to bring on a hiring manager, a payroll supervisor, and other “back office” staff.

Tip 5: Find Your Workers

Where will you find your farm laborers? Smaller farms may be able to bring in extended family members for the harvest, wrangle up adult children, or hire their neighbors or local kids who need some extra money. As your operation grows, it may become more difficult to cover your labor needs using your informal network, and you may need to formalize your search.

Larger operations may want to consider using the H-2 visa program to bring foreign workers to their farm. This program is meant to allow U.S. employers to fill needed jobs when they can’t find an adequate amount of U.S. workers. Over the past few decades, the H-2 visa program has become increasingly popular in the agricultural sector, but it isn’t for the faint of heart.

As Hemp Industry Daily explains, tapping into the H-2 visa program is neither easy nor cheap. You’ll face a challenging bureaucratic landscape and be expected to pay contract fees and visa costs while also covering your workers’ transportation, housing, and living needs. Unsurprisingly, many farmers hire specialists, including hemp farm labor contractors, to help them manage this process and to recruit workers from over the border.

Tip 6: Budget for Your Laborers

At the time of this writing, farm labor is scarce, which means farmers across the country are fighting for the remaining labor talent. In an article for Successful Farming, Miranda Drive of CalAgJobs wrote that there are two jobs available in agriculture for every new job seeker and four jobs for every applicant in California.

This means you may need to pay more for your laborers to be competitive and attract enough workers for your harvest. If money is tight, think outside the box. The California Institute for Rural Studies found that, even above fair compensation, farmworkers most appreciate respectful treatment and a slower pace of work. The report also suggested farmers could offer year-round employment, health insurance, and personal loans to entice farmworkers.

Tip 7: Follow Labor Laws

Are your workers employees or independent contractors? Do they qualify for certain federal or state-mandated benefits? Labor laws are complex and differ from state to state. It’s a smart idea to consult with a labor attorney before you begin formally hiring anyone to work on your farm. Even if you think you have a “handshake deal” with your workers, it’s always better to follow the laws and cover yourself rather than be blindsided by a lawsuit in the future. By implementing proper labor procedures now, you can lay a good groundwork as your hemp farm and your labor force grows into the future.

Tip 8: Accept Your Role as a Manager and Leader

You may simply want to work your land and focus on your crops, but running a farm means you have to wear many different hats. The moment you hire hemp farmworkers, you become a manager. Even if you hire labor supervisors, the buck stops with you. Accept your role and plan accordingly. It’s a good idea to outline your workers’ job duties, develop training programs, and institute strong channels of communication. This should go without saying, but treat your workers with respect and listen to their concerns. Compensate them fairly. The better you treat your workers, the more likely they’ll work harder for you and either stick with you long term or return for the next harvest season.

The Time to Think About Hemp Farm Labor Is Now

Hemp farm labor management may not be a role some farmers feel comfortable with, but it’s just one more part of running your farm business. As your hemp farm grows, the earlier you can start planning for your labor needs, the better. If the labor shortage continues, you’ll need to be smart about defining your labor needs, developing your compensation plan, and searching for reliable and productive workers. If you think you might want to try the H-2 visa program, you’ll need plenty of time to begin the paperwork and other preparation.

Managing hemp farm labor isn’t easy, but it can be a key ingredient to your hemp farm’s success. Another key ingredient? High-quality hemp seeds, of course! Take a look at all of our hemp seed strains, including our autoflower and early finishers.