When hemp was removed from the list of controlled substances with the 2018 Farm Bill, industrial hemp production in the United States became an agricultural commodity. As a result of that, the hemp industry has been blossoming. For the first time in ages, the benefits of this multifaceted and sustainable plant are being rediscovered and many hemp products are being created for the mainstream market.
That said, the interest in hemp growing is on the rise as many can see its lucrative potential. Whether grown for industrial purposes or for the production of CBD oil, hemp has an important place in agriculture.
If you’re interested in cultivating hemp, keep reading. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of hemp and hemp cultivation, and touch upon its growing properties.
What Type of Cannabis Plant Is the Hemp Plant?
The hemp plant belongs to the Cannabis sativa L. variety of the cannabis plant. It’s an annual broadleaf plant and it’s dioecious, meaning that it can be separated into both male plants and female plants. Its taproots grow deeply, and under the right conditions, it can thrive, while its stalks can grow very tall in a short amount of time. Its overall appearance is tall and lanky, but sturdy.
Hemp and marijuana both belong to the Cannabis genus of flowering plants, but they have some notable differences. Appearance-wise, when you compare the hemp plant to the marijuana plant, the difference is very noticeable. While hemp is long and slim, marijuana is short and bulky. But the biggest difference is the ratio of the cannabinoids.
What Cannabinoids Are Found in Hemp?
As hemp is a member of the Cannabis genus, it will inevitably contain the same cannabinoids as the other members. Where hemp differs, though, is in its very high levels of CBD (cannabidiol) and its incredibly low THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content. These properties make hemp unable to produce mind-altering effects as marijuana does. For comparison, while the THC content in marijuana can be between 5-30%, in hemp it’s only 0.3% or less.
What Is Industrial Hemp Used For?
The abundant CBD content in hemp makes it the main source of CBD oil on the market. The CBD is mainly extracted from the flowers and leaves of the plant and then infused into a carrier oil. Hemp seeds are used for making hemp seed oil. They are known to be highly nutritious, with a lot of vitamins and minerals, and have protein levels close to soybeans.
The other plant material, such as stalks and fibers, is used to make building materials. The hemp fibers found in the stalks are used for the production of fiberboard and insulation, as well as commercial products like textiles, paper, twine, rope, clothes, shoes, and bioplastic.
Industrial Hemp Cultivation – How to Grow Hemp
Hemp is not a very demanding plant and it’s very easy to grow. If you have a basic growing experience, it will be a piece of cake for you. And even if you don’t, you’ll quickly learn. The most important thing as a hemp grower is to provide your crops with the right growing conditions, and the plant will thrive.
Hemp is a plant that’s not suited for indoor growing as it needs a lot of room to grow, and this is much harder to achieve indoors. Therefore, hemp is best grown outside. Professional hemp farmers cultivate several acres of hemp, but if you’re a beginner, your hemp field doesn’t need to be that large. It’s vital to start small so as to not become quickly overwhelmed, plus, it’ll be so much easier to get into it.
Best Growing Conditions for the Hemp Crops
Hemp is a very resilient plant that can grow almost anywhere. However, in order for it to truly thrive, it needs a mild to warm climate and humid atmosphere, with soil that is rich in nutrients.
- Industrial hemp loves sunlight, so receiving at least 12 hours of full sunlight daily during its growing season will really help your plants reach their full potential;
- Moisture is also very important, especially during the germination phase, so planting hemp in areas with an annual rainfall of at least 20-30 inches would be ideal. In fact, the plant will continue to absorb water increasingly day after day until its flowering stage, so if there isn’t enough rainfall, additional irrigation will be necessary;
- Finally, as resilient as hemp is, it can still suffer from pests. However, there are no pesticides registered to use on hemp, and many farmers prefer organic hemp farming and natural solutions.
Planting the Hemp Seeds
It’s best to sow the seeds directly in the place where you intend to grow them rather than plant them in a pot and transplant them into the ground. The temperature of the soil for seeding should be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is around early to mid-spring. The right temperature helps with the germination process and ensures your crops will grow quickly.
Plant the seeds close together, but don’t crowd them – about 4 inches of space between them would be enough, and the planting depth should be about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. When it comes to soil, hemp prefers soil that’s more neutral than acidic, so the ideal pH would be 7.0 – 7.5. This will ensure that the hemp will retain moisture and get all the necessary nutrients.
Caring For Your Hemp Crops
As hemp grows very fast, it also requires an abundance of nutrients to aid its growth. For the first 6-8 weeks of its vegetative period, you should make sure that it receives enough nitrogen. Potassium and phosphorus are also important during this stage, but even more so during the seed production and flowering period.
Roughly, you’ll need 80-100 lbs. of nitrogen per acre, 35-50 lbs. phosphate per acre, and 52-70 lbs. potassium per acre.
How Tall Does Industrial Hemp Grow?
Hemp is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet and its height can reach anywhere from 4 to 15 feet (1.2 – 4.5 m) by the end of its growing season with a diameter of the stalks from 1/4 to 3/4 inches.
Harvesting Hemp – When Is It Ready?
Generally, the harvest time of hemp largely depends on the type of hemp as well as what it was grown for. Hemp that has been cultivated for its cannabinoid content (CBD) will be ready for harvest when the cannabinoids have fully developed, or 16 weeks after it has been planted (early October), whereas hemp grown for its fibrous stalks will be ready earlier, about 10-12 weeks after seeding.