Growing and Processing Hemp for Cannabinoids
In the part, one series of “How Do You, Process Hemp,”(NOTE TO WHOEVER PUTS THIS UP, HYPERLINK TO PART ONE!) the hemp plant has an amazing, but complicated, history in the United States. We also introduced how to grow and process, hemp for fiber and grain in the first part of this series. We will now discuss growing hemp for cannabinoids, a potentially profitable —but also risky — a proposition for hemp growers.
Why Is Hemp Grown for Cannabinoids?
When hemp was legalized in the 2018 farm bill, it opened up a new federal market for hemp-derived cannabinoids like the very popular CBD; a market predicted to grow 107 percent through 2023. Previously, cannabinoids like CBD and even harder to find cannabinoids like CBG had been an after-thought of the marijuana market.
Remember, all cannabis plants produce many cannabinoids in them, but the only hemp, with less than .3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, the intoxicating cannabinoid, was declared federally legal. Also, because marijuana growers – even in states that had legalized marijuana – had typically been selecting their plants for high THC levels, there was less focus on the other cannabinoids that many people find to bring valuable health benefits without intoxication.
When hemp was legalized, now there was a way to legally grow (and ship across state lines) the cannabis plant for all the other amazing compounds it produces. And hemp breeders quickly started selecting for varietals that produced lots of CBD (and CBG) but were low in THC.
Hemp Grown for Cannabinoids
Hemp grown for cannabinoids is typically grown entirely different from hemp grown for fiber and grain. This applies unless you are growing a tri-crop varietal, like Colorado Breeders Depot’s Boax variety, which has been developed to produce hemp seed, hemp fiber, and a decent amount of cannabinoids. However, most hemp varietals that have been developed since the end of hemp prohibition are grown much differently than fiber hemp. They are raised much more like a marijuana crop.
They are spaced far apart, and the plants are encouraged to get very bushy and produce many flower buds or what cannabis growers call “colas.” Though there is some percentage of cannabinoids in the leaves of hemp, the colas are where the most cannabinoids are concentrated. Now, when it comes to processing your hemp for cannabinoids, you also need to decide, are you growing your hemp for smokable flower or biomass? Because these require different processing techniques.
Growing for Smokable Hemp
Smokable hemp is a hot market for hemp. Many growers are working to grow a premium smokable hemp crop. However, it is also probably the most intensive crop to manage in hemp. Smokable hemp is only valuable if the hemp was grown to the highest standards. This means, starting with varietals that produce high CBD, but low THC. And then, the growth must be intensively managed to prevent potential pollination of the hemp flower buds. Hemp is a naturally dioecious plant, which means it produces both female and male plants. To get grain, you let your plants cross. But, when they do so, that greatly lowers the percentage of cannabinoids those flower buds produce.
So, growers for hemp flower work hard to prevent that by planting feminized seeds or clones that help to restrict the number of male plants in their fields. Even when they do that, they still rogue their fields aggressively, removing any male plants. When it comes time to harvest, the flower buds must be in premium condition, with no mold or disease. They typically have to be hand-harvested and then very carefully dried and trimmed for the best quality product. Smokable hemp that isn’t grown up to high standards is not worth much and should instead be used as biomass.
Many premium smokable hemp growers are also moving their operations to indoor-only, where weather conditions can be controlled entirely. Growing high-quality smokable hemp outdoors has been accomplished, but only a few regions have the stable weather conditions required — in particular, a reliable late summer early fall season when harvest happens — promoting an excellent crop of outdoor-grown smokable hemp.
Growing for Hemp Biomass
Growing hemp for biomass, or essential oil production, is much more suitable for many places in the U.S. Like smokable hemp, growers still plant each seedling with enough space to get big and bushy. Attention to detail is still required, including limiting pollination of female plants and limiting any mold, mildew, and disease outbreaks. However, because hemp biomass is eventually slated for processing in a lab, it does not have to be as 100 percent perfect as it does with smokable hemp flower.
Typically, hemp grown for biomass will be harvested at peak flower production. Flowers, leaves, and stems will all be harvested for eventual processing. At that point, there are many different methods of preparing the biomass to be stored until it can be processed. Many growers install dryers or lease temporary hemp dryers to make sure their biomass isn’t too wet before being stored. If it is too wet, it is a danger of molding and even composting to the point of being unusable, so your hemp biomass must be adequately dried. At that point, most growers store their hemp biomass in large tote bags, typically in temperature and humidity-controlled conditions, until it can be sent to a laboratory and processed.
Ideally, your hemp biomass goes for processing as quickly as possible, because the percentage of cannabinoids in stored biomass will drop significantly over time. Some hemp growers install their own processing facilities and “control the vertical” of their hemp crop from seed to final product. However, that is an expensive process with many rules, regulations, and complications. Instead, many hemp growers work with buyers, like Colorado Breeders Depot, and arrange contracted grows or partnerships that ensure they have a buyer for your biomass at the end of their growing season. At Colorado Breeders Depot, we partner with a state-of-the-art processing lab to work with growers to buy their hemp biomass. Or they can utilize our partnership lab directly.
No matter how you are looking to grow hemp, you must have a plan and work with a partner that can help you select your seed to the end buyer. The hemp industry holds tons of potential but is still emerging and risky. At Colorado Breeders Depot, we understand the possibilities and the risks, and it is our mission to help farmers find success with hemp. We win when you win! Since the beginning of the hemp industry, we have been committed to breeding only the most exceptional hemp varietals and providing professional growing advice to hemp farmers. We have some of the most experienced hemp farmers and breeders on our team and our happy to share our knowledge.
Please feel free to shoot us any questions or requests at our website — www.coloradobreedersdepot. Or give us a ring (719) 275-7770. We love talking hemp, all its amazing benefits, and helping guide you in growing a profitable hemp crop.
Please read the First Part of Hemp Growing: https://coloradobreedersdepot.com/how-do-you-process-hemp-part-one/