Ask the magic 8 ball what the future of hemp looks like, and it will probably tell you “Ask me later.” Hemp hyperbole has made the path for growers feel less than straightforward. But experienced hemp growers still see a bright, if somewhat circuitous, route to success.
Dion Oakes, Co-Owner of Wright-Oakes LLC in San Luis Valley, Colorado, will be farming about 1,000 acres of hemp this year, and he’s just built a new hemp processing facility. Oakes says hemp felt the affects of COVID-19, causing some farmers who were interested in the crop to pull back and plant less or wait till next year. He says he’s also seen a growing interest in growing for grain and fiber this year.
Hemp was grown most often for CBD in 2019, according to data from the 2020 Hemp Planting Intentions Study produced by the U.S. Hemp Growers Association. The study surveyed 460 farmers who have or intend to plant hemp. Of those who responded, 63% had a permit to grow hemp, and the remaining 37% planned to apply for a permit to grow hemp. Of the respondents, 62% reported growing hemp in 2019.
Ron Conyea, a hemp farmer and board member of US Hemp Authority, says the sharp rise in planting intentions was closely related to the onboarding of new states as they adopted hemp regulations.
The Need for Seed
The burning question on everyone’s tongue: How much should I pay for seed? In many ways the huge variances in seed pricing highlight how much hemp is still in its wild west growth phase.
First, Oakes cautions, make sure you’re opting for certified seed. Oakes says prices have dropped from $1 to $0.50 to $0.75 cents a seed from last year, with some people still paying $1 to $5 for feminized CBD or CBG seed. On the grain side, Oakes has seen certified seed prices from $6 to $14 a pound.
“Now we're getting more realistic compared to some of the other commodities out there, but it's really still fluctuating on what your purpose is,” Oakes says. “There's the dual purpose crops out there, tri-crops, that kind of stuff that are a little bit more expensive.”
Oakes recommends looking to documentation that shows information about germination or purity, like a test from a university or an accredited lab or a certification from a recognized organization, such as the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) or a state approved variety. It’s also important to work with suppliers who are licensed to sell seed.
9 Questions to Ask When You Buy Seed
1. Is there a certificate of analysis?
2. Are there phytosanitary certifications?
3. What are the germination rates?
4. What are the genetics available?
5. What is the flowering time length and term to maturity?
6. Is this feminized, auto-flower or industrial bulk non-feminized seed?
7. What are the CBD to THC ratios?
8. What are the maximum THC levels seen in previous years, and do they have harvest reports?
9. Can the seed provide verify that seeds or genetics are not present on a state regulatory agency’s variety of concern or prohibited variety list?
Conyea says price will depend on whether the farmer is buying bulk or feminized seed. For feminized seed, he’s seen prices range from $0.45 to $1 per seed, depending on the volume of order.
“I would not pay more than $0.75 for CBD varieties or $1 for CBG varieties,” he says.
For industrial bulk non-feminized seed, Conyea has seen prices range from $2 to $4 a pound, depending on CBD content and ratios.
“Using trusted, established and reputable seed suppliers is the key to purchasing good seed,” Conyea says. “I would begin by speaking with the state regulatory agencies to identify what venders have certified seed. Also ask your peers about their dealings with previous or current suppliers.”
Find more essential advice about growing hemp at AgWeb.com/Cannabis
Check out Farm Journal's Online Hemp course here.