Crop Rotation – The Lifecycle of a Hemp Plant

The hemp plant has many wondrous properties, one of which is that it is a regenerative crop. In a nutshell, that means that the plant helps regenerate soil. Growing at a faster rate than trees whilst taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and putting it back into the ground, hemp is one of Mother Nature’s super-plants.
Hemp plants also take metals and other toxins out of the ground after industrial farming. Acting like nature’s vacuum cleaner, it stops these harmful byproducts from reaching groundwater. Not only that, but the biomass left behind by a hemp crop has multiple uses itself. The crop itself can be used for biofuel and materials such as rope or fabric, or alternatively, it can be returned to the ground to restore nutrients in the soil.
For these reasons, farmers use hemp to restore soils between their regular crops. The quick turnaround (roughly 120 days) on the harvest cycle means you can produce a hemp crop in just a third of a year.
So, what exactly does the life cycle of a hemp plant look like?

Germinating Seeds

The first step is of course, planting the seeds. In CBD production, these seeds will often be female or feminised, meaning they produce the female plants. Feminised seeds are specially bred to eliminate male plants, as only the female produce the flower that contains the good stuff. From germination to sprouting takes around 5-10 days.
A seedling has 2 leaves at the top, these are round cotyledon leaves which begin collecting UV rays. As the plant grows over the following 2 weeks it will produce its first fan leaves.

Vegetative Stage

As larger fan leaves begin to appear on the plant, it moves from the seedling stage and enters the vegetation stage. Here the plant grows quickly, bulking out with large leaves and many branches.
This stage lasts around 16 weeks, during which the plant will need high levels of nitrogen, moderate levels of potassium and low levels of phosphorus. High levels of nitrogen can be found in manure along with phosphorus, whilst potassium is contained in other natural sources such as seaweed and wood ash which can be used to enrich the soil. 

Flowering Stage

The flowering stage begins when light switches to 12-hour cycles. Naturally, this would happen around September/October time, although in commercial indoor farming lighting times are adjusted manually.
With the flowering stage, comes the gender reveal party. Male plants will produce pollen stacks which rise out of the bulk of the plant. For the CBD farmers, these need to be removed quickly as they will pollinate the female flowers causing them to produce seeds. Pollinated flowers use their energy to produce seeds rather than the potent buds CBD farmers need.

Harvesting Stage

A CBD farmer’s harvesting is a little different from the regenerative or fibre crop farmer. The flowers will usually be harvested by hand to ensure the flower remains intact. The next step is to ‘cure’ the flower, a drying process which increases its potency.
Regenerative and fibre crops can be cut down and used in whichever way they were intended. Fibres are taken from the stalks and branches of the plant and woven into materials. The CBD farmer’s next step is to extract the CBD from the flower and create the relaxing CBD that goes into our delicious CBD Drinks, CBD Oil Drops and CBD Gummies.

To learn more on how the oils are made, you can check another of our musings, From Seed to Sip.

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