What is Industrial Hemp and How is it Grown?
Hemp has been used by humans throughout thousands of years, though it’s been prohibited in the modern world. Growing, possession, and use of the plant was outlawed in 1937 in the United States, with the rest of the civilized world following suit during the years that followed. There are still countries scattered throughout Asia and Europe that continued to cultivate industrial hemp, and that’s the plant that we’re most familiar with even today.
Now, though, the United States is growing their own hemp in droves thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. You, yourself, may even be considering hemp production. Even as a consumer of CBD or other hemp-derived products, it’s always good to know how, where, and why it’s sourced.
The CBD industry alone is ripe for the taking, and businesses that get in on the ground floor are guaranteed the most success. Staying knowledgeable about the history of hemp and how the plant is grown is integral to that success.
Today, we’re going to dive into everything you need to know about growing hemp, whether you want to do so for CBD products, fiber materials, or even hemp seed production. Let’s dive into our comprehensive guide on what the 2018 Farm Bill did for the hemp industry, the different types of hemp you can grow, tips on how to grow them, and much more.
New Era for the Hemp Industry
Many hemp growers believe the 2018 Farm Bill was the dawning of a new era for the industrial hemp industry. Sales continue to skyrocket after the bill was passed, so there may be some truth to this hypothesis. The bill also opened sale of CBD products across most of the country. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the 100+ cannabinoids found in hemp and marijuana plants. Though most marijuana plants are still considered a Schedule I drug due to the psychoactive effects of THC, CBD-rich hemp has low levels of THC or no THC altogether.
THC-free marijuana and hemp plants are growing with popularity across the country. Used primarily as over-the-counter medicinal products, they can provide a variety of effects to the individual. CBD is said to relieve anxiety, reduce stress, numb or reduce pain, and essentially do everything except get you high like THC would.
As CBD helps hemp come back into the spotlight, our eyes are opened back up to countless other uses that the plant can provide. Not just a medicinal herb, hemp for seed and hemp for fiber is making just as big of a comeback. Hemp seeds are nutritionally rich and provide a wide range of benefits and hemp fiber is one of the strongest, most durable materials on the planet. As hemp makes a huge resurgence on the market, the uses for the plant know no bounds.
Different Types of Industrial Hemp
Industrial hemp is composed of fiber, oilseed, and/or hybrid plants, which serve a dual purpose but not as well as single purpose plants can. As there are said to be 25,000 uses of hemp, there are many ways to grow it for a variety of different end results. For example, hemp grown for seed is the only hemp plant where it’s safe for the male plants to stay with the female plants. This fertilizes the entire crop, but that yields more seeds overall.
While there are 25,000 different uses for hemp, there are three main ways to grow the plant:
1. Hemp for Seed
Hemp seeds have been used in processed foods for decades and used in recipes for millennia. There are some evidence-based health benefits to consuming hemp seeds, but there are also some huge benefits to growing it. Growing hemp for seed means you don’t have to struggle to find every male plant that could pop up in the field and cull it before it fertilizes the rest of the precious crop. Instead, unlike hemp for fiber or hemp for CBD, you can keep the males and females happily together.
In fact, if you purchase seeds to grow your hemp plants, make sure you get regular seeds. Strictly feminized seeds that contain no males should be labeled appropriately. When the males fertilize the females, the CBD level drops drastically and the hemp plant puts all its energy into producing seeds towards the top. This produces more hemp seeds without you having to play a role in this part of the growing process!
At 25,000 to 30,000 seeds per pound, you can get a tremendous amount of seeds per plant or even per square meter. Though hemp seed prices have subsided in more recent years, it can still be a profitable industry to dive into if you have the land to grow enough hemp. Likewise, hemp seed farmers across the US hope to see hemp seed prices raise once more as years continue to pass.
2. Hemp for Fiber
An incredibly fibrous material, hemp for fiber is a massively versatile industry. Not only can hemp make durable, long-lasting and insanely comfortable clothing, but it can also make everything else, from ship sails to flexible plastics. The uses for hemp as a fiber are virtually unlimited, which is why it’s one of the easiest parts of the hemp industry to dive into.
While hemp for seed can be grown in a field with males, the trick for solid hemp designed for fiber is to keep a vigilant eye out for males. When you choose seeds to grow with, make sure you choose strictly feminized cannabis seeds that come from a trustworthy brand. Unfortunately, there are many horror stories of hemp growers purchasing feminized seeds only to discover close to harvest time that just a couple males have fertilized the entire crop. Not only does this waste your profits, but it greatly limits the uses left for your infested hemp product.
Hemp for fiber grows tall, long and thin, with budding flowers possibly on top. To optimize how strong the fiber is as a material, hemp is often cut down prior to the flowers budding on top, when the hemp is still stalky and bright green.
In addition, how far apart the seeds are when planted will determine the quality of the fiber. Generally, they’re planted at 40 to 80 pounds per acre depending on the desired outcome. The density needs to be higher for the higher quality primary bast fibers, while core fibers do well with lower density planting.
3. Hemp for CBD
Many medicinal CBD products are sourced from industrial hemp for legality purposes. In fact, it’s now common to see CBD products labeled that they were extracted from premium industrial hemp. As hemp is easier to control the THC level than its marijuana counterpart, it’s a simpler way to ensure your CBD products stay under the 0.3% THC maximum legal level.
The hemp sourced for CBD products does not, technically, have to be grown within the United States. In fact, just like hemp for fiber materials or hemp for seeds that will be used for food, hemp for CBD can be sourced from either marijuana or hemp plants grown internationally or domestically. The state or country the hemp for CBD is sourced will play a massive role in the quality of the CBD product.
USA Hemp Sources Versus International Sources
Hemp farmers in other countries don’t have to follow the stringent, rigorous regulations set in place within the United States to ensure high-quality hemp products. While there are regulations in every other country where hemp is available for sale, you will need to verify that the product is pesticide-free, non-GMO, and safe for consumption.
As hemp is not a USDA-certified organic product, you’ll want to take the extra step yourself to make sure the hemp for CBD you’re getting is grown with organic practices. There are 14 states where growing industrial hemp is legal, so if push comes to shove or you find you have the spare capital, you could also try growing yourself. After all, the most trusted source you would possibly ever find is easily yourself.
We already have a guide on how CBD is typically extracted, but we’ll provide a quick breakdown here. If you’re growing hemp for CBD, do keep the extraction process in mind after you’ve harvested your buds. There are two methods for extracting CBD from the hemp plant. If you grow the hemp for CBD but outsource for the extraction process, do make sure that the company uses a verified extraction method as well as a safe solvent.
The more popular extraction method of the two, CO2 extraction is a sophisticated system that applies different units of pressure and temperatures to the hemp plant. Using small quantities of hemp at a time, the plant is filtered through a series of chambers that control pressure and temperature. Once the different units are applied to the plant, it can isolate the necessary cannabinoid at 90% efficiency.
The alternative method to the CO2 extraction method, the ethanol extraction method is simply not as popular or as conducive to time and resources. In order to extract the necessary cannabinoid using this method, you introduce a solvent ethanol to the hemp plant.
While it’s not as cost-effective as CO2 extraction, the ethanol extraction process allows you to produce a full-spectrum, potent CBD extract at a very high volume. Likewise, if you perform this method at very cold temperatures, ethanol can remove the unwanted components from dried hemp, such as chlorophyll.
To wrap it up, industrial hemp has made a lot of progressive strides over the last few years. Just with what the 2018 Farm Bill opened up in the states, social acceptance is finally moving forward for the harmless plant. Useful for more than just CBD, we see that industrial hemp is a powerful resource that will only continue to impress us as we discover more ways to utilize it. We hope this guide helped you understand a little more about industrial hemp, how it’s grown, and the process from there for a CBD extract. Have you ever considered cultivating industrial hemp? Let us know in the comments below!