If you’re searching for how to start a hemp farm, there’s a lot to understand before planting your first seed. Farmers must first research the hemp market, the legal environment of hemp, and the agricultural demands of this crop before starting a hemp farm.
Hemp farm is one of the most profitable agricultural and textile industries you can start in the United States today. CBD and hemp are now legal under the 2018 Farm Bill (after fulfilling a few associated federal and state regulations). Hemp is now creating a billion-dollar market that is expected to grow exponentially. Whether you’re cultivating industrial hemp for grain, fiber production, seeds, or CBD oils, the process is all the same.
What Is Hemp?
Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant widely cultivated for its strong fiber and CBD oils.
Hemp plants and marijuana plants are both Cannabis sativa, although marijuana typically contains higher levels of THC, the psychoactive component that gives users a “high” feeling. A cannabis plant must have less than 0.3 percent THC to be classified as hemp.
Hemp refers to the varieties containing low levels of THC but high levels of CBD (cannabinol) and is used to produce materials such as rope, food, and fibers.
How To Distinguish Male and Female Hemp Plants?
- If you are planning on purchasing hemp seeds, it is important to note that there are male and female plants. Once a hemp plant reaches six weeks old, it displays pre-flowers that indicate its gender.
- The easiest way to tell male and female hemp plants apart is to check for hair-like pistols that develop in females. Female hemp plants produce slightly more THC than male plants do. Male plants contain staminate or pollen that fertilizes female flowers.
- Male plants are preferred when producing hemp fiber because their stalks become quite hard when they mature. Anyone wanting to harvest hemp blooms should consider growing unfertilized female plants.
- If you plan on buying hemp seeds in bulk, note whether they are male or female during purchase so you can correctly plant them.
Growing Hemp: Growing Conditions
Hemp plants can grow in a wide range of climates and soils; it thrives in temperate regions where the soil is rich with nutrients and has adequate moisture. Before planting hemp, farmers should test soil pH levels and ensure they’re between 6 – 7.
Temperature And Sunlight
Hemp plants thrive in full sunshine and should be grown to receive the optimum amount of light. Hemp grows in as little as six hours of sunlight per day, but full sun is preferable to flourish. Consider eight or more hours of sunshine each day. An even split of 12 hours for light and 12 hours for darkness is optimal for flowering.
Hemp plants should be watered 1-3 times per week if not raining. Deep watering should be given one time per week.
When Should You Plant Hemp Seeds?
Hemp seeds should be planted from April through June, although the weather is more important than the calculated dates.
Follow with a deep watering after planting to assist the germination process. It takes about 5 and 10 days for seeds to sprout. Some hemp seeds take up to two weeks to germinate.
To prevent evaporation, hemp seeds should be watered deeply once a week, early in the morning or evening. The first six weeks are critical for watering, after which hemp becomes mostly drought-tolerant.
If you’re germinating hemp seeds indoors, aim to do so in May. This gives your plants three weeks to grow before they are transplanted outside.
Keep seedlings in a warm (above 70°F) location with 6-8 hours of direct to indirect sunshine and lightly water them each day. The seedlings are ready to transplant outdoors as the stems become more sturdy.
What Is The Best Way To Plant Hemp Seeds?
Seed spacing is typically 4′ or 6′ in hemp fields since the plant will be very tall at full maturity.
This is more efficient for the farmer because it provides rows to walk, room between plants for inspection, and simpler movement at harvest time.
Although this much spacing is not required, it aids in keeping the field tidy and manageable.
How To Care For New Hemp Seedlings?
There are a few things to consider for caring for new hemp seedlings.
Hemp seedlings should be moved under the grow lights after two weeks.
Low-pressure sodium (LPS) lamps are preferable for indoor lighting, but high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps work well if your space is large enough. Ensure you provide enough lighting from above to reach all parts of the hemp plants.
Light meter often comes in handy to achieve the ultimate light requirements.
The majority of factors influencing seedling growth are related to temperature.
Maintaining appropriate seedling temperatures is critical for success. The objective is to maintain temperatures between 68 to 77 deg. Fahrenheit at all times.
A simple heat mat is often used to achieve this.
Maintaining a humidity level of 60–80% is best for growing hemp indoors, but be extra cautious in the summer months when this amount of moisture could cause mold or mildew to sprout.
Doming seeds are the finest and simplest method to maintain proper relative humidity levels.
Several plant humidifiers and relative humidity readers are available in the market, which is super useful.
Fertilizer is an important aspect of hemp nutrition. Supplying nutrients at half or quarter strengths may help maintain a proper balance.
For the early phases of development, you generally want a fertilizer with a ratio of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), which is equal to 3:1:2.
However, timing is crucial when it comes to feeding your hemp seedlings properly.
Hemp seedlings still developing and have little root growth are vulnerable to over-fertilization and over-watered.
How To Transplant Hemp Seedlings?
When will your hemp seedlings be fully grown and ready to transplant? You’ll know it’s time to move your hemp when you notice that your seedlings have rooted to the bottom or side of the cells you’ve kept them in.
At this time, the plants must be transplanted into containers at least 4 inches deep. It’s even better if you have space for pots with depths of 5 to 6 inches.
To assist with root development, you’ll need a high-quality transplant mix.
Here’s a list of some pointers for your first transplant:
- Ensure you provide enough lighting to reach all parts of the hemp plants.
- Maintain seedling temperature at all times with a heat mat or other means.
- When in doubt, start slowly with a ¼ dilution rate when fertilizing your seedlings for the first time.
- Hemp is drought tolerant after six weeks, so don’t be afraid to water less frequently if you grow indoors.
- Transplanting should happen when roots develop through cell bottoms or sides.
- When transplanting, plant hemp seedlings into pots at least 4 inches deep.
What Are The Things To Consider For Growing Flowering Hemp Plants?
When it comes to growing flowering hemp plants, the rules are slightly different than when cultivated for fiber. Mature blooming plants require temperatures between 68-77 deg. Fahrenheit.
Relative humidity should be maintained at 40-50%. You’ll also discover that maintaining good air circulation throughout your cultivating area is critical for promoting successful growth.
If your room is not properly ventilated, your plants risk pest infestations and bacterial infections.
If your growing space is covered or tented, it’s critical to ventilate it properly.
Many growers find that oscillating fans help keep the air moving. Split-day light exposure may be good for cultivating flowering plants. This refers to dividing light and dark into periods of 12 hours each.
A timed grow lamp is very useful for ensuring consistency.
Flowering plants require regular watering, although it’s not always necessary to fully saturate them in water.
How to turn your crops into cash? Download our guide to effectively market your farm business
Farm Equipment For Growing Hemp
- If you’re planning to start your hemp farm, you’ll need to invest in the necessary tools for planting and harvesting.
- 5-gallon buckets come in handy for carrying seeds, water, and other materials.
- A wagon with a flatbed is similarly helpful, carrying harvested hemp plants to the storage area.
- Wheelbarrows are good for transporting heavy loads over rough ground, but make sure they have pneumatic tires to reduce stress on your wrist and back.
- You’ll also need a tractor for large-scale hemp farming, but if you’re small-scale, a four-wheeler works well.
- Hoes are useful for weeding after the plant is mature, while shears are useful for harvesting.
The head of the hemp plant is deemed to have completed maturation approximately 90 to 100 days after planting.
As the deadline nears, you’ll notice seed heads developing from the bottom and working their way upward to maturity.
After the formation of seed bracts is complete, they expose the seeds within them, allowing you to dry them naturally. The plant is now ready for harvest, approximately 100 to 120 days after planting the seeds (around September or October).
Harvesting is a straightforward process of removing the lowest seedpod from just below the stalk using clean cuts. Shears, snips, or scissors are the best tool to use.
Harvesting Hemp Seeds
It would help if you planned to harvest seeds to understand that this is a challenging operation.
Many first-time hemp harvesters are unaware that hemp seed on neighboring plants develops at varying and irregular rates. You may even notice seeds on the same plant maturing at different speeds. The goal of seed harvesting is to minimize seed loss as much as possible.
The process of hand-harvesting is also quite delicate. Hemp must be gathered and then cleaned.
All leaves, stalks, and immature seeds must be removed to reveal only usable, mature hemp seeds. It’s also vital to have a cool, dry location where you can safely store your hemp seeds until the next production phase.
Harvesting Hemp Fiber
Hemp fiber is ready to be harvested once the plant has finished pollen production.
The most obvious indication is when the plant begins to form its first seeds.
It’s critical to act right away because letting the fiber mature any further might render it too rough for commercial use. On the other hand, Male plants can be used to produce coarser, denser items when they are intentionally harvested for their fiber.
After pollination is completed, the heavier fiber obtained from male hemp plants quickly deteriorates. It’s important to remember that stems should not be chopped or broken during harvesting.
The most attractive fibers are those that are tall and unbroken.
Hemp is best dried as soon as possible before the quality of the hemp degrades, spoils, or it may sometimes develop mold when the moisture is too high.
The most natural way to accomplish this is to use a leaf blower to force air underneath freshly harvested hemp while still fresh from the field.
While your hemp is drying, keeping it in a dry, well-vent space is good.
Storage And Processing
Place the container or jar in an area that is cool, dark, dry, and free of direct heat, moisture, and light. After a week, remove the lids and give the containers a few minutes to restore oxygen levels.
Also, check for mold; mold has probably grown inside the jars if you detect an ammonia odor, making them unusable.
How To Grow Hemp Indoors?
Hemp plants require a precise and controlled environment that accounts for hemp plants’ air, light, and soil demands.
To grow hemp indoors, you’ll need a suitable growing area. If the room is too dark, plants won’t produce enough photosynthetic components for growth.
Growers that understand the ideal indoor growing environment can produce multiple harvests within a year.
When cultivating hemp indoors, you’ll need to consider the following things:
Selecting a hemp growing method
There are two choices: either grow from seed or clone. If you clone, it is essential to have a female flowering plant capable of transitioning into the flowering stage.
This is done to retain the quantity of THC and CBD produced in the clones, genetic duplicates of the mother plant. So as long as the mother plant is of good quality, it persists in its clones.
Light And Temperature
Hemp seedlings are delicate, so it’s essential to keep temperature variations minimal during the first three weeks of their growth period.
It’s also important that the plants receive constant light exposure throughout this time.
It is best to provide 12 hours of complete darkness per day and 12 hours of daylight.
It’s also important to use artificial plant grow lights, such as growing lamps indoors, for optimal growth.
Download our complete guide to choose the best grow lights for indoor plants
Ventilation (Air Flow)
To assist plants in thriving without becoming susceptible to pests, fungus, or other dangers, you’ll need a well-ventilated grow tent or an alternative growing enclosure.
The plants need an exchange of fresh air to rid themselves of carbon dioxide and heat.
Using an oscillating fan to move air between the inside and outside is often beneficial. You may also regulate oxygen and humidity levels by utilizing natural air.
Soil And Nutrients
It is recommended that nutrient-rich soils and fertilizers be used, although some growers utilize hydroponics systems. To help your plants thrive, keep the pH balance between 6 and 7.
A soil texture that allows it to retain and drain water at just the right levels for plant nutrition is essential.
Hemp plants require nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, and other micronutrients generally required by plants.
It’s also critical to ensure that plants have adequate growing areas for optimal root stability.
Hemp plants need to be watered regularly, but it is important to check the soil’s moisture level first.
If the water drains readily, increase the frequency of watering. Misting is typically the better option than “watering” your hemp seedlings.
Disposing Of Harvested Hemp
Hemp plants can grow up to 16 feet tall; therefore, farmers must dispose of the plant with great care if they don’t plan on selling it for another use.
Farmers should cut the plant into two or three-foot sections with a string trimmer and then chop it up with a wood chipper.
Hemp decomposes quickly when returned to the soil, fertilizing other nearby crops.
The harvested hemp bark can compost other plants that grow well in alkaline soils.
What are some benefits of hemp farming?
Hemp farming has many benefits for farmers. It can improve soil quality to grow other crops more efficiently. Farmers can sell hemp products that are natural and also beneficial for the environment.
Hemp and hemp-derived items are used in a variety of products, including:
- Clothing and Textiles
- Construction materials
- Industrial oils and biofuel
- Health supplements
Hemp seeds and hemp oil extracted from compressed hemp seeds are high in protein, fiber, and magnesium. They also contain high omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which may benefit treatments that improve bone density (bone density loss), cure cardiovascular disease, and reduce symptoms of eczema and dermatitis.
Hemp also contains antioxidant chemicals that protect cells from damage and may help to prevent cancer.
Some preliminary data suggest that CBD can assist with or manage the problems such as anxiety and depression, digestive disorders, multiple sclerosis, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, type 1 diabetes, etc.
Legal Considerations For Growing Hemp Plant
Even though the hemp plant contains less than 0.3% psychoactive THC, it is still illegal to cultivate and extract CBD from hemp under Federal law.
To produce hemp lawfully in a US state, you must first contact the city, county, and local zoning authorities and officials regarding any rules, codes, or conveyances that may need to be followed.
To remain compliant, you should also ensure that your hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC.
You’ll need to submit an application for a permit and register as an industrial hemp grower with your state.
Check with your state’s Department of Agriculture to determine whether you must register and obtain a permit before cultivating hemp.
If you reside in a state where hemp farming is legal, you’ll need to prove that your crops have been processed there.
It’s worth noting that transporting hemp or hemp products across state lines may be subject to federal regulation.
What Are Some Things For Growers To Consider For Growing Hemp?
You must know your local laws regarding hemp farming before deciding on a location to grow your hemp.
You’ll also need to know which type of industrial hemp crop you want to grow before planting the seeds or clones. Is it for fiber, oil, or cannabinoids? Cannabis growers should refer to industrial standards when growing industrial crops.
It’s important to know that some fields may only be suitable for fiber or oil crops. Statistically, hemp grown for fiber or oil doesn’t contain high enough cannabinoids to make them viable for medical purposes.
Cannabis growers should always focus on producing the highest quality crop possible. The best way to do this is by cross-breeding different strains and creating and screening for new hybrids with higher cannabinoid levels.
If you’re looking for a profitable and eco-friendly way to start your own business, hemp farming might be the answer. Hemp is an agricultural commodity legalized under The 2018 Farm Bill as long as it’s grown in compliance with state and federal law. Consider some important factors before planting seeds if you want to cultivate industrial hemp for grain production or CBD oils. I hope this article will help you make informed decisions about how best to grow this burgeoning industry!
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