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How to Grow Hemp for CBD in Wisconsin – Step 5: Harvest

Timing is without a doubt the most crucial factor when harvesting your hemp crop. Growers must let the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection know when they plan to harvest in advance. The optimal time to harvest is when your plants test high in CBD, yet still under the 0.3% THC threshold allowed by the state. Predicting when this optimal cannabinoid content will take place is a tough task. The following tips can help give you an understanding of calculating the proper date.

Although many farmers simply harvest after a set amount of days since first sprout, the top CBD farmers will track their grow with spreadsheets developed through testing plants along the growth phase. Getting your plants tested on occasion throughout the growing season may take time and energy, but it’s sure worth the reward. The more data you collect on your crop’s CBD and THC content, the easier it will be to predict this optimal date. With some basic algebra, growers can use this data to find the slope, and apply this slope to the calendar. Once the optimal date is determined, contacting the DATCP one month in advance will give them enough notice to have your fields tested prior to this date. It’s a safe bet to pull the harvest date back a week or so once you’ve calculated it, just in case the data is off. If plants do run “hot”, or over the 0.3% THC limit, the state will force the whole field to be destroyed.

Beyond the harvest date, growers should be prepared for harvest with enough labor and equipment for the size of their fields. If your grow is on the smaller side (10 acres or less), hand cutting the plants at the root with machetes or loppers is your best bet. For large scale operations, some farmers use modified harvesters for crops such as corn to cut the plants off halfway up the stalk. This leaves the bottom half to decompose into the soil and replenishes many of the nutrients used during the grow. I hope this shed some light on the hemp harvesting process, stay on the lookout for the following step in this blog series; Drying.

How to Grow Hemp for CBD in Wisconsin – Step 5: Harvest Timing is without a doubt the most crucial factor when harvesting your hemp crop. Growers must let the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture,

After 2018 Challenges, Wisconsin Farmers Weigh The Risk Of Industrial Hemp

Last spring, LaVon Felton was all in when it came to industrial hemp.

Felton owns car dealerships in Viroqua and he has an organic farm outside of town. In 2018, he had a contract to grow 48 acres of hemp grain for Legacy Hemp, a company growing hemp in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Even though hemp grain had never been grown in Wisconsin, Felton believed it could help farmers struggling with low prices for traditional commodities like milk and corn.

“The dairy industry is not what it was for many reasons. And the tobacco industry, we lost that 10 years ago. So for me this is a way to find another cash crop, another way for the farmers in this area to . supplement their income,” Felton said.

Farmer LaVon Felton shows where he planted 48 acres of industrial hemp for grain in May 2018 on his farm in Vernon County. Hope Kirwan/WPR

Looking back now, he says the lack of information on how to grow hemp wasn’t his biggest obstacle. It was simply the persistent rains at the end of summer that impacted fields across the state.

“It just couldn’t get dried out. It just rained a lot. So when we did get it harvested, we came up with a good product. But it tested too high for mold spores in the grain,” Felton said.

Felton didn’t sell a single pound of the hemp grain he harvested in 2018. And neither did the roughly 20 other farmers who contracted with Legacy Hemp.

Between the seed, fertilizer, required testing and other expenses, Felton estimates the endeavor cost him at least $20,000.

But last year’s tough growing season for industrial hemp hasn’t deterred farmers from growing the new crop. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has issued more than 1,300 licenses to grow industrial hemp in 2019, a 22 percent increase from last year.

Felton wants farmers new to planting hemp to know they’re taking risk.

” If we have a corn crop that doesn’t go well or beans, we’re going to get something. We’re going to be able to recoup some of our costs. Basically with this, if you lose it, you lose it all. You get nothing ,” Felton said.

Corn and soybeans with small amounts of mold can still be sold for livestock feed. But the only market for hemp grain is for human consumption.

Felton said he doesn’t think growing hemp grain will ever be profitable in Wisconsin because of the climate. The state doesn’t have the same arid summers as plains states like North Dakota, where hemp grain has been grown since 2016.

And Legacy Hemp agronomist Bryan Parr said his company is starting to agree. Especially if Wisconsin continues to see frequent heavy rain events at the end of summer.

“If it’s not going to be conducive in Wisconsin because of our changing climate, it may not be the best crop to be growing in Wisconsin for grain,” Parr said. “Or at least not until we have another market that doesn’t require such high quality, food-grade production.”

Parr said the state’s farmers have a much better shot at growing hemp fiber once that market becomes available. It’s the kind of hemp Wisconsin farmers grew during World War I and II, but Parr said there isn’t enough manufacturer demand in the United States yet.

Parr said another option for Wisconsin hemp growers is the rapidly expanding wellness industry around cannabidiol oil, or CBD.

But growing hemp for CBD products has its own problems. Just ask Bob Pulvermacher, who farms part-time near Lone Rock.

Pulvermacher planted 3 acres of hemp for CBD in 2018 and harvested around 1,000 pounds of hemp buds with a fairly high percentage of CBD.

At the current market rate, Pulvermacher said he should get around $450 per pound for the trimmed buds. But he can’t find enough buyers.

“I’ve got a bunch of different shops that are buying it, but they’re only a pound or 2 pounds at a time. So it’s pretty slow. I mean it’s steady but it’s slow,” Pulvermacher said.

Pulvermacher said the larger CBD manufacturers he’s contacted already have more than enough hemp. So he’s having to work harder to market his product. He’s even invested in lab equipment so he can make a whole-plant hemp extract on the farm, essentially a less-processed version of CBD oil.

Last year's tough growing season for industrial hemp hasn't deterred farmers. DATCP has issued more than 1,300 licenses to grow industrial hemp in 2019, a 22 percent increase from last year. ]]>