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Hemp Production


Industrial Hemp: The definition of Industrial Hemp is "a plant of the genus Cannabis and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, containing a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of no more than three-tenths of one percent (0.3%) on a dry weight basis.

Growing Conditions: Hemp prefers a mild climate, humid atmosphere, and a rainfall of at least 25-30 inches per year. Good soil moisture is required for seed germination and until the young plants are well established.

Soil: One common myth is that hemp can be grown anywhere. Hemp grows best on a loose, well-aerated loam soil with high fertility and abundant organic matter, with a pH of 6.0 - 7.5.

It appears that industrial hemp seed is quite sensitive to a lack of soil moisture at planting. This trait has not been quantified but could readily contribute to stand failures. Seed should be planted in soils with adequate moisture to encourage rapid germination (Source: Univ. of Kentucky). Cinderite lava sand is recommended to provide aeration and porosity to the soil, increase its water holding capacity, increase the paramagnetism, and make soil nutrients more available to plant roots. 

Natural-organic growing programs improve soil health and the production of plants. Synthetic, toxic fertilizers and glyphosate-based herbicides have been shown to destroy beneficial microbes in the soil, leading to lower soil quality, less water absorption, lower nutrients, and likely higher levels of mold, disease, and fungus due to the imbalance of beneficial bacteria in the soil. 

Does Hemp require a lot of water?

Cotton needs about 50 percent more water per season than hemp.

Planting and Harvest: Planting depth should never exceed one inch (1”), and 0.5 to 0.25 inch is preferred. Industrial hemp seed can be successfully drilled with both conventional tillage and no-till protocols. Seeding dates will depend equally on the harvestable component (fiber, grain, or cannabinoids) and the variety. Fiber crops will be harvested at the onset of reproductive growth and should be planted as early as possible to maximize vegetative growth (biomass production).

How long does it take to grow hemp?

Hemp is typically ready to harvest in four months. Different varieties of hemp may produce a varying quantity seeds or fiber, and they may also differ in oil composition.

Pesticides: The University Big Ag conventional protocols currently state that there are no pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, nematicides, etc.) labeled for use in industrial hemp crops in the U.S.

Natural Organic programs recommend many FIFRA 25(b) exempt pesticides that can be used in growing operations such as PureGro commercial products. It is best practice to receive approval for all inputs and procedures since harvested product requires State approval. 

How much is hemp worth per acre?

There is currently a wide range of reported ROI on hemp production. With estimated production expenses of $286, net returns for hemp for fiber ranged from $116 to $473 per acre. Returns for hemp seed were estimated to range from $60 to $800 per acre. Given costs of production at $196 per acre, net returns ranged from $136 to $604 per acre (McNulty).

One acre of hemp can yield an average of 700 pounds of grain, which in turn can be pressed into about 22 gallons of oil and 530 pounds of meal. The same acre will also produce an average of 5,300 pounds of straw, which can be transformed into approximately 1,300 pounds of fiber. In 2016, another pilot program baled the hemp stalks after combining grain and reported a fiber yield of 1.07 tons per acre.

Another estimate is reporting that 8,000 pounds of hemp seed can be produced per acre. When cold-pressed, the 8,000 pounds of hemp seed yield over 300 gallons of hemp seed oil and a byproduct of 6,000 pounds of high protein hemp flour. Seed oils are both a food and a biodiesel fuel.

Hemp produces four times as much paper as trees per acre, and trees take many years to reach maturity for harvest.

How much oil can you get from an acre of CDB hemp?

CBD or Cannabidiol, is a chemical compound that can be extracted from an industrial hemp plant (primarily from the floral material). CBD compounds are not narcotic or included in the Controlled Substances Act and is different from the THC that is found in marijuana.

CBD hemp should produce about 10 percent CBD content, and should bring about $25 to $35 per pound. With a yield of about one pound per plant and up to 2,500 plants per acre, that's around $60,000 per acre.

University Information and Data

[Editor's Note: The Universities' fertilizer guidance are based upon conventional Big Ag protocol. Natural Organic programs offer other recommendations]

Hemp Production, Purdue University

Hemp Production Budget Models, University of Kentucky

An Introduction to Hemp and Hemp Agronomy, Univ. of Kentucky

Penn State - 2017 Trial Report

Oregon Testing Labs

USDA Overview


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