With the explosion in farmers seeking to make money farming hemp, the demand for hemp seeds has also grown. Many people looking to grow hemp are new to farming as a whole, with the new industry bringing in many new faces to the world of agriculture. Many of these optimistic upstarts though are getting discouraged. Not being able to get their hands on the seeds they need has turned into a big issue.
Having access to seeds at all is a problem, let alone the high quality and specific seeds that are needed to grow hemp for CBD. Some bright-eyed newcomers are being taken for everything they have and are losing everything in the process. If they can’t get the seeds right, there is little hope of a farmer breaking even, let alone making the record profits they once hoped.
Special seeds are needed
Hemp has many different uses and has been bred for millennia for different purposes. The well-established grain and fiber cultivars are easy to come by. They are plentiful, and easy to plant and cultivate.
Growing industrial hemp for CBD is another story. These plants are new. They don’t have established lines and breeders are still learning how to coax the results they want out of these plants. When it comes to seeds for these specific cultivars, there just aren’t as many of them
Most of the people flocking to grow hemp are looking to grow it to produce CBD. The cannabinoid is believed to have many different benefits, and extracting the substance from these plants is a high dollar market. An acre of CBD hemp can fetch from $40,000 to $60,000, as opposed to other cash crops like corn at $1,000 an acre.
Getting the most CBD out of the plant is very similar to getting the most THC out of its cousin, marijuana. The cannabinoids are mostly concentrated in the flowers of the plants. Growers are looking to have female plants to get the most of these flowers.
To get this they need very specialized seeds. These seeds are feminized to get rid of the useless male plants. Feminized seeds are understandably more expensive, going for as much as a dollar per seed, as opposed to one cent for regular seeds.
The cost is worth it because it only takes a few males to ruin a crop. The flowers won’t fully develop if male plants are present, and seeds will significantly lower the CBD yield of their crop.
Up until recently, we couldn’t even import seeds
As hemp was up until recently illegal, so were the seeds. It was just this year that the government made it legal to import seeds from another country. It wasn’t allowed to bring in seeds from countries that never stopped growing the crop and didn’t suffer from the 70-year ban that hemp did in the U.S.
These seeds also have to come with a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin at a minimum. That means the seeds have to be thoroughly checked to be sure they don’t contain any unwanted diseases or pests.
Thus all of the seeds for this year came from growers of other pilot programs and research. A few of these programs have been growing hemp since the 2014 Farm Bill which allowed states to start very limited pilot programs to research the crop. The businesses that participated in these programs are the ones that hold all the power when it comes to seeds. With dwindling supplies, a booming demand, and no regulations, it’s hard to get your hands on quality seeds.
Farmers are getting ripped off
A report in the Philadelphia Inquirer showed that many farmers got ripped off with buying seeds this year. Many different farmers found male plants in their crops after they planted. Some were desperate enough to go out and pick the male plants by hand, while others plowed the plants under to try again next year.
Many lawsuits were filed over poor seeds. Farmers were charged full prices for seeds that turned out to be half male.
Some of the problem is that the demand for the seeds was so great this year. There wasn’t enough access to clones to ensure they got female plants, and with access to foreign seeds only opened after many had already planted, farmers didn’t have much choice.
Some companies that sold the false seeds were unaware of their actions, while other shady organizations took advantage of poor farmers.