While it is possible to go into the field, cut a whole hemp plant with a machete, hang the plant upside down, and leave it to dry, it is not always recommended. Whole plants hung to dry can trap humidity and promote mold growth. Processing the plant right after cutting allows for a more even drying process, and an easier time extracting CBD or CBG.
During the drying and curing stage, enzymes in the hemp break down chlorophyll. Since chlorophyll is like Gatorade for plants, it’s important to flush the hemp of excess nutrients before the harvest.
Knowing When To Harvest
The first step to having quality hemp to dry is to harvest it at the right time. This is definitely a learning process for farmers, and there’s no date on the calendar that’s ideal for harvesting. With a careful watch on your plants, you can enter that sweet spot for an optimal harvest.
Weather & Labor
Hemp harvesting is a labor-intensive process that also coincides with hurricane season. Having enough laborers on hand is vital to having a successful harvest. Sufficient labor allows both harvesting and processing in a timely fashion.
Since the timing of the harvest can significantly impact CBD or CBG yield, harvest timing is vital to a grower’s bottom line. Growers are able to watch hemp trichomes change color from milky white to amber, and they can routinely test their crops. A one percent variance in CBD or CBG content for a single acre of hemp can translate to a crop value difference of $20,000. Because of this, frequent testing makes financial sense.
Drying Your Hemp
Drying is the first step in processing hemp plants. Before drying your hemp, you must prepare to chop and trim a lot of buds in a short amount of time. This is because dense buds create an ideal home for fungus, coupling with high humidity with low air flow. Regardless of what machine you use to try your hemp, the ideal humidity is between 45 percent and 55 percent. Gentle air flow should pass over your hemp as it’s kept at a temperature between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are a few options to use when properly drying hemp. Whether you opt for a more traditional approach, and hang it dry yourself, or go in for an automated machine, the trick is to extract enough moisture from the hemp plants to categorize them as dry. This doesn’t mean sucking all the water out. Hemp plants are “dry” even if they still have eight percent moisture in them. Your choices often center around four key drying methods:
- Hang dry. This method lets you chop the entire plant, leave it intact, and hang it to dry. The more intact a plant is though, the longer the dry time.
- Screen dry. If the hemp buds are large and dense, it may make sense to cut the hemp into smaller portions, and dry the plant matter on screens. Smaller bud sizes maximize surface area, while screens improve air flow; this allows for the flowers to dry faster
- Continuous dryers. Moving into more automated options for drying hemp, a continuous drying machine lets you run your hemp through a drying machine until it’s completely dry. The constant movement of hemp allows you to dry a large amount very quickly and efficiently.
- Batch dryers. Another drying machine, batch dryers get the job done one batch at a time. Once a batch finishes drying, you load up another. This machine handles plant matter delicately and is often used for higher yielding products.
The relationship between hemp and tobacco
Because there is a long history of growing tobacco in America, a lot of equipment used in the hemp drying process began with drying tobacco. Since many flue-cured tobacco barns still exist, growers taking more traditional drying approaches will often repurpose these barns for hemp.
Is It Dry Yet?
How you dry your hemp plant impacts the speed in which it’s done. If you’re doing the traditional route, hanging your hemp, dry time varies between 5-14 days. Using modern machines vastly speeds up the process. At Arbor Vita8, our machine can process up to 20,000 wet pounds per hour.
You do want to be careful not to over-dry your hemp, no matter what method you use. Doing this damages quality.
Ready to dry your hemp?
Whichever hemp drying method you choose, ArborVita8 can help guide you through the process. Our high-capacity drying services are available a la carte or as part of our Farmer Partner program to save you time and make drying a more efficient process. Contact us today to learn more about our seed-to-sale collection of services.