So, you want to grow hemp. There are plenty of great reasons to do so, like participating in an expanding marketplace, diversifying your income or just adding something fresh to your crop rotation. You may have many questions, such as why you should plant hemp seedlings or clones.
We’ll start at the beginning, but feel free to skip ahead.
The 2018 Farm Bill effectively removed hemp from the federal government’s Schedule I substances. To do this, the new law defined hemp as strains of cannabis sativa containing less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This distinguished hemp from cannabis strains known for decades as marijuana and opened the door for any state to establish licensing and regulations for hemp’s cultivation, transportation and processing.
Herein lies one of the first things to know before you grow. Cannabis contains dozens of chemicals besides THC, called cannabinoids, among them cannabidiol (CBD), that are being studied for their various benefits. So, assuming you’re looking for a harvest rich in CBD, for instance, and you don’t want to accidentally come up with illegal levels of THC, you need to grow and harvest only female plants.
For thousands of years cannabis was harvested by many people, especially early American colonists, for fiber. Fiber made rope, ship sails, paper, and many other products not necessarily in demand at the local apothecary. When planting, you were going for quantity, and if the seeds were good, you’d have useful hemp stalks to cut in about 60-90 days.
The problem when planting for today’s laws and today’s CBD paydays, is male plants. A few male plants can pollinate many nearby female plants, drastically reducing your CBD quality, or worse, pushing your THC levels above the limit and forcing you to destroy everything.
You could wait for the plants to reach their sexual maturity, and pull the males by hand, but this could be an extraordinarily unprofitable time commitment. Planting hemp for CBD takes work, yes, but there are better ways to do it.
For planting with confidence, the most consistent stock available is feminized clones. Clones will be free of male pollen and have predictable genetics, ensuring high CBD and low THC.
A quality producer is essential, as clones will come with the same diseases and pests present in the mother plant from which they were cut. Assuming your producer prioritizes high-quality mother plants in their growing operation, this can be good news for your chance of a great yield.
Clones grow to maturity faster than a seed-born plant, but they will not establish a taproot.
Clones are also adaptive to the environment in which their mother plants were grown. This allows quality producers for example to harden their plant genetics to the dry and salty soil of the southwestern United States.
You can buy seedlings, or baby hemp plants, from a trustworthy producer. Ideally, you’ll be getting plants that are almost entirely female. Labor will be required to remove the few males that are missed in your purchase, but it’s much faster than cutting out half your field. You also save the time you would have spent waiting for your own seeds to sprout.
Seedlings have their own taproot capable of pulling water and nutrients from deep in the soil. They have also been said by some growers to show greater health and strength than clones.
Your seedling purchase should contain detailed information from the producer on the plants’ growth methodology, pesticide use, if any, and the expected cannabinoid concentration on average. Educate yourself on the producer’s feminization process and their success rate. Again, if the producer is trustworthy, your purchase of seedlings over seeds should save you time and give you peace of mind.
Don’t go in blind.
This is just a primer on the way to begin your journey to the Emerald City. Get your questions answered by a professional before your secure your stock. Talk about your timetables, your climate, your soil, your goals, and get started.