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.

Industrial hemp is, generally, a robust and forgiving crop. Hemp can grow in a range of different environments and even survive in less-than-ideal soil. However, there is one part of the growing process that farmers must give special attention to: irrigation. Farmers who grow hemp for CBD or CBG must take special care to maximize the growth potential of every plant so that the hemp flowers produce the highest amount of CBD- or CBG-rich resin. That requires proper irrigation.

Not sure how to irrigate a hemp field? As with most aspects of farming, different approaches to irrigation can work. In this article, we’ll briefly review the more common types of hemp farm irrigation and look at the specific factors farmers must consider when they devise their hemp irrigation system.

Hemp Irrigation Needs

What does hemp actually need when it comes to irrigation? Farmers in dryer states will be pleased to know that hemp is not a water-hungry crop like cotton, avocados, or almonds. Rather, hemp prefers moist soil that is well-drained and well-aerated. (Learn more about the best soil to grow hemp.) Farmers need to take care not to under-water or over-water hemp plants, which could trigger a stress response in their crop and affect the quality and quantity of their CBD and CBG yields.

How much should farmers water hemp plants? That depends on a variety of factors, starting with the irrigation method a farmer chooses to use. Let’s look at three of the more common hemp farm irrigation options.

Flood Irrigation

Flood irrigation is one of the oldest methods of irrigation. It can also be a low-cost irrigation option if farmers have access to cheap or free water. The U.S. Geological Survey describes flood irrigation as “where the entire surface of the soil is covered by ponded water.” Farmers typically pump or pour water into their hemp field, where it flows around the crops.

The benefit of flood irrigation is that it’s a simple system to construct. Just apply water. However, the drawbacks are notable: Flood irrigation can easily lead to over-watering hemp plants. Wet leaves can promote disease. Finally, flood irrigation is a water-intensive irrigation method, which can be prohibitive in areas with high-cost water.

Pivot Irrigation

Pivot irrigation may be a good option for farmers who already own a pivot system and may not wish to invest in an entirely new irrigation system. With the pivot method, a sprinkler pipe or boom pulls water from a water source and delivers it through a row of hanging sprinklers. The automated pipe slowly rotates, delivering water across a field. The pipe itself is supported by towers that allow the sprinklers to hang over the crops.

Pivot irrigation uses far less water than flood irrigation, and it can also be automated to save time and effort. However, since pivot irrigation delivers water from above, a portion of the water will land on leaves and foliage and won’t make it to the roots of the plants. This system can also lead to wet foliage, which can promote diseases.

Drip Irrigation

By far the most popular and effective method of hemp irrigation is the drip method, also known as micro-irrigation. The beauty of the drip system is that it delivers water directly to the “root zone” of the hemp plants. This can be done in a variety of ways, but typically involves a tube, tape, or flexible pipe that runs along a row of plants and delivers low-pressure water to the base of the plants through numerous holes. Drip irrigation systems can be placed above or below ground.

Drip irrigation offers a variety of benefits, especially when used in combination with plasticulture. It is a highly water-efficient irrigation system because it puts water right where the plants need it. It also keeps leaves dry, which lowers the risk of disease.

Because drip irrigation provides water precisely, there is less of a chance that weeds taking advantage of the water will grow and become a problem. Finally, the drip system can be controlled manually or automatically, depending on the preference of the farmer. The flexibility and efficiency of drip irrigation make it the favorite among hemp farmers.

What to Consider When Building Your Hemp Irrigation Plan

The question of how to irrigate a hemp field is a difficult one to answer, because advice must be tailored to the irrigation method you choose, as well as your climate and soil type. However, as you begin to design your hemp field irrigation plan, here are some important factors to consider.

Know Your Water Source

You can’t water your hemp plants if you don’t have any water! Step one in building your hemp irrigation plan is to establish a reliable water source. That might mean using the municipal water system, drilling wells on your property, or using a nearby natural body of water.

Determine How Much Water You Need

The amount of water you need will depend on the climate of your region, the growth stage of your hemp plants, and your irrigation system. As mentioned, drip irrigation requires the lowest amount of water, but you’ll still need between two to three gallons of water per plant per day during peak growing season.

Just to get an idea of what that means, an acre of 1,500 hemp plants using 2.5 gallons of water per day during peak season on an eight-hour watering cycle will require 78 gallons of water per minute. Before you plant your first hemp seed, make sure you have adequate water for your crops.

Filter Your Water

Your water needs to be filtered even if it comes from a clean source, like a well or from the municipal water supply. If your water comes from a pond, lake, or canal, a good filtering system will be even more crucial. Make sure you install the correct size filter for your irrigation system and check it regularly for functionality.

Determine the Optimal Pressure for Your Water

The right water pressure will allow you to deliver the perfect amount of water to your hemp field. Water pressure is the force of the water’s flow. Measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), water pressure moves water through your irrigation system and onto your plants. Water pressure that is too low won’t have enough force to move through your irrigation equipment. If the water pressure is too high, it could damage your equipment and your crops.

The ideal water pressure for your crop will depend on your irrigation system. Drip irrigation requires relatively low water pressure. For example, a drip tape water system requires a PSI of 8 to 15. Consult your irrigation manufacturer for the ideal water pressure for your system. It may also be a good idea to hire an irrigation installation professional to ensure that your pump, pipes, valves, and water pressure regulator are installed correctly.

Irrigation and Fertilization

Many farmers choose to deliver liquid fertilizer through their irrigation system, including phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. The amount of fertilizer and what type of fertilizer you need will depend on your irrigation system and the quality of your soil. The best way to determine the fertilization needs of your hemp crop is to test your soil and test your plants.

How to Create a Hemp Irrigation Plan

Irrigation can make or break your hemp crop, so it’s important to get this step right. Devising the right irrigation plan can be tricky, as it requires customized calculations based on the size and scope of your hemp fields, the quality of your soil, your budget, and your climate.

Many farmers, especially farmers planting hemp for the first time, should consider hiring a professional to assist with irrigation planning. One option is to hire an irrigation consultant who can draw a hemp field layout, determine soil and water requirements, and recommend an irrigation system. Another option is to bring on an irrigation technician who can actually install your irrigation system for you based on your irrigation plan.

A final option is to hire an agronomist. These farming professionals can help you with every aspect of preparing your hemp crop, from sourcing the highest quality hemp seeds to making irrigation system recommendations. While an agronomist won’t install your irrigation system for you, they can design an irrigation plan and provide soil and water tests throughout the growing season. Farmers who want overall guidance and professional insight to improve the chances of a successful crop will probably do best with an agronomist. Farmers who simply need to install an irrigation system or repurpose an existing irrigation system for a hemp crop may prefer to hire an irrigation technician.

Got More Hemp Questions?

How to irrigate a hemp field is an important subject for hemp farmers to understand, but it’s only one part of planting, growing, and harvesting a successful hemp crop. If you have more questions about growing hemp, take a look at our 2020 Hemp Growing Guide. If you have questions specifically about hemp seeds for CBD or CBG, contact our friendly representatives.

There are several factors to consider when choosing the best hemp flower strains for your farm. To begin, you should assess whether your target market is in hemp biomass or boutique flowers. After that, we recommend you take a look at the outdoor growing season at your chosen locale. Once you have chosen hemp strains that meet the demands of your cultivation environment, you can focus on important factors such as cannabinoids, THC compliance, and terpene profiles.

Commercial hemp cultivation is a complex process that requires careful consideration of many factors. However, if you pay keen attention to the details and make educated choices, you’re sure to yield a great harvest. For added benefit, appropriate planning when choosing types of hemp flower can protect your operation’s bottom line.

A Quick Look at Hemp Flower vs. Hemp Biomass

You probably know that hemp is an incredibly versatile crop that can be used for thousands of different purposes. Farmers looking to grow hemp will first need to choose what, in particular, they want to harvest. Hemp can be grown for fiber, seeds, or resin (from which CBD or CBG can be extracted).

the best hemp flower strainsGrowing hemp for CBD or CBG can offer a high ROI. Farmers who want to operate large, industrial hemp farms typically choose to harvest hemp biomass. This biomass includes the hemp flower, stalk, and leaves, which are processed and refined together to extract CBD- or CBG-rich resin.

The percentage of CBD or CBG your hemp flowers and/or biomass produces will have a large impact on your ROI, but so will the overall amount of flower your hemp crop produces. If you are looking to sell smokable, boutique-quality hemp flowers, for instance, you want a plant that produces a large number of flowers, as opposed to a plant that is known to have many leaves, which could increase the overall biomass percentage. This is another factor to consider as you compare hemp strains and decide which to grow.

Smaller farmers often choose to harvest hemp flower, which is the bud the hemp plant produces. (Hemp flowers and hemp buds are interchangeable terms.) Hemp flowers can be harvested, cured, and sold as a complete flower. Many customers smoke or vape cured hemp flowers in order to enjoy the relaxing effects of CBD or CBG. Alternatively, processors may purchase dried hemp flowers in order to extract CBD or CBG. Hemp flowers provide a higher percentage of CBD or CBG than hemp biomass.

Types of Hemp Flower & the Growing Season

Different hemp flower strains possess characteristics that may be more or less conducive to your farm and growing season. One of the most important attributes of a hemp strain is its maturation cycle. Farmers who live in areas of the country with a short growing season may do better with hemp plants that mature quickly.

Outdoor hemp farmers in colder regions of the United States must pay particularly close attention to strain selection. That being said, if you plan on cultivating in the Midwest or Northeast, we recommend selecting hemp flower strains that finish well before the autumn freezes arrive. If this is the case, High Grade Hemp Seeds recommends you choose an early finish variety or an autoflower strain. Our Autoflower strain, for example, can be ready for harvest in around 75 days after planting.

Fast-growing hemp strains could also be an ideal choice for farmers with a long growing window and who want to get in a second harvest for the year. In fact, farmers with the benefit of a long growing season can experiment with different types of hemp flower strains. For example, our Red Bordeaux is an ideal choice for farmers interested in staggering their harvests.

Robustness

One of the most important factors in hemp strain selection is the overall robustness of the genetics. If your hemp farm operates without the protection of a greenhouse, your crop must be able to withstand several environmental stressors. Depending on where you are located, most outdoor hemp crops are exposed to excessive heat, heavy rain, strong wind, and cold nights.

Outdoor hemp crops are also under constant attack from bugs and pathogens. Especially during flower season, be sure to choose a hemp strain that is not easily susceptible to botrytis (“bud rot”). Unfortunately, it’s often the plants with the densest flowers that fall victim to this awful mold.

Certain hemp strains are more robust than others and can better withstand weather, bugs, and pathogens. Our Berry Blossom strain, for example, is well known for its toughness. When choosing your hemp flower seeds, take a look at their history and how well they’ve held up for other farmers who have used them.

Which Cannabinoid is Best in Hemp Flowers: CBD or CBG?

The hemp industry continues to evolve with consumer demand. Today, the little-known cannabinoid CBG is beginning to gain the attention of the masses. Historically, growing hemp for CBG has been very difficult, because hemp flowers simply don’t produce high levels of CBG.

CBG starts out in the hemp plant as CBGA (cannabigerolic acid). CBGA can then be broken down into a variety of different chemical compounds, which then break down into CBD and THC. This doesn’t leave much CBGA left over to convert into CBG, which is why normal hemp plants can have as little as 1% CBG. That is changing, as new hemp strains, including our Matterhorn CBG, have been selectively bred to produce high levels of CBG.

When you search for hemp seed strains, first decide if you might want to stick with growing hemp for CBD or experiment with CBG hemp. If you want to give CBG a try, then look for CBG strains. No matter which cannabinoid you want to harvest, make sure you choose hemp flower strains that can deliver a high percentage of either CBD or CBG. The more CBD or CBG your hemp flowers produce, the greater return you’ll get on your crop. Our Matterhorn CBG flower can typically produce 15% CBG.

THC Compliance & Hemp Flower Strains

As important as it is to choose hemp flower strains that can produce high levels of CBD or CBG, it’s equally important to ensure that your hemp buds stay in compliance with the law. The 2018 Farm Bill mandated that all industrial hemp plants must stay below 0.3% THC. Going above this level is known as “going hot.” Research from Cornell University determined that seed genetics play a large role in how quickly THC content increases as a hemp plant reaches maturity. When searching for the best hemp buds, check the strain’s history of THC compliance. If your hemp plants run hot before you can harvest them, you will lose your entire crop! This is why choosing the best genetics is an essential part of a successful hemp growing season.

Hemp Flower Strains & Terpene Profile

One of the biggest distinguishing factors between hemp strains is their terpene profile. A hemp flower’s “terp profile” refers to its aromatic qualities. A hemp plant’s terp profile is a huge selling point, as hemp bud smokers will often seek out their favorite flavors.

Hemp plants produce terpenes, which are found in trichomes (tiny hair-like structures around the buds, stems, and stalks of the hemp plant). Hemp plants use terpenes to ward off enemy insects while inviting helpful pollinators. Scientists have discovered over 100 unique terpenes, and fascinating research suggests that terpenes, along with other, lesser-known cannabinoids, may create an “entourage effect” that enhances the effects of CBD or CBG.

When reviewing different hemp flower strains, pay attention to the terpene profiles. Some hemp flowers, for example, offer fruity or floral notes. Others are famous for heavy flavors of skunk, cheese, and even gasoline. Certain customers absolutely love the biggest, boldest skunky hemp flowers.

Here’s a quick list of all the different terp profiles our hemp strains offer:

  • Berry Blossom: Extremely floral; smothered in exotic overtones of candied raspberries and acai berries.
  • Red Bordeaux: Strong overtones of fresh-cut strawberries and crushed lavender with hints of cherry and gasoline.
  • Merlot: A sharp and robust frame of freshly opened tennis balls and orange peel underscored with rich tones of chocolate and cherries jubilee.
  • Bueno: Aromatic notes of strawberry.
  • Autoflower: Sweet and spicy.
  • Cherry Wine: Complex cherry floral frame with pine skunk undertones.
  • Trophy Wife: Heavy notes of cheese and skunk complemented by cherry undertones.
  • Matterhorn CBG: Effervescent notes of citrus, lemon, and lime.
  • Chardonnay: Strawberry rhubarb jam and candied raspberries.

How Do You Find the Best Hemp Flower?

As you may have already inferred, commercial hemp cultivation is a complex affair that requires the careful consideration of many factors. While the process of strain selection may seem daunting, it is extremely important. By taking the right steps before you plant your crop, you set yourself up for success when harvest time finally arrives.

When selecting the best hemp strains for your farm, you must consider whether you want to grow boutique flowers or biomass. With this information in hand, you should assess the growing season in your locale to choose the best strain for the job. Finally, you can narrow down your strain selection with the all-important considerations of cannabinoids and terpenes.

How can you balance all these different features to find just the right hemp strain that will thrive on your farm and give you the highest ROI? A great option is to start by looking for the best hemp flower company and reaching out to their customer representatives. A knowledgeable representative will learn more about your goals, your budget, and your farm and then be able to make recommendations.

Once you have a hemp strain in mind, the next step is to test it out. It’s a good idea to start small for your first hemp harvest. You may even want to plant just a single acre so you can see how the hemp takes to your soil, what your labor needs are, and what the harvesting process is like. If the plant thrives and gives you a good return, it’s time to plant more next year. (Start by reading our 2021 Hemp Growing Guide.)

Have more questions about the best hemp flower online? Contact us today. We’ve been in the hemp genetics and seed business for almost ten years and have worked with leading farmers and researchers to develop our hemp flower strains. Our strains are widely respected and considered foundational in the hemp industry. Just as importantly, our seeds are also planted throughout the country. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Every farmer knows that soil can make the difference between a bumper crop and a failed harvest. That’s why it’s so important for farmers to take the time to test, prepare, and manage their soil throughout a crop’s growing season. Though hemp has a reputation for growing easily, that doesn’t mean you can ignore your soil. While hemp can grow in many different regions and climates, soil matters. The right soil for hemp can dramatically increase the health of your hemp plants and your yields of CBD or CBG.

Fortunately, farmers with the right know-how and a reliable soil plan can turn most types of soil into great hemp soil. What kind of soil does hemp grow best in? Let’s find out.

The Best Soil for Industrial Hemp

Before we discuss the best soil to grow hemp, it’s important to recognize that farming industrial hemp in the United States is still a relatively new experience. Only since the passage of the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills have farmers in the modern era been allowed to grow hemp. That means we’re all still working to figure out best practices, including the best soil for growing hemp. We encourage you to take our suggestions as just that: suggestions. Use them as a basis and start experimenting with your own soil and crop.

the best soil for industrial hemp

With that out of the way, here’s what we can tell you about the best hemp soil conditions. Hemp loves to grow in loose, well-drained, and loamy soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. It also prefers deep soil that is rich in organic matter.
Don’t have well-aerated, loamy soil? Not a problem. We’ve found that hemp can also grow well in clay soil that is well-drained, and even sandy soil as long as you give extra focus to irrigation and fertilization.

It’s also imperative that your soil doesn’t include heavy metals. Hemp is famous for its “bioaccumulative” properties, meaning that it can absorb many properties from soil, including, according to Hemp Industry Daily, “radioactive elements, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, explosives, and fuel.” This makes hemp an excellent option to clean up abused soil (hemp has even been planted around Chernobyl), but it can be very problematic if your soil contains dangerous substances!
How do you know if your fields have the best soil to grow hemp? More importantly, if your hemp soil conditions are less than ideal, how can you make over your soil to improve your hemp harvest? Fortunately, farmers have a lot of tools and options to improve their soil for hemp.

Test Your Soil

Before you even consider growing your first hemp crop (or really any cash crop), you must perform soil testing for hemp so you can understand what you are working with. A soil test will give you the pH of your soil as well as the nutrient balance of the soil. You’ll see where your soil is deficient and where you may have an overabundance of certain elements that might hurt your crop.
It’s a good idea to test your soil several months before you plan on planting, so you have time to perform your soil prep.

Create an Irrigation and Soil Nutrient Plan

Your soil test will give you the information you need to create an irrigation and nutrient plan for your fields. This plan should start with steps to prepare your field before planting, including addressing any nutrient deficiencies before you add your hemp seeds or starts.

Bringing your soil up to health is only the beginning: Your plan should also include steps to maintain the health of your hemp soil throughout your growing season.

The second part of the plan will feature your irrigation strategy. Remember that hemp plants need well-drained soil. Overwatering hemp plants is a common and disastrous mistake. Our research has found that drip irrigation, pivot irrigation, and floor irrigation can all work well with a hemp crop.

Prepare Your Soil for Hemp

Most farmers need to perform some interventions to make their soil more conducive to hemp. If you are starting a brand-new field, you will likely have to do more work than on a field you’ve been working for many years. Your soil test will guide you on how to prepare your soil. Your goal should be to build the health of your entire field ecosystem.
Here are a few quick suggestions on the specific nutrients in your soil:

Nitrogen

Hemp is all about the nitrogen. If your soil testing for hemp shows that your soil is lacking in nitrogen, don’t be stingy in adding plenty of nitrogen to your soil before you plant. The Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension suggests adding 150 pounds of nitrogen for every 1,500 pounds of yield. Again, test, observe, and experiment to find the right amount for you.

Phosphorus

Farmers growing hemp for CBD or CBG will want to give their crop plenty of potassium to support good flower growth. (The majority of a hemp plant’s resin is produced in the flower of the female plant.) However, be careful not to go overboard with the phosphorus; consider adding 50 to 80 pounds per acre.

Boron

Not all soil will need extra boron, but it’s still important to check your soil test to determine if you are boron deficient. It’s also a good idea to perform a leaf analysis at the midpoint in your growing season to check if your plants might need additional boron.

Fertilizer

Hemp does best in soil that contains lots of nutritious organic matter. That could be compost, fish emulsion, kelp extract, or whatever organic matter you prefer. Just make sure to check the nutrients of your fertilizer to make sure you aren’t adding too much of a specific nutrient to your soil. For example, some compost includes high levels of potassium, and too high of a level can make it harder for your hemp plants to absorb much-needed calcium. Most compost suppliers can provide a nutritional analysis of their compost. This article from Cannabis Business Times provides a suggested fertilizer schedule for hemp.

Invest in Hemp Seeds with Good Genetics

No farmer’s hemp soil will ever be perfect, which is why you can increase your chances of a good harvest by investing in hemp seeds with strong, reliable genetics. Many of today’s top hemp seed strains have been bred to be robust and to withstand challenging weather conditions and imperfect soil conditions. Our Berry Blossom strain, for example, is grown in nearly every state in the US and is prized for its toughness. Our Merlot strain is also noteworthy for its robust constitution. (Learn more about how hemp seed strains can make or break your hemp farm.)

Hire an Agronomist

How do you interpret your soil test, and how do you use it to develop an irrigation and nutrient plan for your fields? You don’t have to! One of the best decisions you can make as you begin planning your future hemp crop is to hire an agronomist. These “crop doctors” can guide you through every step of preparing your field for planting hemp, including developing the best soil for industrial hemp. For example, an agronomist can suggest the right soil test, then use those results to build an irrigation and nutrient plan for you. They can offer specific instructions on what nutrients to add to your soil as well as other interventions to improve the quality of your soil. Agronomists also keep track of the latest and greatest research and can give you the most up-to-date advice on improving your hemp yield.

Growing hemp is complex, and the margins between financial success and failure are thin. Give yourself an extra edge by working with an agronomist. (You can also help yourself by reviewing our Hemp Farming 101 infographic.)

Be Patient

You cannot change your soil overnight even if you use the best-practices suggested in this article or the recommendations of your agronomist. Accept the fact that it can take years to shift the structure and nutrient composition of your fields, especially if you are working with a new field. Your agronomist can provide you with a multi-year strategy that will gradually shift your soil over time. Put in the work, and it will pay off.

Another aspect of being patient is to recognize that even the best soil to grow hemp won’t stay that way if you ignore it. Your soil constantly changes, especially as you rotate your fields and plant different crops. Test your soil regularly and continually revise your soil management strategy based on the results. Your soil is just like your crops—it needs regular care and attention!

Keep Experimenting

Your soil is different in ways big and small from the soil of other hemp farmers, which is why your results will vary from theirs. Only through experience and experimentation will you learn how to create the best hemp soil conditions for your fields. Don’t be afraid to test different levels of nutrients as well as different CBD hemp strains or CBG hemp strains to see how you can get the largest and highest quality yield. Your agronomist can help you evaluate your results and suggest other factors to test in the future.

Have More Hemp Soil Questions?

We could only scratch the surface on the topic of soil for hemp in this article. If you have more questions on soil testing for hemp or which hemp strains do best in which kinds of soil, we’d love to answer them! Contact us today.

The success of your CBD or CBG crop will depend on when and how you harvest your industrial hemp. Small decisions during the hemp harvesting process can have a big impact on your return on investment. The best practices of harvesting hemp are not yet set in stone, so farmers are learning how to harvest hemp through trial and error, and their methods are refined with each harvest season.

So, how do you harvest hemp? In this article, we’ll give you current best practices based on our experience working with industrial hemp farmers for almost a decade. It’s important to note right out of the gate that the best advice on how to harvest industrial hemp will depend on your particular hemp crop. Harvesting methods will differ depending on whether you’re harvesting for seeds, fiber, or oil. In this article, we’ll look specifically at how to harvest a hemp crop for CBD or CBG.

The harvesting process can be broken up into three broad phases:

  • Choosing the right harvest time
  • Harvesting your hemp
  • Drying and curing your hemp

Part 1: Choosing the Right Time to Harvest Your Hemp

As a rule of thumb, full-term hemp requires 100 to 120 days to mature. Early finishers can be ready for harvest in 90 to 100 days, and autoflowers can finish in roughly 75 days. Your results, however, may vary, so monitor your crop closely as it gets close to maturation.

Choosing the right time to harvest your hemp will impact your ROI. If you harvest too early, your plants may not reach their full resin potential. Harvest too late, and your flowers could lose their potency. (Yes, CBD and CBG potency drops quickly after hemp plants reach maturity.)

To hammer home how important good timing is, consider that harvesting 1,000 pounds of hemp biomass with 7% CBD instead of 8% CBD will mean a loss of approximately 10 pounds of CBD oil. With CBD oil selling at roughly $5 per gram, losing just 1% of CBD potency will result in a loss of $20,000 per 1,000 pounds of biomass.

As if finding this balance wasn’t difficult enough, farmers must also keep in mind that THC rates rise quickly as hemp plants reach maturation. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp farmers must keep their hemp crop below a 0.3% THC threshold. If you wait too long to harvest and your crop’s THC potency rises above 0.3%, you’ll have to throw away your entire crop.

How to Decide When to Harvest

For most farmers planting full-term hemp on a traditional schedule, harvest time will land between mid-August and early October. Farmers with a small hemp crop used to be able to use visual cues to determine the ideal time to harvest their crop. Looking closely, farmers could spot a plant’s trichomes (small, mushroom-like glands on hemp flowers). When the trichomes turn from clear to a milky white color, the plants are ready for harvest. Nowadays, even small farmers need to test to stay in compliance with regulations so going on visual clues is not recommended for beginners.

Industrial hemp farmers are better off determining the right harvest time by regularly testing their plants for cannabinoid content, pests, mildew, and contaminants. These tests can be costly, but they will more than make up their price by helping farmers start the harvest when their plants are at peak CBD or CBG potency. Additionally, most states require lab tests before a hemp harvest, so you’ll want to check the laws in your state. Know your state regulations and stay in compliance to ensure your harvest is ready for the market.

Weather May Dictate Your Harvest

Farmers also need to keep an eye on the sky when choosing the right time to harvest their hemp crop. Farmers in the north of the country or at high altitudes must watch for an early cold snap. Hemp is a robust plant, but it can’t survive a hard frost. Additionally, harvest season also coincides with hurricane season, so farmers on the East coast and Gulf coast need to track hurricanes and tropical storms. Heavy rain and wind can damage plants, wash away terpenes, and saturate hemp, making it more difficult to dry and cure.

Part 2: Harvesting Your Hemp

When it comes to how to harvest hemp, the right method will depend on what you intend your end product to be. If you plan on harvesting biomass for CBD or CBG extraction, you can simply use a combine to cut down your hemp. However, if you want to have boutique smokable flowers, there’s only one good option: you’ll need to harvest by hand.

Harvesting hemp by hand keeps the flowers clean and ensures that the resin trichomes in the flower stay intact, which is essential for providing a quality smokable product that looks great on the shelf. CBG trichomes are even more sensitive than CBD trichomes and require as few touch points as possible.

Harvesting hemp by hand is labor-intensive. Workers typically use machetes, shears, or tobacco knives to cut the stalks and bring the hemp to a waiting wagon or trailer. Where to cut the hemp depends on how the farmer intends to dry it. If you plan on screen-drying your hemp, you’ll want to cut smaller sections, so it is easier to lay them on the screens. If you are going to hang dry, you can afford to cut larger sections of the hemp.

Understanding Your Labor Needs

One of the most common mistakes new farmers make is underestimating the labor requirements of the hemp harvesting process. Farmers who don’t bring on enough labor could face dire financial consequences if their harvest falls behind schedule and their mature hemp plants run hot.

Farmers need to hire enough workers to efficiently harvest their hemp. They also need to build the harvesting time into their overall hemp schedule to make sure their plants don’t over-mature while the laborers work. It’s a good idea for workers to start harvesting hemp with the largest and densest flowers. Workers may also want to start by cutting top flowers first, leaving lower flowers to mature a little more before a second pass. The ACS Laboratory suggests that 15 experienced workers can harvest five to six acres of hemp per day.

New Farmers Should Start Small

We strongly recommend that farmers plant only a few acres of hemp for their first season, or even just a single acre. Planting a small amount of acreage will help farmers understand how much labor they need per acre of hemp, so they can scale up appropriately when they plant more next year. Also, planting a single acre of hemp lets farmers experiment with growing techniques and helps them understand how hemp performs on their farm before making a large investment in the crop.

Part 3: Drying and Curing Your Hemp

Some farmers send their hemp biomass directly to a processor after harvesting, but many choose to dry and cure the hemp on their property before this step. Drying the hemp helps lock in the hemp’s quality and potency. If a hemp plant isn’t cured properly, it could grow mold or lower the quality (and overall market value) of the product.

Drying is another part of the hemp harvesting process where farmers use different methods and are actively experimenting to improve their outcomes. All farmers will agree that drying requires a drying facility. This should be a roofed structure with good ventilation. Many farmers use a barn, shed, or warehouse to serve as their drying facility.

While drying methods vary, some farmers have suggested that the ideal environment is a temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity at 60%. Farmers will need a temperature-controlled facility and should strongly consider installing dehumidifiers to get just the right environment for their crops.

Ventilation Is Key

One of the most important factors in the curing process is good ventilation. Farmers should work to achieve a slow, even dry through the use of multiple fans installed in the facility.

How to Dry Hemp

When it comes to drying hemp, methods vary. Some farmers use racks or screens. A common method is to hang hemp plants upside down from wires. If you plan to use this method, we recommend that you break off the branches of your hemp plants and hang them individually, ensuring that all the flowers are dried evenly. One final option is to use a mechanical dryer.

When Is Your Hemp Dry?

How dry does hemp need to be before a farmer can send it off to the processor? Typically, farmers will want to get below 15% moisture (below 12% is even better.)

Hemp biomass can dry quickly, reaching the right level of dryness in 24 to 36 hours. Drying hemp flowers will require more time. Depending on where a farmer lives and the setup of the drying facility, drying flowers can take between three and 10 days.

Curing Your Hemp

Some processors will expect farmers to go beyond drying their hemp and cure the hemp as well, which means taking out even more moisture. This will require several more weeks in the drying facility. Curing adds a lot of time to the drying process, but it also locks in the smell and taste of the smokable flowers.

Final Testing

During the drying and curing process, farmers will also want to test hemp plants one more time. The final test will let farmers know the CBD or CBG content of their crop and ensure the crop is under the THC limit. The test can also show any contamination that could affect the quality of the crop.

What’s Next?

The last step in the curing and drying process will depend on what the processor asks for. Some farmers can send their dried hemp directly to the processors. Others will shuck the hemp, removing the stalk. Still, others will trim the hemp, cutting away the leaves and sending only the flowers. Trimming can be performed by hand or, for larger operations, with the help of a mechanical trimmer.

Have More Questions on How to Harvest Hemp?

Here at High Grade Hemp Seed, we get the question “how do you harvest hemp?” all the time, and the answer really depends on your goals, your budget, your farm, and your personal preferences. It turns out that the question of how to harvest industrial hemp has many different answers and none are necessarily wrong. If you still want to know how to harvest your hemp crop using our high-CBD seeds or our high-CBG strain, contact our representatives today and we would be glad to lend you our expertise.

A new crop is showing up on farms across the country. In August of 2018, U.S. farmers planted 27,424 acres of hemp. Just a year later, that number skyrocketed to 128,320 acres across the country and 2020 numbers are now at a whopping 465,762 acres. What is behind this jaw-dropping increase in hemp farming? The answer is that hemp offers farmers a variety of great benefits. This versatile and sustainable crop can be a great addition to most farms. Here are 10 useful benefits of hemp farming.

1. Hemp Can Grow Almost Anywhere in the United States

Many farmers are limited by the crops that will grow in their planting region. This may mean certain lucrative cash crops are out of reach. Not so with hemp (at least for most farmers). Hemp is a highly robust crop that can grow nearly anywhere, except for very dry deserts or high, mountainous areas where large-scale agriculture doesn’t happen anyway.

Chances are that you can successfully grow industrial hemp at your farm. Note, however, that hemp does grow best in well-drained soil, so you may need to do a little extra work if your soil doesn’t offer ideal drainage.

Want to get started growing hemp? Download our 2021 Hemp Growing Guide

2. Hemp Is an Endlessly Versatile Crop

From paper to biodiesel fuel to wellness-promoting oil, hemp can be turned into an almost endless supply of different products. In fact, there are over 25,000 different uses for hemp, including food, building supplies, textiles, skincare products, oils, and more. Every part of a hemp plant can be used in some way, shape, or fashion.

This versatility gives farmers growing hemp many different options when it comes to making a profit on their hemp crop. They may even be able to harvest different parts of the hemp plant to earn even more from each harvest.

3. Hemp Can Offer a Great ROI

Let’s get down to business: Farmers need to earn a living, and hemp is a great way to do it. Many farmers are making a strong profit by growing hemp for CBD and/or CBG. CBD is extremely popular in the health and wellness industry, and interest in CBG is quickly rising. According to a 2019 article in The Fresh Toast, while farmers typically earn $1,000 per acre of corn, some hemp farmers have reported earning as much as $30,000 to $40,000 per acre growing hemp for CBD. These results are not typical of all hemp farmers, especially new farmers, but it does speak to the earnings potential that CBD and CBG can offer.

Interested in making a greater profit on your hemp crop? Take a look at our 10 tips for increasing hemp farm profits

4. Hemp Is a Highly Robust Crop

Risk comes with the territory for farmers. There’s always the chance that a crop can be damaged by rough weather, pests, or disease. While hemp is not impervious to these harms, it is a highly robust plant. Hemp is known for being resistant to common pests and diseases that can take down other, more vulnerable cash crops. Additionally, because hemp tends to grow so quickly, it usually outpaces weeds that could compete with it for resources.

That doesn’t mean farmers growing hemp can afford to take their hands off the wheel and assume their crop will grow without any problems. Farmers need to always keep an eye on their hemp crop for any signs of disease or pest issues.

5. Autoflower Hemp Can Grow in 75 Days

Farmers in colder climates need to work within a short growing season. On the flip side of the coin, farmers in warmer climates may have the ability to plant more than one harvest in the same field. In both cases, autoflower hemp seeds can give farmers the fast grow time they need. Autoflowers typically mature in 70 to 75 days, which cuts weeks off the time of full-term hemp (which may take 100 to 120 days to mature). Autoflowers are a great option for a short growing season or can give farmers more flexibility in planning their crops and getting the most use out of their field.

Here’s what you need to know about growing autoflower hemp

6. Hemp Nourishes Your Soil

Most cash crops leach nutrients from the soil in order to grow, forcing farmers to continually add chemical fertilizers into their fields. Some farmers are adopting the old tradition of rotating their fields to give their soil time to recover. Hemp can speed up this process by actively revitalizing the soil.

Hemp roots reach deep into the soil to hold it together and prevent erosion. The roots also loosen up the soil, making it more welcoming to the next crop. While a hemp crop is planted, it naturally aerates the soil and adds helpful deposits of carbon dioxide into the soil.

Lastly, hemp creates a lot of healthy biomass after it is finished growing. Farmers who grow hemp for CBD or CBG only need to remove the plant’s leaves and buds, and can turn the rest into biomass that can decompose and feed nutrients back into the soil. All these factors can revitalize soil.

7. Hemp Doesn’t Need Lots of Water

Water isn’t cheap no matter where you live. Farmers in dryer areas of the country, like in the southwest, have to pay even more for water, which may make thirsty crops, like avocados and almonds, expensive crops to grow. While hemp is not technically a low-water crop, it does require less water than many water-hungry crops.

Farmers who want (or need) to keep their water bill low can do so by growing hemp.

8. Hemp Doesn’t Require as Much Pesticide and Herbicide

The EPA has a number of approved pesticides and herbicides that can be applied to hemp crops. Each state also has its own rules and regulations so the state Agriculture Department should be contacted. Despite the EPA’s approval, many, if not most, CBD hemp farmers prefer to maintain the chemical purity of their crop. They prefer to use biologics and Integrated Pest Management to maintain the purity of their product in order to maximize downstream product value.

9. Hemp Is a Great Way to Diversify Your Crop

One of the ways farmers balance out risk is to diversify their crops. Hemp is a great option for farmers who want to lower their risk by adding a new crop to their portfolio. All of the benefits of hemp farming we’ve already pointed out help make a great case for diversifying with hemp.

Hemp grows fast, nourishes the soil, doesn’t require a lot of water or chemicals, and can be turned into lots of different products—and it can offer a great ROI. If you want to switch things up on your farm, it’s time to start thinking about hemp farming.

Here’s how to start a hemp farm

10. Hemp Is Good for the Environment

Farmers understand that combating climate change is synonymous with protecting the future of farming. Hemp can help with that battle. Aside from requiring fewer chemicals and less water than most cash crops, and helping to prevent soil erosion, hemp does one other great thing for the environment: it loves to gobble up carbon dioxide, which it then feeds right into your soil. According to the Hemp Foundation, “Experts say that every ton of hemp can sequester 1.62 tons of CO2.”

Hemp is also actively being used as a sustainable alternative to many different materials. An acre of hemp can produce as much paper as four to 10 acres of trees, and hemp grows to maturity in four months, whereas trees require in 20 years or more to reach maturity. Companies have also started experimenting with hemp plastic and “hempcrete”, a building material that is actively being used in Europe and is starting to appear on U.S. building projects. Researchers have also found that hemp biodiesel is a viable and renewable fuel alternative.

Why Plant Hemp?

You’ve now got 10 reasons to seriously consider hemp farming. Hemp is hardy and robust. You can grow it nearly anywhere, including places with a short growing window or areas of the country with limited water. Hemp can be turned into nearly anything, giving you lots of options to make money by meeting market demand. Achieving a high ROI with hemp is possible, especially if you grow hemp for CBD or CBG. Hemp can also keep your soil healthy, limit your use of pesticides and herbicides, and help you fight climate change.

Want to know even more benefits of hemp growing? Contact High Grade Hemp Seed today. We’d love to tell you about the unique benefits of our CBD hemp strains and our Matterhorn CBG strain.