Are you thinking about starting a hemp farm? Are you unsure of the processes and what you need to have a successful crop? In recent years, hemp has become a valuable ingredient for various products, so it can be a lucrative crop for your farm. Continue reading to learn tips for growing hemp, different farming techniques, how you can use hemp and more.
The Hemp Growing Process
There is a lot of excitement in joining a growing industry with various potential outcomes. However, make sure you do your research before any planting begins. Taking specific measures, like acquiring the right hemp seeds and starting at the premium point of the season, is critical for having a successful crop.
While growing hemp, also known as industrial hemp, may look simple on the surface, you must follow precise processes to ensure the best experience possible. If you’re new to farming, you may go through a bit of trial and error — but that’s perfectly normal. As you get started, you’ll want to take a few steps, including making sure you’re compliant with cannabis laws and understanding your finances.
1. Costs and Goals
Gathering information about finances before you start to plant will help you with proficiency in spending during the startup phase. Preparing to grow hemp can be costly, so minimizing mistakes and miscalculations from the beginning will help lower any potential losses. Having a clear goal in mind will help you know what you need to get started and make it easier to envision a path to reach that goal.
There are different reasons you may be growing your hemp farm — you can grow hemp for cannabidiol (CBD) oil, seeds or fiber, and you can use hemp for various items such as clothing, paper, packaging supplies and more. After you know which direction you will take with your crops, you need to identify a market of customers for your products.
2. Customer Base
Finding the right customers for your product is critical before you get too far into the growing process. Identifying your customers early on will help you know which strains of seeds to purchase for growing. It can be challenging to store hemp for long periods of time, so you’ll want to do your best to find buyers now.
Networking with local farmers and grower associations will help you gather customers for the initial growing period. After your products satisfy that group of customers, you can expand your market and take on more customers and address different needs to widen the types of strains you grow.
3. License and Permits
To have a legal hemp farm, you must acquire a license or permit. Obtaining registration for your hemp farm ensures your state knows your plans to operate as a hemp business. It’s important to get approval before buying equipment, preparing the land and purchasing seeds. Be certain that you’re 100% approved to plant prior to spending any money on your business.
As you learn how to grow hemp, choosing the right seeds is an essential step for increasing your yield and the quality of your crops.
The first step is to identify the type of hemp you wish to grow. If you intend to grow hemp for fiber or grain production, many strains will do well for you. If you plan to grow it for medical or wellness applications, you will need strains with high CBD content.
Additionally, you have the option to choose between feminized clones and traditional seeds.
- Feminized clones: These are cuttings taken from a mother plant, so they provide an exact genetic copy of the original plant. The perks of feminized clones is that they save growing time and ensure female plants. However, they can be expensive and challenging to procure.
- Traditional seeds: If you choose traditional seeds, you will need to consider factors like the purpose of your hemp, your ideal cannabidiol-to-tetrahydrocannabinol (CBD-to-THC) ratio, your ideal cost-to-yield ratio and the environmental conditions on your farm.
The right seeds will be optimized for your growing conditions, help you produce the crops you desire and set your operation up for profitability.
5. Growing Conditions
This plant does well in a variety of soils. However, for best results, you will want to use loose, deep soil rich in organic material. Ensure your soil maintains a pH between 6.0 to 7.5, and use relatively dry soils. Wet soil can limit growth, decrease fiber quality and result in an inconsistent crop that will be challenging to harvest.
Before planting, you must prepare your seedbeds. You will generally want to establish a routine of fall plowing and secondary tillage to remove weeds. Avoid seeding too early — frost can damage the seedlings. Soil temperatures of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit generally allow for quick and dependable germination.
The specifics of seedbed preparation will depend on whether you are growing hemp for fiber and seed or essential oils. The seed for hemp grown for fiber and seeds can undergo direct seeding with standard seed drills. Row spacing can range from 6 inches to 2 feet, depending on the variety. Seeding depth should be about 0.5 inches to 1 inch, or 1.5 inches in dry conditions — deeper seeding will hamper plant emergence, even in very dry soil.
The seeds for hemp grown for essential oils should not undergo direct seeding. Instead, they should germinate in greenhouses and move to fields one to four weeks after the seedlings emerge. The plants should be at least 3 feet apart with 3 feet between rows, though looser spacing of 4 feet between plants and 8 feet between rows is more common.
As an extra note, growing cover crops, like different grasses or legumes, alongside your hemp plants can ensure your soil stays as healthy as possible.
Before you start planting your seeds, you will want to ensure you have a proper irrigation system in place. There are various styles of irrigation that pair well with hemp crops, such as surface drip irrigation or flood irrigation. The type of irrigation you decide to use will contribute to your startup costs, so making sure you choose the right one from the start will help you save money later.
If you grow hemp for essential oils, you may want to irrigate with drip tape to prevent flower damage and mildew. Avoid using overhead sprinklers, which can wash away resins. If you grow hemp for fiber and seed, you will likely want to use sprinkler or flood irrigation, especially with narrow row spacing and high plant density.
For autoflower varieties, harvesting should generally take place 50 to 80 days after seeding. For fiber hemp and essential oil hemp varieties, harvesting should occur 120 to 180 days after seeding. Harvest your hemp as soon as the seeds begin to shatter, or once the plants reach maximum fiber volume and quality or maximum seed maturity.
You will want to harvest your hemp approximately 4 inches (10 centimeters) from the ground. If you harvest by hand, you can use tools like machetes, shears or tobacco knives.
How Can You Use Hemp?
The uses of hemp and all the plants parts go beyond what most plants can do with a single crop. Some of the products that hemp can produce include:
- Animal feed
- Skin care
There are many other ways hemp is valuable, and with such an array of uses, hemp is becoming more sought after for environmentally friendly forms of packaging, clothing and more.
Hemp Farming Rules and Regulations
The main difference between hemp and cannabis is that hemp contains 0.3% or less THC. It’s important to be aware of federal laws and guidelines for hemp production to ensure you’re staying compliant. Though you have a negligence window of 0.5-1%, you should continuously test your hemp plants to ensure they remain at 0.3% or less THC. Otherwise, you may be violating the law.
An excellent time to test your plants is right after germination and every two weeks thereafter. Staying in compliance with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules will help you maintain a legal growing business.
Get Your Equipment From a Trusted Source
PaulB Parts has your business needs in mind. Whether you need parts for your tractor or various forms of sprayer equipment, PaulB Parts has the right products for your new hemp farm — we even sell camera observation systems to give you extra eyes anywhere in your operations.
Contact PaulB Parts today to learn more about how we can help you get your hemp farm off the ground.