Many kinds of hemp can be grown. The crop has been useful for centuries. There is the debate that hemp may have been the first cultivated crop by humans. Throughout our relationship with this plant we have found many different uses for hemp. The variety of hemp that farmers grow is dependent on the product they hope to produce. There are many varieties of hemp for fiber production, seeds, and oil, and now CBD cultivation is gaining popularity. Each specific type of hemp is a distinct cultivar. They produce their specific characteristics because of the selective breeding they are put through.
About the plants
Hemp generally falls into two categories depending on the flowers of the plants. Monecious hemp has male and female flowers on the same plant. Dioecious hemp separates male plants and female plants. Most varieties of hemp are the second with both male and female plants. Hemp is a wind-pollinated plant, and pollen from the male plants can travel up to ten miles. The ratio of female to male is usually 1:1, but special varieties will change that for different effects.
Hemp can grow 1-2 inches each day when it’s in a rapid growth stage. How big the stalks get is determined by factors like soil type, how fertile the soil is, and other physical and chemical characteristics of the soil. The amount of nitrogen available will affect the stalk length. Planting density and row spacing will determine the final thickness of the stalks.
Hemp is grown for fiber
The cultivars that are grown for fiber very slender. They grow straight and tall, from 10 to 18 feet. The bast fiber and hurd of the plant are what farmers are after. The bast fibers are the fibers that grow on the outside of the stalk. The hurd is the woody core of the hemp plant. These varieties will have from 15%-25% bast fibers. These are the base materials for hemp industries like textiles, construction, and manufacturing.
Once the crop is ready, it will be mowed down and dried in the field until it hits a moisture content of 15%. Then it will be baled like hay and shipped out.
Hemp grown for Seeds
The plants are slender and reach about 5 to 7 feet in height. The grain they produce is an oilseed. It has high nutritional value and large protein content. Different cultivars can be used depending on the desired characteristics. The farmer chooses between small and large seeds, higher and lower oil content, and oil composition.
There are special varieties of dioecious hemp that has a higher percentage of female plants, from 85%-90%. These female predominant varieties are bred to produce higher amounts of grain. The grain is harvested with a regular combine. It’s cleaned and placed in a grain bin then forced air dried to prevent spoilage.
There are some varieties of hemp that can grow both grain and fiber. These varieties mostly from France or Romania. They can be a bit of a challenge to harvest. Some that are closer to the grain varieties can still be harvested with a combine, and then the fiber can be harvested later. Taller varieties might need special equipment.
Hemp for CBD
Hemp that is being cultivated for CBD is the newest variety of hemp. These cultivars are bushy and grow between 6 and 12 feet tall. They can be grown from seeds or clones, but the female plants are desired either way. The end product that is harvested is the flowers like with marijuana. Male plants ruin the harvest. The plants are often cut by hand once they are fully grown. They need to be hung and dried until they meet the processor’s specifications. The CBD from the flowers is then extracted.