Industrial Hemp

Stages of Hemp Growth and Production

Stages of hemp growth and production are essential for farmers looking to turn hemp growing into a fortune. Cannabis plants go through phases of development, just like all other living things. Farmers intending to venture into hemp farming need to know and understand each of these stages because each requires different care.

Each of the stages calls for different amounts of water, nutrients, and light. They also help farmers determine when to carry out certain essential activities such as pruning and training the plants. Understanding the different stages of hemp growth and production also allows growers to assess the overall health and sex of the weed plants.

Here is a breakdown of the primary stages of the hemp plant life cycle.

Stage 1: Germination

At this stage, roots emerge from the seed and grow downwards. The first stem and leaves begin to form and break through to the soil surface. Germination requires moisture, meaning that hemp seeds will remain viable for about a year in dry conditions.

Apart from moisture, hemp seeds also require a combination of air and heat. Water activates imbibition, which sees the outer shell rehydrate. It later opens to allow the embryo to sprout.

Air allows the embryo to perform vital processes needed for its well-being. These functions include transpiration and photosynthesis. Notably, a hemp seed requires mild temperatures for the development of its nucleus. All the nutrients needed for the embryo’s growth are available, but it needs water, air, and heat to sprout and grow outside the seed.

The germination process takes between 3 to 7 days under optimal conditions. The hemp seeds come alive under the right conditions to produce a taproot that grows downwards into the soil. It also develops two round leaves that help the plant to tap UV rays.

Some growers prefer to germinate the hemp seeds outside the soil. They use wet paper towels for this purpose, allowing the seeds to sprout before transferring them to the ground. This course of action lets them monitor each seed and ensure only the best seeds become seedlings.

Choosing High-Quality Hemp Seeds

However, hemp planters need to take some measures before planting the seeds to ensure high yields. It is important to note that the quality of the seed dramatically affects the hemp cultivation outcome. Planters could start the journey to a successful hemp farming business by purchasing from the best hemp seed bank in America.

Hemp farmers who have no idea how to procure high-quality seeds have no cause for alarm. They could partner with reliable seed banks across the US for the supply of premium hemp seeds. Growers with the right technical know-how may also develop their seeds and plant them on their farms.

Please note, hemp cultivation for seed development often requires additional licensing. Refer to your state’s hemp laws to determine how to proceed with hemp seed breeding.

After the hemp seed germinates, it develops into a seedling. Farmers germinating the seeds outside the soil have to transfer them to the earth to continue growing. The process is quite delicate, though; farmers must be careful not to harm the plants during transplant.

Stage 2: Seedling

After germinating, the plant begins to grow bigger. The tap develops deeper into the soil to collect the nutrients needed for the hemp plants to flourish. The leaves start to produce more blades as the plant grows. Usually, the leaves have only one blade at this time. By the time the plant matures, it will usually develop between five to seven blades per leaf.

The seedling stage takes about two to three weeks. At this stage, the plant grows more fan leaves. It remains a seedling until it grows five to seven blades per fan leaf. These blades make up the icon symbol of the cannabis plant.

Note: Some cannabis plants like Freakshow or Duckfoot are specially-developed cultivars that do not display the traditional five-to-seven-blade aesthetic.

The seedling stage is the most delicate in the life cycle of the cannabis plant. The seedling may suffer due to insufficient moisture, extreme weather conditions, and too much UV light. For this reason, most planters prefer to have the seedlings in a controlled environment, such as a grow room or a greenhouse. Some growers circumvent this problem by purchasing Hemp Seeds Starts rather than the traditional hemp seeds.

The plant is also quite vulnerable to molds and diseases at this stage. Planters can safeguard young cannabis plants by keeping the environment clean and preventing excessive moisture. The roots are still small and don’t need much water to thrive.

A healthy hemp seedling has a typical vibrant green color. The inexperienced growers may fall into the temptation of over-irrigating the plants to achieve the rich green hue. However, they may not know that other factors like soil nutrients and growing environment contribute to this color.

Other Factors that Affect Seedling Growth 

  • Duration and quality of light
  • Airflow
  • Humidity
  • Soil type

This stage should last between one to three weeks, but planters shouldn’t focus on the timelines too much. Instead, they should turn their attention to the plants’ health and ensure that conditions are right for their well-being.

Stage 3: Vegetative

The vegetative phase is the stage during which the bulk of growth truly takes place. The plant is now in a larger pot, or farm and the foliage and roots are developing rapidly. At this time, the grower begins to train and top the plants.

Spacing the nodes should depend on the plant type. Indica plants will grow short and dense, whereas sativas will be taller with more foliage. Subsequently, farmers have to increase the watering to cater to its growing needs.

When the plant is younger, irrigation closer to the stalk will be sufficient, but as it spreads out and grows taller, planters have to start watering it further away from the stem. The reason for this is because the roots grow outwards as the plant gains height and foliage.

Hemp Plant Vegetation

The vegetation of the cannabis plant undergoes several stages:

  • Formation of lateral shoots: The buds on the initial stem grow into new lateral shoots in a tillering process. This process depends on the soil moisture. Low moisture causes the roots to grow deeper in search of more water at the foliage’s expense. Farmers should increase watering at this time to encourage the development of more lateral shoots for denser or bushier growth.
  • Stem elongation: The stem grows to its final height, forming nodes along the way. Leaves and branches develop from the nodes. Sativas have more nodes hence their denser foliage. But farmers have to ensure they are well-hydrated to achieve maximum foliage.

The vegetative stage takes three to 16 weeks. During this phase, the hemp plant requires low phosphorus levels, moderate potassium levels, and high nitrogen levels. Fortunately, farmers don’t need to worry too much about those amounts because fertilizer companies do the calculations for them.

Hemp growers wishing to preserve a particular genetic line should take their cuttings or clones during this stage. Once the hemp plant gets to the flowering stage, it cannot revert to the vegetative stage; hence, no longer appropriate for cloning. Note that farmers may still clone flowering hemp plants, but they will have to contend with less foliage.

It is at this stage that inflorescence begins to form. Inflorescence refers to the cannabis flower head, which is a precursor to the flowering stage. Each inflorescence has a stem and many branches that end in clusters of flowers. The vegetative stage ends here, and the flowering period begins. Also, farmers can differentiate female cannabis plants from their male counterparts at this time. Male plants contain low cannabinoids and terpenes, and their pollen may cause females to do the same. Hence, most growers discard male cannabis plants early.

Stage 4: Flowering

During the flowering stage, the inflorescence begins to open and form flowers. Hemp growers can identify female flowers by taking a closer look at them; each female flower has a pistil containing an ovary and stigma. These collect the pollen that later fertilizes the ovary to form the cannabis seeds of the next generation. The ovary requires protection, and trichomes develop for this purpose.

Farmers with a little knowledge of cannabis gender can identify male plants quickly. The male plants show their gender earlier than their female counterparts. Growers can tell by checking for the presence of pollen sacks. They should remove them immediately to prevent them from pollinating the females because pollinated females don’t produce the CBD content that hemp farmers want.

Hemp growers can erase doubts from their hemp growing business by purchasing feminized seeds from licensed online seed banks. Feminized seeds produce only female flowers; hence, no need to worry about the chances of males pollinating the female flowers on the cannabis plants.

Trichomes and Metabolites

Many trichomes cover the cannabis plant, but only specialized glandular trichomes feature on bracts, the structures that protect the ovaries. These particular trichomes contain cannabinoids and are the reason for the stickiness on cannabis buds. They are also a significant factor in the production of flavonoids and terpenes, which form the metabolites.

Since metabolites are at their highest level at this stage, it is the best time to harvest the hemp flower. If farmers don’t harvest them at this stage, the levels of the metabolites begin to decline. Experienced farmers look for a high bract to leaf ratio in the buds. Expert growers can always determine the percentage by checking the weight of the buds. Denser buds have a higher metabolite content and are the most potent.

Hemp is a photoperiodic plant. It can begin flowering when the light cycle changes from 16 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of total darkness. These conditions occur naturally outdoors during September and October, when the planet moves away from the sun, changing the light spectrum from blue to warm yellow light.

The flowering stage lasts about eight to 11 weeks, and the plants won’t require much nitrogen during this period. The levels of other nutrients remain the same as the flowers approach maturity. When they attain full maturation, from week six to seven, the farmers can now harvest them.

Hemp growers should observe the following during the flowering period:

  • Ensure the plants have enough blooming nutrients
  • Trellis the plants so they can support the developing buds adequately
  • No pruning of the plants three weeks into the flowering period to avoid upsetting the hormonal balance of the plants

Stage 5: Harvesting

Once the hemp flowers attain maturity, it is time to harvest them for further processing. The methods of harvesting vary depending on the type of hemp under cultivation. Industrial hemp may require modern equipment to harvest, whereas it could be more challenging for CBD hemp.

Most farmers choose to harvest CBD hemp by hand to prevent cross-contamination of the hemp flowers. This can be time-consuming and hectic, especially if the farmers have large crops and a bumper harvest.

CBD hemp growers also have to cure the flowers in special drying equipment. Failure to do so may result in mildew development, which would ultimately render the crop unsellable. It would be a huge loss and disappointment for a grower who goes out of their way to cultivate hemp only to end up with an unsellable product.

When to Harvest Hemp

Choosing the right time to harvest the hemp impacts a farmer’s ROI greatly. If they harvest too early, they will have an inferior quality since the plants may not reach their full resin potential. Harvesting too late isn’t better either, as the flowers lose their potency in the process.

Farmers need to keep an eye on their crops in all stages of hemp growth and production. Full-term hemp may take between 3 to 4 months to reach maturity, while early finishers will be ready in 100 days. Autoflowers take a shorter time to mature, roughly 75 days.

Drying and Curing Hemp

Some hemp growers send their harvest directly to the processors immediately after harvesting. But many others choose to dry and cure their crop before dispatching it for processing.  While properly drying hemp locks in the weed quality and potency, improper curing may result in poor quality and a lower market value for the product.

Drying hemp requires a drying facility, basically a roofed structure with a temperature-controlled environment. Some farmers use barns, warehouses or sheds, as their drying facilities. The ideal setting for drying hemp is a temperature of between 60- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity of 60 percent. Temperature controllers and dehumidifiers can help maintain the environment.

Hemp Testing

Farmers must keep testing their hemp during the drying and curing processes. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, the only hemp with a THC content not exceeding 0.3 percent is legal. Growers will want to test their harvest one more time to be sure it falls under the THC limit and doesn’t contain any contaminants.

Final Word on the Stages of Hemp Growth and Production

Hemp farmers must understand the stages of hemp growth and production to better manage their crops. Hemp cultivation can be quite rewarding if growers get everything right and avoid problems that may negatively impact the final product’s quality.

About Fortuna Hemp

Fortuna Hemp is a licensed and reliable family-owned seed bank based in Winter Park, Florida. With a passion for hemp and its products, this online seed bank offers the necessary resources to help American farmers cultivate hemp and hopefully make a fortune. If you need more information on the stages of hemp growth and production, please contact us. Also, let us know your reactions by dropping a comment in the box below.

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