We understand why farmers love the process of harvesting. It’s the culmination of months of working, watching and waiting, and a huge step toward a successful growing season. Hemp generally matures in about 90 to 120 days. Actual time depends on what part of the plant you’re prioritizing and growing conditions. Harvesting hemp can be tricky because of the relatively new widespread growth of the crop and differing methods from farm to farm. But, doing it the right way can make all the difference when it comes time to sell.
When to Harvest
Timing of harvest depends on a lot of different things. Mainly, what part of the plant you’re planning to use will determine when to pull the plants down. Weather conditions are going to be important here too, as hemp is prone to mildew and mold growth. In some parts of the country, hemp matures in hurricane season so it’s crucial to watch the forecast.
Harvesting hemp flower for CBD
If it’s the first time you’re planting a certain seed, make sure you ask your supplier about not only the maturation time, but also specific traits the hemp strain might exhibit that tells you it’s at the peak of CBD production. On your end, it’s a good idea to watch levels of CBD and THC in the plants as they grow. This is best done through weekly testing. It’s worth the expense, since the difference between even a few percentage points of CBD levels at harvest can mean thousands of dollars of difference in the end. On the flip side, getting THC levels that are too high means scrapping an entire crop at a huge expense.
Your Department of Agriculture conducts the final test on your crop before harvesting. Once complete, and this is crucial, farmers have 15 days to pull the crop. It’s a widely criticized regulation because of the short time window, but for now, it’s still the law.
Around harvest time you’ll also want to monitor trichomes. These are the very fine, hair-like material covering the hemp bud. When they switch from white to milky or translucent, it generally indicates peak levels of cannabinoid production in the plant.
Harvesting industrial hemp
Harvesting industrial hemp for fiber differs in process from plants harvested once they flower. In these instances, many farmers have found traditional harvesting methods for crops like tobacco or wheat apply pretty well. Farmers generally use industrial combine machines. Plants harvested for fiber get cut at around 60 days. Hemp grain is generally harvested 115 days out and at 20 percent moisture. That’s important because any less moisture can cause the grains to shatter when they move through the machine.
Drying and curing hemp
After cutting the hemp plants, additional processing includes drying and curing. Hemp grown for fiber goes through a process called retting. That’s where the cut plants sit in the field for as long as three to four weeks to rot. Naturally growing microbes start separating the fiber from the plant stem. For plants grown for CBD or CBG, it’s again a much more involved process. The hand-cut plants are either put through a drying machine or hung inside to allow the flower to dry and cure. This is like how the treatment of tobacco after it’s harvested. Well-ventilated barns are your best bet for this more traditional method. Farmers have to check humidity levels often to ensure no mold or mildew grows on the drying flowers. Ideal conditions should be between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 60 percent humidity. Using a drying machine is often faster and less worrisome as far as the risks for mold or mildew. Many farmers are turning to technology to help speed up their drying process.
Getting an ample harvest
Harvesting hemp right can mean a world of difference between a fine final product and a great final product. You want one that makes buyers or processors come looking for your harvest at the end of every season. If you’re a farmer new to hemp or still thinking about growing it, take advantage of the experience and knowledge of our staff at Arbor Vita8. From planting to harvesting, we offer a complete seed-to-sale array of services and support. Contact us today and let us know how we can help you get started.