Without federal USDA guidelines for hemp production, farmers must rely on experience on the state level to bring in the new crop. The 2019 growing has been a struggle, trying to save cultivars bred for drier climates from their wet spring and humid summer.
In Pennsylvania, 80%-90% of farmers are growing hemp for CBD production. Only a small portion is considering fiber or a dual-purpose crop. A growing concern for farmers is that only 25% of CBD producers have contracts with buyers for their crops, leaving 75% of farmers hanging in the wind. Half of the fiber growers have contracts too.
The state gave 319 permits to farmers who went and planted 8,000 acres of hemp this year. Those acres are spread across 63 out of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Only 40% of farmers opted for clones, the remaining choosing to plant seeds. The germination rate in tests that were conducted were from 70% -96%, but actual rates were lower in the fields. Male seeds were found even in feminized seeds. Transplants for CBD suffered shock and losses, making their 85% – 90% germination rates less appealing.
For harvesting, there were custom harvesters that take the whole plant, but they were only used on large farms. The small farms were stuck, harvesting their crops by hand. Grain growers were able to combine the heads of their crop and then mow the stalks. Fiber growers had access to discbines and sickle bars to mow their crops. Then they were able to use standard baling equipment after retting their crops in the field.