LANGDON, N.D. – Almost all of the information published in terms of hemp production has been for industrial hemp – hemp being grown for seed or fiber production. But there is a rapidly growing and fairly new hemp industry – the production of CBD (cannabidol) oil.
At the recent hemp field day at the Langdon Research Extension Center (REC), those attending learned about the special requirements hemp raised for CBD requires when compared to industrial hemp. This message was delivered by Troy Goltz, the head of Plantology, a firm located in Leonard, N.D., and one of the first businesses growing CBD hemp.
In introducing Goltz, Langdon REC directory Randy Mehlhoff said agronomic principles are used for growing industrial hemp, while horticultural practices are used in growing CBD hemp – indicating how important each individual plant is in the production of CBD oil.
CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the flower of the cannabis plant, and then diluting it with a carrier oil such as coconut or hemp seed oil. It is gaining momentum in health and wellness uses and there are some scientific studies indicating it may ease symptoms of ailments like chronic pain and anxiety.
Right now, there are seven health benefits being backed by scientific evidence according to Healthline:
- Relieves pain
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Alleviates cancer-related symptoms
- May reduce acne
- Might have neuroprotective properties
- Could benefit heart health
- Might have additional benefits such as antipsychotic effects; substance abuse treatment; anti-tumor effects and diabetes prevention, although more research is needed in these areas.
Raising hemp for CBD oil
The first step in raising hemp for CBD oil is knowing your ground by getting a soil test. Ideally, the soil pH should be in a range of 6-7, and the micro-nutrient levels of the soil are very important.
“We try to give our plants the best chance of succeeding by putting them on the best ground that contains what the plant likes,” Goltz said.
The field was fertilized using manure at a rate of about 20 tons per acre. The field was then plowed at a depth of eight inches, hoping to turn the manure down to that depth in the soil.
“We didn’t want too much manure close to the plant when it was starting,” he explained. “We wanted the plant to get established, be able to get its feet underneath it, and then tap into the manure fertilizer.”
A plastic film was placed between the rows for a mulch. Consideration was given to both black and white plastic, and since other growers indicated there wasn’t much difference between the two colors, Goltz decided to go with black plastic and a drip tape was installed along each row for watering the crop. A selection on the drip tape should be based on the soil type and the size of the water outlet the different drip tapes offer.
In planting the crop, he went with a row spacing of 69 inches between rows, each plant spaced inches between rows and each plant was spaced 48 inches apart in each row.
“That is what we determined would work the best for us,” he said.
Clones or seed?
Rather than start out with seed, Goltz decided to start his crop using what are called “clones,” which is a 6-8 inch tall plant. He feels there is an advantage of starting the crop with clones rather than using seed.
“The plants are already growing and they are healthy. There is no chance of a male plant,” he said. “If you get a male plant in a CBD hemp field, it could pollinate your whole crop and you all your seeds will have no CBD content. One male plant can wreck a whole field, so keep that in mind. Clones are safe that way.”
However, clones are expensive, averaging from $5 to $8 per plant and suppliers usually run out early in the season. Those having a supply of clones late in the planting season usually have them because it is an undesirable variety that growers didn’t want, he noted.
That brings up another important factor – variety selection. Goltz stressed you need to know where you are getting your product from. You need to plant a variety that you know will work for the production of CBD oil and the seed supplier needs to have a proven track record.
At this time, all harvesting of CBD hemp is done by hand. Later this fall, Goltz plans on hand cutting the hemp and hanging it in a building similar to the way they hang tobacco. The key is to keep good air movement through the plants while they are drying.
Once the plant is dried down to an 8-12 percent moisture range, the dried plants will be shucked, meaning all of the branches will be broken off of the main plant. You will be looking at saving all the buds and leaves and not the stalks. The shucked material is then put into a large tote and is now ready for sale to an extraction plant.