Throwing light on hemp harvest practices and post-harvest, Dr. Shelby Ellison, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Ph.D., says, “It’s a big learning curve, and it’s important to learn how to do it well before scaling up. You want it to be a learning experience, not a losing experience.”
In 2023, the nonprofit Vote Hemp claims that in 34 states, growers reported planting 70,530 acres of land for hemp to sell as fiber, grain, and hemp. However, only the harvested land was less than 50% of the claimed land. It happened because of crop failure and non-compliance. Besides, poor storing, drying, harvesting practices further fuel crop failure. It leaves hemp growers little to sell.
It means, if you do not learn or take tips to harvest hemp, you might fail to get the desired yields. Through this article, you will learn some tips to harvest hemp.
Guide to Hemp Harvesting
Here we present some tips to aid you in your hemp harvesting journey. It would ensure that your crops do not fail and you get the deserving amount for your efforts.
Timing is Everything
Director of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment hemp program from the University of Kentucky, Dr. Bob Pearce, advises that one should harvest hemp on time. Waiting for a long time to harvest grains of hemp might cause seed shattering and eventually seed loss. Besides, if hemp fiber is left too long on the farm, it degrades in quality. Also, CBDfxCoUk hemp can become hot, ruining the entire crop.
Generally, hemp takes 100 to 120 days to mature. However, some strains get ready faster than others. Pearce suggests that instead of relying on some set of rules or data to know the ideal time to harvest hemp, it is better to regularly walk in your field, check the crop, and look for signs that show the hemp is ready to harvest.
Some of these signs are:
- Look for the color of trichomes. If their color changes from white to off-white or milkier, it is a sign to harvest.
- For Hemp grains, harvest the crop before seeds start to shatter.
- For hemp fiber, you should harvest before seed sets and after plant blooms.
If you are growing hemp for CBD, frequently check the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It happens because an increase in CBD also causes an increase in THC levels, which increases the risk for hot crops. It is true that CBDfx oil is quite beneficial for our health, but without research there is no point.
Balance Mechanization and Labor
Besides monitoring the fields carefully, growers should also arrange for labor to harvest fields. Different harvesters take a different path for balancing labor and mechanism. Here is the experience of different hemp growers.
- In 2018, Andy Fogle harvested a hemp crop for the first time. In the last season, his field produced almost 800 pounds of hemp flowers per acre. However, the prices of crops dropped. Fogle mentions the margin is too low to adjust the cost of manual harvesting. Thus, instead of taking help from seasonal workers, Fogle has a silage cutter and stripper’s head to strip the hemp flowers on the farm. After the completion of Harvest, he till the leftover plants under the ground with a tractor.
- Fogle explains, “Mechanical picking is great because I don’t have to bring in 20 workers for two to three weeks for hand-cutting and stacking in a barn; what we’re doing now is much more efficient. It takes two people: One to drive the silage cutter and one to drive the wagon it gets spit into. The whole point is scalability.”
- On the other hand, East Fork Cultivators from Portland are labor-oriented for harvesting. CEO of the Craft hemp farm, Mason Walker, hires almost seven seasonal workers with 12 all-year employees. They work together to complete the harvesting process. The team takes almost 6 weeks to harvest premium hemp flowers in 9 acres of land.
- Walker explains, “We’re primarily a hand-harvested farm, but we do have some mechanization. We do incorporate machines to help with the de-stemming and grading process, but the actual cutting of plants out of the field is still done by hand. We don’t use a tractor, thresher or combine.”
- The cultivators in East Folk work concurrently during harvesting. One team harvests the branches with large size flowers to obtain premium flowers. The second team follows. They harvest the branches with tiny buds. The seasonal laborers are in half-day orientation and do on-job training. It ensures that they store, dry, and harvest hemp correctly.
- Walker says, “It requires constant training, but we’re fortunate that we have a larger year-round, salaried staff than most farms. For Harvest, we have mini teams … that are led by our year-round staff.”
- According to Ellison, for CBD hemp growers, labor is a vital issue. She explains, “Harvest is absolutely the pinch point. Getting the plants out of the field takes a lot of labor, and bucking the biomass takes a lot of labor … and growers are often relying on friends and family to get it done.”
That means the way to balance labor and mechanism depends on the situation around you. If you think that the margins allow you to hire labor, you can go for it. If not, you can choose machines.
Determine the Right Equipment
While balancing machines and labor, it is also vital to determine the right equipment for harvesting. In one season, Walker used a Munch Machine. It claimed that it decreased the cost of labor by 35%. In the following season, he bought a similar machine. However, he still keeps exploring other machines that will ensure the quality of East Fork’s hemp.
He explains, “One of the things I often [regret] looking back on our first few years of hemp cultivation is that we didn’t bring in enough traditional farming experience and [didn’t] force ourselves through the discomfort of mechanization. In the connoisseur-grade cannabis world, there’s a shared rejection of mechanization that strips some of the magic from the plant, and we listened to that voice for too long to our detriment.
So, you have to look for the equipment you choose and explore more options.
The success of your hemp crop largely depends on the efficiency of the harvesting process. The key to successful harvesting lies in choosing the right time, machines, labor, and storing hemp. Whether harvesting for domestic use or commercial use, you have to plan equipment, timing, labor, and machines carefully. Do them carefully, and you are good to go.