E1011 Labs walks-through the ABCs in growing hemp
What is Hemp?
Hemp, also known as industrial hemp, is a part of the Cannabaceae family of plants, much like marijuana. However, contrary to popular belief, hemp and marijuana are not the same thing. Despite both belonging to the same plant species and both containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), hemp and marijuana are vastly different from each other. The major difference is in the quantity of THC present. To be classified as hemp, the plant must contain less than .3% THC total.
Hemp contains far less THC and far greater cannabidiol (CBD) content than marijuana. This drastically reduces its psychoactive effect but makes it useful for products such as ropes, textiles, shoes, biofuel, paper, and even food.
How to Identify the Hemp Plant?
The hemp plant is an aromatic, stout, and erect herb. Its flowers are greenish-yellow and leaves are palm-shaped and compound. The pollen-producing flowers form many-branched clusters. The seed-producing flowers, however, form elongated spike-like clusters.
A Walk-Through the Hemp Plant Growth throughout History
Hemp is one of the fastest-growing plants and has been cultivated for as long as 50,000 years. This crop first came to Europe back in 1200 BC, and from there onwards, it started growing in popularity throughout the world. It was certainly one of the oldest crops ever to be used as textile fiber, and this is proven by the fact that archeologists have unearthed the remains of hemp cloth from an ancient Mesopotamian village that dates back to 8000 BC.
Chinese have been using this crop for well over 6000 years, and it was a major part of their folk remedies and primordial medication. They used the leaves, seeds, roots, and flowers of the hemp plants to make medicine for convulsion, arthritis, and rheumatism, labor, dysentery, and even insomnia. The Chinese also pioneered the use of hemp for paper back in 150 BC.
During the middle ages, hemp usage was at its peak. The plant was so widely used that Henry VIII of the United Kingdom ordered his farmers to grow hemp on one-fourth of their land or face hefty fines. Until the 1920s, hemp was responsible for fulfilling 80% of the world’s total clothing demand. Can't get enough hemp history? Read our full article here.
Why Do We Feel The Need to Grow Hemp in Current Times?
Hemp is a crop that grows more vigorously than corn yet requires a lesser amount of water, pesticide, fertilizer, and herbicide. Currently, we know of at least 25,000 uses for the plant’s various parts like seeds, stalk, and flowers. Hemp offers a potentially eco-friendly alternative to other similar crops produced on an industrial scale. It can be used as a raw material for livestock feed, biofuel, textiles, and paper. Its fibrous stalk can function as an alternative building material called hempcrete, and its seeds and oil have many culinary and industrial uses.
The growing market for CBD is perhaps one of the most important modern-day uses of hemp. CBD is showing up as an active ingredient in everything from skin-care to wellness supplements, and the industry has a huge need for increased hemp cultivation. In fact, the full-spectrum flower found in E1011’s stelo™ is premium sun-grown hemp.
What are the Ideal Conditions for hemp farming?
Hemp farming generally works well in most parts of the world; however, it can’t be cultivated at high altitudes or in areas with extreme desert-like conditions. These plants grow best in warm conditions where the soil is well-drained and rich in organic content. The ideal time for sowing hemp seeds is between April and July, but it depends more on the conditions than the specific date. These conditions are:
- Soil temperature – It should be >50°F with a sunlight period of at least 6-8 hours every day.
- Proper irrigation - Hemp is a drought-tolerant plant, but the seedlings require proper irrigation.
How Is Hemp Grown and Cultivated?
First off, some basic conditions must be met for hemp harvest, such as:
- The careful selection of hemp seeds - hemp seeds must be suitable for that particular region
- Planting supplies
- Well-drained soil with a pH value of 6-7.5
1. Getting Started
The first thing that must be done before planting any crop is to check the soil where the seeds will be planted – a simple soil test will suffice. When that is done, if everything checks out and the soil contains the favorable amount of minerals, then you should move on to the next step of making a proper plan for soil rotation.
Like any other plant, it is essential to feed the soil. The best way to do that is with a proper soil rotation cycle:
- Year 1: Plant hemp seeds for harvesting.
- Year 2: Plant common buckwheat; it helps in regenerating soil phosphorous.
- Year 3: Plant hemp seeds for harvesting.
- Year 4: Plant alfalfa to regenerate soil nitrogen.
Following this cycle will result in better and more nutritious soil, resulting in stronger and healthier hemp.
2. Sowing Hemp Seeds
Outdoor Plantation: Hemp seeds require a soil temperature of 50°F with a full sun cover of at least 6-8 hours every day and well-drained soil. This should be followed by deep watering to promote germination. Visible weed sprouts can be expected within 8-10 days, however, some seeds can even take up to 2 weeks.
The seeds should be watered at least once a week during a time when the sun isn't on the horizon to prevent evaporation. Proper irrigation is essential in first 6 weeks so that the seedlings become drought-tolerant.
Indoor Plantation: If you plant the seeds indoors, we recommend that it be done at the start of May to give ample time to grow (three weeks or so) before being transported outside. Water the seedlings daily while ensuring the room is kept at around 70°F or above with 6-8 hours of direct to indirect sunlight. When the stem near the base starts to become woody, it’s time for the plant to be transported outside.
The spacing between each seed should be 4’x6’ to allow the plants space to grow as they mature. This excess space can also help you in creating a more orderly and easily manageable field with easy access to inspection. However, hemp plants can also be planted very densely without any issue.
3. How to Harvest Hemp Plants
Hemp is mainly cultivated for its fiber and seeds. As soon as the seeds develop, which is usually in 4-8 weeks, the fiber can be harvested. The durability of the fiber depends on how late the stalk was harvested. The later it is harvested, the better the fiber will be.
For CBD seeds, a little more patience is required as they may take up to 12-16 weeks. You may find that the seeds on the lower side may be harder and the ones on top softer and greener. This means that the seeds are not yet ready to be harvested, so wait until all the seeds have hardened.
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