How can farmers minimize this threat in preparation for a successful 2020 hemp harvest?
In our opinion, it all starts with understanding how, why & when?
Lets start with “HOW”. What classifies this plant as “hemp” is its legally allowed level of THC. In the United States, THC levels must remain below 0.3% Total THC post decarboxylation. This low level of THC is what causes extreme panic and stress throughout the growing season. However, this is not how things have to be. (THCAS) is the gene responsible for THC production and 99.9% detectable using DNA analysis. Excluding any possible plants with the THCAS gene is not only important, but CRUCIAL! This will not only improve your chances at success, but also improve the quality of the end biomass. In our testing of “certified feminzed boax seed” we found that over 50% contained Y chromosomes and were in fact heterogametic, also known as “male” and about 10% tested positive for having dominate (THCAS) genes. However, this is not the fix to all of our problems, THCA production has been found to be produced in small concentrations when other factors come into play, this leads us to “WHY”.
Why does hemp go “hot” even when the THCAS gene is not present? This is not yet fully understood but scientist have given us more insight into what is happening. Current scientific community research shows stress is one of the leading factors to the cannabis plant producing THCA as a emergency response mechanism that may be helping this plant survive in the wild. Cannabinoids and terpenes are produced naturally by cannabis plants to help ward of problems including drought stress, pest infestations and pathogens. This is a normal response to stress for this plant, this is why it has survived through natural disasters and nearly world wide prohibition. As farmers, it should be our goal to produce crops in thriving conditions, preventing stress and boosting yields. However.. consultation after consultation we had the same conversations with farmers. WATER, WATER, WATER! Yes this plant can survive with low amounts of water, but surviving is not thriving. When you stress your plants with a lack of water, the result is a stress response that triggers production of cannabinoids and higher THC. We need to prevent this at ALL COST, trying to save yourself money in water cost over the season may cost you an entire crop. Farmers looking to maximize RIO may find themselves in a better spot if irrigation is priority during the initial grow season, giving the farmers larger yields and more precise control over harvest times. This leads us to “WHEN”.
When do we harvest? Harvesting “time” given by anyone except the breeder, is a guess. Breeders are breeding cultivars for specific cannabinoids, all cannabinoids need to be treated differently. Harvesting at the wrong time could mean either missed ROI or a potential “hot” crop. In most cases harvesting for high CBD is done before the naked eye has the ability to predict harvest windows, this is why potency testing throughout the flowering period is key! Hemp is actually very predictable when grown correctly as its cannabinoids tend to generate at genetically determined ratios. Common CBD/THC Ratios that are found today include 28-1, 30-1 and even a 50-1 ratio phenotype can be found in multiple cultivars including cherry wine and boax. As the flowering period shows its first signs of itself, you will see the plants lateral growth change and start to “stack” onto itself, giving signs of multiple flower sites yet to come. This is followed by white stigma peaking out, growing into what is commonly called its “hairs”, these are part of its female reproductive organs. This is a great sign that harvest season its on its way, but it should be a warning sign that you need to be 100% prepared within weeks. At this stage, you will want to start sending a weekly sample to your local testing facility. Consult with your breeder to determine cannabinoid ratios of said genetics and calculate a harvest window. At this point it is time to plan your certified field test by the USDA. Make sure you are preparing ahead. We suggest planning on the earlier possible chance field can take place, but also within 15 days of the END of your calculated harvest window. This is where large harvest equipment plays an important role and where big agriculture companies have a clear advantage, being able to harvest your crop in a 24 hour window gives farmers the ability to maximize cannabinoid production, while minimizing risk of a failed crop. USDA field test can easily be planned within the 0.01% Total THC range, while allowing farmers to pin point exact harvest times at 0.29-0.3% total THC using in house equipment and/or local labs. Success is built with proper preparation and even better execution. Cheers to a successful 2020 hemp season!