Thanks to the Agricultural Act of 2018 removing hemp from the list of controlled substances, hemp has once again been allowed opportunities to not only be researched for therapeutic and medicinal qualities, but also as a lucrative crop for farmers across the country.
At its core, the push to legalize hemp came from the need to create large scale hemp farms across the country after the recent slump of the tobacco industry. Many farmers and community leaders realized the potential of hemp farming and how easily they could convert their tobacco farms into hemp farms. The possibilities of what can be done with this plant are incredible. Even those who have never farmed before are gaining interest in the industry. With it’s multitudes of uses, it really opens up possibilities to potential hemp farmers interested in using this ancient plant for modern purposes.
There are different options on how to grow hemp. While many farmers choose to grow outdoors on traditional farms, many are choosing to grow indoors using greenhouses. So which is better in the long run? As with most things, it depends on each individual purpose.
Even if the hemp growers eventually plan to move the plants outside, there are many benefits that come with starting the growth inside a greenhouse. When plants are started indoors they are more likely to properly germinate and root, meaning for stronger and healthier plants once they are moved outdoors. While the overall cost to start plants indoors before moving them outdoors is higher, the benefits far outweigh that one negative. In the end growers may even find they are saving time and money by concentrating on greenhouse seedling starts before starting an outdoor crop.
However, when grown entirely indoors farmers are given more options when it comes to the growth cycle of their hemp plants. One of the biggest benefits is controlling the time it takes to sow the seed and when that process happens. When growing outdoors, the time to do that is based on weather patterns and seasonal changes. When growing indoors, the schedule belongs to the growers instead of mother nature. Ultimately this can save weeks on each season when they plant seedlings or clones indoors rather than out. When hemp is planted outdoors, growers must adhere to a somewhat strict schedule in order to ensure that they don’t plant too early, which could mean the hemp would flower too early, degrading the crop.
Growing hemp in a greenhouse also allows more control over the kind of crop being cultivated. When the plants are controlled indoors it’s easier to determine the sex of each, decreasing the odds that male plants will find their way into that year’s crop, potentially ruining it.
Growing young plants indoors can also be a tricky process, so many growers choose to specialize in doing just that and focus on selling these young seedlings to other growers who either don’t have the resources to start their own plants indoors, or would rather leave it to someone else so they can concentrate on their outdoor crop. Either way, the process works out well for both types of growers, since they are able to help each other out with a common goal and business.
Greenhouses Moving to Hemp
The process of growing seedlings is called propagation, and experienced propagators can actually help farmers maximize their quality of plants by providing them with improved germination rates and consistent rooted cuttings with controlled growth by temperature and light acclimatizing them to outdoor growth before ever making it to their final farm for outdoor planting.
This process saves the farmer production costs and risks associated with propagating on their own. It’s not uncommon for entire crops to be ruined by a single dry period that causes premature flowering or genetic issues down the road.
With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, many commercial greenhouse growers specializing in ornamentals or vegetable industries are making the transition into hemp. This can be especially beneficial to new hemp farmers because many of these established greenhouses have years of experience and know how to produce healthy seedlings. Having those experienced greenhouse operators available to them will really give the hemp industry the boost it needs as a relatively new and growing corner of the industry.
The Cost Difference
As a young industry, hemp growers have already faced some challenges. There were some years where seeds proved themselves unreliable, but now that it’s gained some traction, hemp growers are finally getting the higher quality plants they need to boost their production and overall quality. Of course, higher quality generally means higher cost, and that goes for hemp cultivation as well.
As the industry grows and demand increases, growers will find themselves faced with acknowledging the benefits of guaranteed quality and stability. Even though this will often come at a higher price to them, it also means there is always a support system in place to make sure they are taken care of if something goes wrong. When running any kind of business, that type of assurance is necessary.
What This Means
Even though hemp has been around for centuries, in its current iteration it’s only been legal for a small amount of time. The processes are being learned and the industry is growing. With growth comes new knowledge and of course growing pains. Having the option to start plants in a greenhouse will give growers the peace of mind knowing that their plants start out healthy and established for healthy growth. These strict greenhouse starts ensure the plant is consistent, uniform, and will be expected to to perform within specific parameters guaranteed to give growers optimal results. Having that predictability is essential for profits, as well as for allowing for appropriate planning and organization of the crop to ensure the highest quality product possible after cultivation.
While the upfront cost may be slightly higher than it would be otherwise, the benefits are well worth it, especially in a new industry like hemp cultivation. This industry may be seeing many newcomers, many without extensive propagation or farming experience. Leaving that part up the experts will help these new growers learn as they build their business, ultimately providing excellent skills to the grower and high quality results to the consumers.
The farm bill legalized the cultivation of hemp, but it is still a highly regulated industry and individuals are not allowed to grow plants at home. Hemp can only be grown on registered farms and is federally monitored for cultivation and production. It is legal to transport across state lines for both commercial and personal use, just as long as those hemp products are produced in a manner consistent with the law. Since the process is still so new, there are going to be speedbumps and parts of the process that need a more detailed look. Farmers and the government are doing their best to work with each other to make the coming years as problem-free as possible for a brand new and booming industry.