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What Kind of Fertilizer Does Hemp Need?

Industry Update: 6 States Keeping Hemp Pilot Programs Instead of Moving to Commercial Production
Should The US Move To 1% THC Content in Hemp?: Part 1

Before we get into the fertilizers that hemp needs to grow–we should understand why we are only now rediscovering the proper cultivation practices, like fertilizing, for Industrial hemp.

The History of Farming Hemp In The US

Cannabis sativa L. (hemp) has been around a long time and throughout history, many human civilizations have been cultivating it. Traditionally, hemp was cultivated as a fiber source so most genotypes have very low THC content. Here in the US, hemp was a crop critical to our early success. From hemp fibers used in covered wagons and clothing to hemp oil used in paints, inks and varnishes–the hemp crop proved extraordinarily useful in early American society. Hemp production declined a bit due to tobacco and cotton in the early 20th century but was still farmed and used on a smaller scale. In 1937, hemp was not necessarily banned under the Marihuana Tax Act but taxed so heavily as to dissuade farmers from growing it. It was not made categorically illegal until 1970 under the “Controlled Substances Act”. Recently, in 2014 continuing on to 2019 that legal bans on hemp under .3% have been lifted or redefined. This means farmers in the US are starting off new to hemp and must learn certain practices. One of these practices is fertilizers.

Things to Know About Fertilizing Hemp

Numerous generations of professional farmers have no experience growing hemp. Some passed down knowledge or growing processes have been lost. But, since hemp is a lot like other crops and educational research has been going on for years–there is a fair amount of fertilizer knowledge out there. Below we’ve listed some guidance based on this. Keep in mind, your CBD Hemp farm is unique so this advice must be taken on a case by case scenario. It is best to read the framework below and then modify it for your farm’s condition and needs.

Nitrogen: Hemp does need a lot of nitrogen but not an excessive amount. Research points to a good amount being 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre–much like corn.

Phosphorus: A healthy dose of phosphorus is needed in hemp fields because it is a flower producing plant but it does not need an excess of it. A standard 50 pounds of phosphorus per acre will do. A few common mistakes new hemp farmers make applying phosphorus along with calcium sources (lime and bone) This can lock it up by turning into calcium phosphate.

Potassium: Hemp is a big consumer of potassium. It eats-up around 80 pounds of potassium per acre. It’s needs are higher than crops like corn and wheat. So, although CBD hemp mostly follows the same fertilizer formula for higher potassium consumers than most crops, hemp is an outlier in potassium consumption.

Sulfur: Hemp needs some sulfur–more so than a lot of crops. Something around 20 pounds of sulfur per acre, sulfate sulfur will work.

Calcium: This source of nutrients is very important to any crop and hemp is no exception. If at all possible apply your calcium and your phosphorus at different times.

Micronutrients: These shouldn’t be left out of your hemp farming plan. Kelp meal is very expensive, but if it’s in the budget, kelp meal around 600 pounds an acre. If you want to save some money, you can do something like Azomite at around that same application rate.

Compost: In general, a lot of people over-do-it on compost. This is because compost can contain very high levels of potassium and salt. This means, if you apply compost, watch out for too much potassium.

BORON: Hemp is not overly boron sensitive. But boron is probably not a great idea, because the line between deficiency and toxicity is so thin. For this reason use caution applying boron and maybe omit it altogether.
Lime: Lime should be applied at a max of two tons per acre. If you are converting an old hayfield or fallow vegetable ground use a maximum application right away.

Fish emulsion: A cost-effective option for hemp is fish emulsion to take care of nitrogen issues. Roughly a gallon of fish emulsion per acre, regularly.

All-Purpose Fertilizer: This is a blend of things like feather, fish, bone and kelp. It also includes rock dust and things like flaxseed meal as well.

Mycorrhizal fungi: You can use endo or ecto symbiotes–but the endo is what will be utilized by your hemp crop.

Download the graphics below as quick reference sheets.

This is an overview of hemp fertilizer. For more information on anything hemp-related contact us at CBD Seed Co today! We are one of the nation’s largest vertically integrated hemp companies. This means we have the ability to work with you on everything from seeds to sale, white-label products, and CBD wholesale products.

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Hemp Fertilizer: Does It Really Matter?

In our Hemp Cultivation Landscape report, we explore what matters most to cultivators and manufacturers across the industry including clones, seeds, and fertilizer. Cloned material is largely preferred over seeds to ensure that only female plants are produced to avoid “hot” crops. Seeds have a 50% chance of being male; harvest from male plants will have to be destroyed as it will be too high in THC (>0.3%). Of those growers that do use seeds over clones, they are sourcing them from a few select states across the country. The use of fertilizer and added nutrients varies widely across cultivators.

Hemp Fertilizer Preferences

There seems to be three schools of thought regarding hemp cultivation and fertilizer use:

  1. Fertilizer is unnecessary.
    These farmers believe that one of the benefits of growing hemp is that it requires no additional fertilizers or feeds.
  2. Little additional nutrients are needed, so budget should be small.
    These farmers used less expensive options for nutrients such as rabbit pellets, bat droppings, digestate from local power plants, etc.
  3. Hemp requires additional nutrients.
    Of those that do use fertilizer, they say hemp requires nutrients similar to those of corn. These growers are using fertilizer throughout the grow cycle, adding nutrients and beneficial bacteria.

There are several steps in the growing process when farmers may apply fertilizer. Most farmers that use fertilizer apply nutrients to the soil prior to or immediately following planting.

2019 Hemp Industry Outlook

About 87% of the hemp grown in the US is expected to be used for CBD processing in 2019. Though there are potential risks associated with hemp farming, many farmers have decided to cultivate hemp for CBD processing because the potential benefits outweighs many of these risks. Hemp farming offers a chance for family farms facing low commodity prices for corn and dairy to increase their incomes and pass down their farm to the third or fourth generation. On a per acre level, hemp for CBD could potentially lead to revenue of over $40,000, compared to less than $1,000 per acre for corn.

As hemp cultivation in the United States rapidly increases, cultivators and manufacturers are wondering: does fertilizer really matter when growing hemp? ]]>