If you’re considering planting hemp in the near future, you may have heard about companies that sell feminized hemp seeds. You may have also heard that feminized seeds are more expensive than “regular” seeds. What are feminized seeds, and why do they sell for a higher price? More importantly, are feminized hemp seeds worth the extra cost?
A Quick Lesson on Hemp Seed Biology
To understand why feminized seeds are so valuable to hemp farmers, it helps to know a little bit about hemp plant biology.
Some plants in the natural world are hermaphroditic, meaning they have both male and female attributes and can reproduce by themselves. Hemp plants, on the other hand, are usually either female or male. (Note: During periods of high stress, a hemp plant can turn hermaphroditic.) Male hemp plants create pollen, which they use to pollinate female plants. Female hemp plants produce flowers, and when females are pollinated, their flowers fill with seeds.
While male hemp plants produce trace amounts of CBD and CBG oil, female hemp plants produce much, much more! The largest quantities of CBD and CBG oil develop in the flowers of female hemp plants.
Why Male Hemp Plants Can Destroy Your CBD or CBG Extract Crop
Male hemp plants are useful and valuable in certain situations. For example, at High Grade Hemp Seed, we need male hemp plants to pollinate our females so we can successfully crossbreed our plants and develop new and exciting hemp strains for our customers.
However, if you are farming hemp for CBD or CBG oil, male hemp plants have no place in your fields. In fact, they can significantly lower your crop yield.
When a male pollinates a female hemp plant, she diverts much of her energy to producing seeds—that’s energy she could have used to produce more CBD and CBG-rich resin. Pollinated female plants produce much less CBD and CBG resin. Their flowers are also filled with seeds, meaning farmers will have to spend extra time and money to deseed their flowers before processing.
Even just a few male hemp plants can spread their pollen across a field, pollinating a good portion of your female plants and dramatically lowering your CBD or CBG oil yield. Considering that current research suggests that experienced hemp farmers could earn up to $40,000 of income per acre of hemp, lowering your yield even by just 20% due to pollination could translate into $8,000 of lost profit per acre.
How can you prevent male hemp plants from growing in your field and pollinating your females? You guessed it: feminized hemp seeds.
What Are Feminized Hemp Seeds?
What does the term “feminized seeds” mean? Simply put, feminized seeds grow exclusively into female plants. Feminized seed companies, like High Grade Hemp Seed, use specialized methods to ensure that their seeds are “feminized” and only produce female hemp plants.
It’s important to note that no company can guarantee a feminization rate of 100%; however, certain feminization methods are highly reliable, which means that top seed companies can offer feminization rates of around 99%.
How Do Companies Create Feminized Seeds?
There are several different ways to create feminized hemp seeds with a high level of success. Every company’s method is a little different, and those methods are closely guarded. Two common techniques incorporate stress and silver.
Feminization through Stress
By carefully stressing female plants, usually by interrupting the plant’s light cycle, researchers can prod the plant into producing seeds that copy her own genes. This process virtually guarantees that the seeds will grow into female plants.
Feminization with Silver
Researchers have developed several different formulas that incorporate silver and other elements (such as sodium thiosulfate), which can be applied directly to seeds to trigger a gene change, turning female plants into male plants. Sounds strange, right? But when these newly transformed males pollinate female plants, they produce only female seeds.
As you can see, it takes a lot of work, effort, and expertise to develop feminized hemp seeds, which explains why they are more expensive than an order of regular hemp seeds.
Are Feminized Seeds Worth the Extra Price?
Many farmers believe feminized hemp seeds are well worth the extra upfront cost and are willing to make the investment. Here are some of the main reasons they choose feminized seeds in the USA:
When you choose feminized hemp seeds, you don’t have to worry about a few stray male hemp plants pollinating your crop and undercutting your profits.
When you know you’re planting feminized seeds, you can better estimate your crop yield and forecast profits. That will allow you to more effectively budget for expenses and negotiate with your buyers.
The most valuable benefit of investing in feminized seeds is that you will almost certainly see a higher profit for your investment. Consider that normalized hemp seeds are likely to contain a similar number of males and females. That means that you’ll need to eliminate roughly half of your crop with each planting, cutting your ROI in half. When you use feminized hemp seeds, you know that over 99% of seeds that germinate will grow into a CBD or CBG resin producer for you.
If you choose to plant regular hemp seeds, you’ll have to wait up to six weeks until the plants reach the preflower stage. Only at this time will you be able to accurately sex your plants. You’ll need to take the extra time to assess every plant and cull the males.
Female hemp plants that aren’t pollinated never grow seeds in their flowers, meaning you can cut and cure the entire flower or sell the flowers (or “buds”) directly to your customers. With pollinated females, you would have to deseed the flower, which takes time away from your product hitting the market.
Hemp plants grow rapidly and, when planted in well-designed rows, can create a canopy that protects them from weeds and even some pests. If you have to cull a bunch of male plants from your rows, you’ll destroy the canopy, leaving your remaining plants more vulnerable to invasive weeds and damaging pests.
Should Farmers Consider Buying Regular Hemp Seeds?
Is there any reason for you to consider investing in regular hemp seeds instead of feminized hemp seeds? The primary benefit of purchasing regular hemp seeds is their lower price.
Farmers who are working on a tight budget and who don’t mind doing the extra work of culling the male plants from their fields may want to think about using regular seeds.
However, buying regular hemp seeds comes with big risks, especially for farmers who are new to hemp cultivation.
There is no reliable way to tell the difference between male and female hemp seeds, which means you’ll have to plant your seeds and sex your plants when they reach the preflower stage.
It can be difficult for inexperienced hemp farmers to find the small pollen sacs of male plants or the wispy pistils of female plants. We can’t emphasize enough that if you miss even a few males and they pollinate your females, you’ll see a major reduction in the amount of CBD or CBG oil your females produce.
Make Sure to Choose a Reputable Feminized Seed Company
Many hemp seed companies are eager to offer feminized seeds because they can sell those seeds at a higher price.
However, not every seed company can deliver on its lofty promises of high feminization rates.
If you talk to enough hemp farmers, you’re bound to hear a few horror stories of farmers who paid premium prices for feminized hemp seeds, only to watch many males sprout up in their fields and threaten their crop yield.
Before you invest your hard-earned money in feminized seeds, check out the reputation of your seed company.
You’ll want to work with a company that offers a feminization rate of at least 99%.
Make sure the company has been around for at least a few years and has good customer reviews.
We also strongly encourage you to buy seeds directly from the originator, not a seed resale company.
Not sure where to find the best feminized seeds for hemp?
High Grade Hemp Seed has been in business since 2011, and the only hemp seeds we sell are feminized seeds. We’ve achieved a feminization rate of 99.8%, and offer a variety of different hemp strains, including our new Matterhorn CBG strain designed to produce CBG resin for extraction.
Contact us today to learn more about our feminization rates and to discuss which hemp strain is the best option for your farm.