From a legal crop in the 18th and 19th centuries, to a banned substance in the 20th century, industrial hemp has come full circle to become a legal crop again in the 21st century.
As the crop takes off, that agricultural companies are starting to offer specialized products for hemp production.
In 2018 there were 24 states actively growing the crop for a total of 78,176 acres, up from 25,718 in 2017. That figure is expected to grow rapidly after passage of the 2018 farm bill that once again opened the door to nationwide hemp production. However, producers still must be licensed to grow the crop.
Those willing to take the plunge and seek a license must consider many factors – how to market that crop when mature, what seed variety to choose and what equipment they will need for this specialty crop.
One company stepping up to the plate is Monosem Inc., a French-based firm started after World War II, which has been manufacturing specialty planters for 70 years. Ben Ross, a Monosem representative based in Edwardsville, Kansas, notes the firm has been in the U.S. now for 40 years.
“We carry one-row to 12-row planters and everything we do is custom-built,” he said.
The company’s contribution to the growing hemp industry is a direct seed planter for hemp.
“Hemp seed can be very expensive. It’s about the size of grain sorghum seed,” Ross said of the challenges involved with planting the specialty crop.
Monosem used its decades of experience in the vegetable industry to adapt many of its planter’s features for hemp.
According to Monosem, the metering unit accurately separates hemp seed. An ejector system directs single seeds down the seed tube into the furrow, where the closing system, designed for the shallow planting required by hemp, creates the necessary seed-to-soil contact.
The planters are equipped with monitoring systems for flow and fans that have good hydraulic flow. The meter is constructed of cast aluminum, and the seed discs are made of stainless steel, which translate into low maintenance and long life, Ross said.
The planters can be adapted to operate both for planting hemp and more conventional crops, making the investment more budget-friendly, he added.
“One customer bought a five-row planter with 30-inch spacing that could be used for either corn or hemp,” he said. “With our modular setup you can slide rows in and out as needed. They are practical for many uses with some shop work.”
While Monosem is owned by John Deere, the company has put its planters on red, blue and orange tractors, Ross noted.
For more information on these specialty planters, visit the Monosem website at www.MONOSEM-INC.com or contact the firm directly at 913-438-1700.
Freelance journalist Barb Bierman Batie farms row crops with her Platte Valley farmer husband, Don Batie, northeast of Lexington, Nebraska. She can be reached at email@example.com.