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Hemp was first cultivated in Canada in 1998, and currently you must apply to grow hemp through Manitoba Health for a yearly permit and follow their guidelines. The regulations require you to get the hemp tested for THC levels to ensure they are under 0.3% on the plant and less than 10ppm residue in products derived from the hemp. (Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, n.d.)If you register and can comply with the regulations, farming hemp can be very successful. Per MAFRD the average input costs are $388.85/ac, with market price of $0.68/lb, equating to a gross revenue of $518/acre (at a production rate of 575 lb/ac) (Crop Production Costs 2016, n.d.)
Hemp grows best on well drained, loamy soils within a pH of 6.0-7.5 requiring 300-400mm of rain, half of which is needed in the flowering stage, meanwhile saturated soils reduce early growth. Seeding is preferably done with a press drill at a depth of 2-3cm, at a rate of 100-120 plants/m2 in rows 6-7″ apart. Certified seed is required, and planting should begin as early as ground travel permits, because hemp is day-length sensitive requiring specific hours of daylight to achieve the full height and yields desired. (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, n.d.)
In season, there are no pesticides registered for hemp, therefore a long crop rotation with the avoidance of similar disease pathogens is necessary. The main disease of hemp is Sclerotinia, transmitted from planting after canola, soybeans, edible beans, and sunflowers. Hemp grows best after a forage because of the weed suppression and different disease pressures and cycles. Hemp will germinate and grow quickly, reaching 90% ground cover at 4 weeks of growth, out competing weeds. By practicing good agronomic practices for disease, pests and weeds, hemp can readily be grown. However, birds are the biggest pest of hemp, as the plant matures, birds will eat the mature seeds, and can even devour an entire field. This is one way to know your field is ready to harvest. (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, n.d.)
Due to its young history in Canada, not a lot of research has been done, and fertility is an area that little is known. The rule of thumb in Manitoba is to fertilize for spring wheat, and has shown to be sensitive to fertilizer placement so side-banded or mid-row banded is recommended. Statistics show, harvesting the seeds and stalk will remove 200kg/ac N, 47kg/ac P, 211kg/ac K, and 14kg/ac S, however for seed production it is recommended to apply the same amount as spring wheat. (Manitoba Agriculture, n.d.)
In Manitoba, we produce hemp for seed, and harvest grain at 22-30% moisture, then dry the seeds down to 8-10% for storage up to 3 years. Harvest date is dependant on the variety, but most varieties mature between 100-120 days. (Manitoba Agriculture, n.d.) Hemp has a very tough stalk and can cause a lot of damage to equipment from the fibrous material getting caught in bearings or moving parts, so to reduce the risk of breaking down we can raise the header as high as it will go and straight cut. This harvest can be anywhere from 100-1200lbs/ac but averages are 760lbs/ac. (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, n.d.)
When you decide to grow hemp a production contract is necessary based on customer demand, and there are few locations that accept hemp seed. If the demand were to rise suddenly it could possibly take more than one crop year to meet those needs based on todays cropping acres. The price of hemp seed has been stable at $0.68/lb. The market is expanding as people become aware of the high Omega-3 and 6 and amino acid content, being used for lactose free milk, salad dressing, protein powder, nutrient bars, pasta and more. (Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, n.d.)
Hemp requires good agronomic practices to be successful, and it is recommended to have a plan for implementing hemp into your rotation and follow that plan with determination. If we can inform the public of the health benefits of hemp, the demand will go up, and so will the required acres. Growing hemp will benefit both farmers and consumers.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex126
Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hemptrade.ca/grow-hemp
Crop Production Costs 2016. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/business-and-economics/financial-management/pubs/cop_crop_production.pdf
Manitoba Agriculture . (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/production/hemp-production.html
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/00-067.htm
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