It seemed like growing hemp was all the rage this year with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. Opportunities to make great money, according to news sources, were abound. People rushed to be the first to get their growers permits before the states reached their maximum limit for permit distribution. Now the Growers could start their Hemp fields, grow big plants with lots of potent CBD buds, and make tens of thousands of dollars per acre. At least that’s what they thought.
The reality of growing a good crop for maximum profit requires very hard work, knowledge of the plant and testing.
This story is about our experience growing “The Wife”, a female hemp strain with high CBD potency and low THC. A perfect plant for making CBD products of all kinds.
A friend of ours in Pennsylvania received a 2019 growers permit for female hemp. It was a small field operation, about an acre. Since this was the first year we considered it almost experimental, to see how they would grow through the season and eventually what the crop would yield in pounds and potency.
We asked if we could manage a certain number of plants using our experimental protocols. We had three different variations of ingredients, all of them good, but which one would yield a better crop. We didn’t know, so we asked for three separate test plots.
Our basic criteria:
- Plant in an area of the field with a heavy clay content soil
- Allow us to manage our plots without intervention
- Achieve high CBD potency plants in a heavy clay soil
- Reach maximum CBD potency in less time than the normal growth cycle of the plant
- Allow small batch growers, anywhere, to do the same, regardless of soil condition
- A shovel
- Organic Soil Amendments
- Organic Water Soluble Ingredients
- Well Water
- Soil pH Test
- 2 gallon Sprayer
The Hemp Field
The First thing we did was test the pH of the soil. The pH was in the 6.5 to 7 range. We thought this was good for a heavy clay content soil.
Late in June we received our plants. They were 3” to 4” in height. Each hole we dug received one pound of different and varying amounts of organic soil amendments blended with the native soil. The holes were 12” in diameter by 12”deep. When everything was blended and planted, we watered each plot.
Our Organic ingredients comprised of the following:
- Green Sand
- Kelp Meal
- Worm Castings
- Shrimp Meal
- Bone Meal
Every week we would document:
- Leaf color changes, yellow/brown if any
- Measure the diameter and height of each plant
- Insect collection on the plants, good or bad
- Our plant vs control (in native soil only, no amendments)
- Air Temp/Rain levels (very dry season)/Sun/Hours of day/night
- And anything else we thought was pertinent
FYI - you should be vigilant in spotting the Male species in your field. Studies have shown If you have them in your field you may risk the males pollinating the females, reducing the potency and yield of the CBD producing plant. Pull them out as soon as you spot them.
Our weekly maintenance protocol comprised of all or some of:
- Water Plants
- Add soil topdressing
- Spray, foliar and/or drench, each plant
- Pull weeds if applicable
- Document protocols and findings
We treated these plants like they were our pets. You treat them well, they will perform better than expected. You ignore them, you get very little in return.
As the weeks went by, we made adjustments at the late vegetative stage, increasing potassium slightly, while decreasing nitrogen slightly through the mid-flowering stage. We also adjusted our spray protocol about 2 weeks before the first test.
We decided to have the plants tested in the mid to late flowering stage. We tested “Plot 2” because the plant growth was better than the other two plots. The buds were increasing at an alarming rate. Leaf color remained green over 95% of the plant. The plants we didn’t control had yellow/brown leaves all over them. Overall, our plot differences were minimal but In our view “Plot 2” was the best of the three plots.
Our lab did a complete cannabinoid test but the results most important to us were the CBD Potency and the Delta 9-THC (the psychoactive cannabinoid in hemp that is regulated by the government).
Plot 2 test:
CBD Potency: 12.11%
Delta 9-THC: .07% (.3% max per Government Regulation)
This was a pleasant surprise. We made another change by decreasing nitrogen even more. About 3.5 weeks went by and we had the plants tested again. To us they just looked ready for harvest but we wanted to make sure.
Plot 2 Test:
CBD Potency: 14.54%
Delta 9-THC: .09% (well below the .3%)
There was no doubt it was time to harvest these plants. CBD potency for this strain is around 15%. The plants in the native soil, with no amendments, came in at a CBD Potency of 6.5% and a Delta 9-THC of .36%.
Our testing was done at the same lab while the rest of the field was completed at a different lab. Inconsistency in results can happen due to different testing techniques, sample preparation and so on. It appeared to us that decarboxylation may have occurred with the native soil tests but we weren’t sure. We trusted our results because harvested the samples, sealed them in an airtight package, kept them in cool storage and sent them out within 3 days to the same lab.
Something worth noting is that the higher Delta 9-THC plants were cut down right away, as soon as the test results came back. What if the lab results were incorrect because the sample was bad? I contacted the lab on the permit holders request to discuss the results of the full report and the technician suggested that maybe, decarboxylation of the samples may have occurred causing the lab results to not reflect the true potency levels of the plant. If your first test seems off or just makes little sense get it tested again before you make any decisions on your crop.
We will use very similar protocols during the 2020 grow season but on a slightly larger scale. We will post our results more frequently for those interested.
In conclusion, we felt as though our organic amendments benefited the growth of the plants and enhanced the potency of the CBD while maintaining lower Delta 9-THC levels ensuring a higher profit margin for the crop. With so many people breaking into the market it only makes sense to do what you can, without breaking the bank, to produce a higher quality crop!
Thanks for reading!
The NEWGANICS Team
Jim & Steve