Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill it is now legal to grow hemp in the USA and the market looks set to flourish with increasing awareness around the many benefits the hemp plant has to offer. One of the biggest benefits is CBD (cannabidiol) which can be extracted from hemp and used in a wide range of health, wellness and beauty products. Hemp, like marijuana, belongs to the Cannabis sativa L. plant species, but the two plants have their own unique biological structure with key differences. The biggest difference is that while both plants contain CBD, marijuana also contains 5-30% of THC (the chemical responsible for the psychoactive effect), while hemp plants contain less than 0.3% THC.
Hemp is grown for a variety of reasons including fiber and seed, but hemp grown for CBD is what this guide will focus on.
Finding High-quality Hemp Seeds
When buying bulk CBD seeds you need to be careful about the quality of the product you’re investing in. It’s possible to buy seeds from Canada and Europe, for example, but these seeds may not be suitable for the climate in your state. You need to be buying genetically stable seeds with legal levels of CBD and THC as well as the purity to ensure a consistent crop with evidence of Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) and a Certificate of Analysis (COA).
What are the Best Conditions for Hemp Plants?
Each plant has its own preferences and optimum conditions for growth and while hemp is known for being relatively easy to grow, there are ways to maximize your yield.
The pH level of the soil, for example, should be around 6-7.5. You can buy soil pH tester kits or, if you have a local agricultural center, take a sample there to be tested. Generally, loamy and well-aerated soil which is fertile and rich in organic matter and the right minerals for CBD will produce the best crop.
Hemp plants need to receive as much sunlight as possible. Ideally, this should be around 12 or more hours a day (although they can get by with 6-7 hours). It’s best to plant the seeds in the middle of Spring when there is no chance of frost.
In terms of water, hemp needs a minimum of 20-30 inches of rainfall over its growth cycle but you can supplement natural rainfall with irrigation. Moisture absorption will continue to increase as the plants grow bigger.
Finally, you need to consider how you’ll protect the hemp from disease and pests. Hemp plants can grow grey mold or develop fungal and bacterial infections, root rot, blight and viruses. Organic hemp is the preferred method for lots of reasons, so the pesticides you use should be on the USDA National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.
Harvesting the Hemp
Hemp for CBD extraction is usually harvested in the middle of fall in October when the flowers are full and ripe. This is typically after 4 months of growth. They can then be dried and cured. Your next step will be to sell your hemp wholesale or to send it away for CBD extraction if you are making your own products.
IMPORTANT: The 2018 Farm Bill made the production of hemp legal, but regulations are not yet in place which means that each state has its own policy. Make sure you research State Industrial Hemp Statutes to ensure you’re operating lawfully.