Growing hemp comes with a heavy caveat. Hemp is legal across the US, marijuana is not. Yet, they’re both derivative of the cannabis plant. One becomes the other with only a slight increase in THC. The thing is, hemp growers don’t want too much THC because that means their hemp is hot.
Hot hemp occurs when there’s more than 0.3 percent THC in a hemp crop. When that happens, the farmer is legally required to dispose of their entire crop. The loss can be so costly. Not only do you lose the product, but you’ve wasted an entire growing season with nothing to show for it.
Hemp gets tested for THC right before harvest. At that point, it’s imperative you don’t have hot hemp. Here are the best ways to prevent it.
1. Start with the right genetics
One of the best ways to avoid hot hemp is to work with strains that regularly test below the legal level of THC. Those selling the seeds or seedlings should have information on how the plants historically test, but you can also talk to other growers to glean information from their own experiences.
Don’t rely only on word of mouth though. You want trusted sources, with actual evidence, that the specific strain you are thinking of growing has a consistent reputation of not getting hot. According to a study out of Cornell University, “To minimize the risk of plants going hot, hemp growers ideally want plants with two CBD-producing genes.”
2. Rely on clones
When in doubt, go with what works when you’re growing hemp. If the strain you grew last season produced a crop that didn’t get hot, use a clone for this year’s crop. Clones will give you a more predictable outcome than seeds, whose results may suffer from varying chemical profiles.
3. Work with the right soil
Even if hemp is just one crop in your rotation, having healthy soil can make all the difference when it comes to avoiding hot hemp. Not only that, but “living soils” can encourage hemp plants to increase their production of cannabinoids and terpenes. This includes the popular compounds, CBD and CBG, but also CBN and CBC.
As the hemp plant focuses on producing cannabinoids, it decreases its production of THC.
4. Test your crop yourself
While you have to report a lab-run hemp test to prove that your crop is under 0.3 percent THC, there are no laws against running an additional test before the one you submit. This can help you establish whether or not you have hot hemp early enough to try and address the issue.
Find a testing lab you trust and test frequently to create a baseline for THC levels. You’ll see when they start to rise, and if they do, you’ll have more time to act. There won’t be surprises at the end of your grow with this strategy.
The main type of testing conducted is called High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). It collects plant matter into a liquid solution and can separate and quantify any specific compound.
5. Harvest at the right time
Even though it will decrease the total percentage of cannabinoids in your crop, harvesting early can help ensure your THC levels stay within the legal limit. There’s an ideal time, that’s just a little bit early, that hits the sweet spot of appropriate levels of THC alongside profitable levels of CBD. With experience as a hemp farmer, it will get easier to find.
What to do if your hemp starts getting “hotter”
With frequent testing, you’ll potentially catch your hemp crop before it gets too hot to stay legal. At this point, there are a few strategies you can employ to bring down THC levels.
- Give it a little sun. Direct sunlight creates a biosynthetic process that helps degrade the amount of THC in a plant.
- Air it out. The open air can also degrade THC levels thanks to the naturally oxidizing agents in the atmosphere. This is also a way to increase the levels of CBN in your hemp. When THC deteriorates from oxidation, it converts to CBN.
- Heat things up. When heated up, THC converts itself to THCA, a non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant. Studies have shown that heating up hemp to 230 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes can help deteriorate THC levels.
Of course, these strategies won’t save your hemp in every case. Especially if you’re already growing your hemp outside in the open air with exposure to sunlight. It’s also worth noting that each strategy can also decrease the levels of other, valuable cannabinoids in your hemp.
Arbor Vita8 can help you avoid hot hemp
Working with experienced scientists, the team at Arbor Vita8 knows hemp genetics. Our trusted wholesalers can help you purchase seeds or seedlings with a certified reputation of staying within the legal limits of THC. Combine this with the right soil and harvesting schedule, and you’ll prevent your hemp crop from getting hot.
To learn more about how Arbor Vita8 can help get you started with the right strain of hemp, and then provide high-quality services in drying and processing, contact us today.