Are you growing your hemp wholesale for the biomass market? If so, you need a plan to control pest outbreaks.
The hemp wholesale market has become intensely competitive since legalization in the 2018 Farm Bill. To survive in CBD hemp farming today means heading off any potential problems that might reduce crop yield and quality. That includes pests.
Despite having a reputation for being “pest-free,” hemp is indeed vulnerable to pest outbreaks and the more years we move into hemp production in the United States, the more pests will become a problem for CBD hemp farmers. Bugs are nothing if not opportunistic. While they might not have attacked hemp plants initially, that was a matter of unfamiliarity with the crop. The more hemp fields are planted, the more pests are learning that they do, indeed, have a hankering for hemp!
Hemp growers are now struggling with increasingly common pests in their hemp crop, including many species of mites, aphids (including root aphids), caterpillars and beetles, to name a few.
But, CBD farmers have limited access to pesticides and products that have been approved for use in CBD hemp crops. Plus, many buyers are wary of any types of pesticides used in hemp. After all, CBD is purchased by many people to relieve medical ailments. Those folks don’t want to be ingesting harmful chemicals with a product they paid good money to make them feel better.
So, what is a farmer looking to grow hemp wholesale to do? At Colorado Breeders Depot, we recommend adopting an integrated pest management (IPM) program. Farmers commonly use IPM plans in many other crops and the same principles work well when growing hemp. An IPM can help you to:
IPM focuses on the long-term prevention of pests.
It does so with a combination of techniques looking at changing farming practices that discourage pest outbreaks, adding biological controls such as predatory bugs and encouraging habitat and soil conditions that attract predatory bug populations, planting pest-resistant hemp cultivars and growing healthy plants less vulnerable to pest predation.
Pesticides are used only as a “last resort.” All efforts are made to stop the problem before a grower has to use chemicals to save a crop. However, IPM plans also recognize that to stay in business, growers may occasionally need to use a pesticide product.
By looking at and identifying all the biological factors that help pests thrive, CBD hemp farmers can make changes in their practices to, hopefully, prevent pests in the first place. This might be as simple as waiting a few weeks to plant out transplants and thereby avoiding the one week in the spring when a particular problem pest is hatching. Or, it could be changing planting techniques and moving to plastic mulch beds which control weeds better, creating less plant material for pests to hide out on and attack from.
It’s hard to be on top of potential pests on your hemp farm if you don’t even know what pests to be watching for!
The first thing an IPM plan does is identifies any potential pest problems in your region. When creating the plan, this will involve some research and effort on the hemp grower’s part.
You will need to get in touch with regional universities studying the hemp crop and, ideally, connect with other local growers and hemp farming consultants. They will have a good idea of what pests to be concerned about for your planting region.
It is essential to know what pests to watch for because when an outbreak occurs, you can react to it quickly. Controlling a small pest population limits the problem and reduces the response you need to take. On the other hand, if you don’t realize a specific bug is a problem early on, it might be too late to salvage your crop even with heavy pesticide application by the time you do.
Another principle of an IPM plan is choosing the least toxic response when an outbreak does need to be controlled.
As discussed, an IPM plan already set up for the CBD hemp farmer will help identify a pest outbreak early, which means fewer pesticides will need to be used. Even spot sprays can control an initial pest outbreak if it is noticed early enough.
But, IPM plans also encourage choosing the least harmful product, preferably one that targets only the specific pest problem and doesn’t kill other insects. Many growers assume that this means “organic” pesticides are less harmful. However, that is not necessarily the case. Pyrethrin, for instance, is a commonly-used natural organic pesticide made from flowers. It is also incredibly toxic and is considered a broad-spectrum pesticide. It kills a wide range of insects, including bees. Don’t assume because a pesticide is organic that it isn’t harmful to biological diversity.
By using the least amount and choosing a pesticide that only targets the problem bug, a grower controls their issue while not degrading biological diversity that will hopefully encourage a healthy “good bug” population that prevents pest outbreaks in the first place.
Many farmers growing other crops have had to learn this lesson the hard way. Highly toxic pesticides sprayed liberally might have discouraged their pest problem for the moment but encouraged an even worse outbreak to follow.
For all the reasons above, implementing an IPM plan will lower the risk of pest damage over time. Being on top of the hemp wholesale market means being on top of all risks and having the tools in place to navigate them.
As you identify better practices, adjust your operation to discourage pest outbreaks, learn what pests to worry about and the least-toxic way to control them, you are ultimately encouraging a healthier farm system that will naturally prevent pest problems.
It might take some time and hemp farmers always must remain vigilant to a new pest or a change in their practices that creates an unforeseen pest outbreak. Still, the whole point of adopting an IPM plan is to reduce the need for pesticides and, ultimately, encourage a healthy, pest-free CBD hemp crop.
Do you need resources and guidance in creating an IPM plan for your hemp farm? Our experienced hemp growers at Colorado Breeders Depot would be happy to help.