The 2018 US Farm bill provided a much-needed respite for industrial hemp growers. It legalized hemp cultivation and gave it a status independent of marijuana, which remains a Schedule 1 drug.
The government had banned hemp cultivation as it was difficult to distinguish hemp from marijuana. This is understandable as they are both considered to be of the same species Cannabis Sativa. After several years and due diligence, hemp cultivation is legal, under the watchful eyes of the Industrial Hemp Commission.
What makes hemp an interesting crop choice for farmers is the cannabinoid CBD which has a good market value. Advocates of CBD oil believe it reduces anxiety and pain and is an effective replacement for opioids, known to produce side effects. What’s more? The Hemp plant is known to have more than 50,000 uses. Here’s a glimpse:
- Hemp stalk: Textiles, insulation, rope, paper, organic compost, fiberboard
- Hemp seed: Oil, dietary supplement, body care products, paint, fuel
- Hemp root: Medicine, organic compost
- Hemp flowers: Animal bedding, mulch, medicinal
While there is renewed interest in cultivating hemp, it is a tricky crop that necessitates extreme caution. Harvesting hemp is a delicate process. Here are some things to remember before investing in the crop:
- Labor intensive: While cultivating the plant might be relatively simpler, it’s the harvesting that is time-consuming. Consider your working hours before planting hemp. The bigger the farm, the longer the working hours.
- Extremely sensitive: The crop is extremely susceptible to sunlight, humidity, time, and water. These stressors can have an impact on the CBD potency level, reducing its market value. Ensuring the levels are intact can be a market differentiator. Maintain the 0.3% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) industry benchmark.
- Needs care: Popular myth is that hemp cultivation is low-maintenance. Au contraire, hemp cultivation demands care and is known to fall prey to regular pests and insects. There are fungicides and insecticides in the market containing garlic, rosemary oil, and geraniol proven effective.
- Contamination prone: The harvest is vulnerable to mold and mildew contamination at the drying and curing stage, which can reduce the product’s value. Maintain the ideal temperature and humidity levels at all times to keep the harvest mold-free.
- Identify any disruptions: The crop is generally fit for harvest around the hurricane season, making it crucial for farmers to bring the biomass inside the processing facility before the storms.
Did you know? A crop of 1,000 pounds of biomass could be valued $20,000 more or $20,000 less depending on the percentage of CBD content. Every percent counts, as per the North Carolina State University’s Agricultural Extension program.
These days, consumers are aware of the process’s intricacies and don’t mind paying a few extra bucks for good quality CBD oil. This has pushed CBD oil manufacturers to invest time and resources into developing the most potent and viable product. A good product like NuLeaf Naturals CBD is known to have numerous medicinal benefits.
Read on to know more about how the hemp plant becomes the CBD oil in your cupboard.
Prepare the hemp crop for harvest
A hemp plant matures or grows from seed to plant in three to four months. At its peak, it stops growing tall and produces flower buds. The ideal harvest time would be when the buds’ resin glands change from crystal clear to milky white color. Additionally, a test can be initiated to check the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content in the plant, which should not be more than the legal limit of 0.3%.
As mentioned above, hurricane season is relevant for the hemp harvest, and farmers must plan to bring the harvest indoors before the storms.
Cut and gather hemp
Hand harvesting is the ideal choice for hemp. Laborers use a machete or knife to cut the stalk, gather the flower buds, and load them for transport to the nearest drying facility.
This stage of the process can be time consuming and expensive, as it is done manually without any automated tool. Amateur farmers might find it economical to invest in small farms of 1 acre or less before investing in large farms.
Dry and cure hemp
A well-ventilated and dry facility with no direct sunlight exposure provides the right conditions to dry and cure the harvested hemp. According to the North Carolina State Extension, the ideal temperature for drying and curing is 60 to 70 degrees F at 60% humidity.
Hanging the plants inverted in the shape of an upended Christmas tree from a wire is the regular practice to keep the plant dry. An alternate method is to break the individual branches and hang them to dry completely. This ensures every branch dries perfectly without retaining any moisture.
A common and main challenge in this stage is the mold and mildew that contaminate the biomass. However, efficient drying and proper ventilation will keep the harvest mold-free.
Extraction of CBD oil
The actual extraction starts after drying and curing. Generally, the process uses a solvent to draw the plant’s primary cannabis compound to make a crude extract, which contains terpenes, cannabinoids, and other plant substances. The crude extract is later processed to create the final oil that hits the market shelves. It is crucial to eliminate any solvents acetone, butane, ethanol, hexane, or propane to avoid contamination.
Storing CBD oil
Once procured, the CBD oil must be stored in a cool and dark place, preferably like a cupboard away from any source of heat or light. CBD oil that is stored properly can last almost a year.
Hemp harvesting, as you can see, is an intricate process. Harvesting done in ideal conditions with proper precautions in place can lead to high-value CBD oil extraction. With awareness of CBD and its benefits gradually increasing, farmers, doctors, scientists, and businesses will play a vital role in understanding this crop better and optimizing the yield for better value.