By Noah Chen
When growing hemp for CBD, one of the most damaging events that could befall your crop, and bottom line, is the pollination of your plants. See, while we know hemp plants produce CBD, it’s the females that do most of the work. Male hemp plants produce far less cannabinoids, and they also derail the females. One pesky male plant in the crop, and females start producing seeds rather than cannabinoids. Crop = ruined.
You have to be vigilant. Remove male hemp plants wherever they spring up in your fields. Work fast, and do this before they can pollinate the ladies. Once a female gets pollinated, it’s over. To avoid this disaster, you need to learn how to identify male hemp plants, and what to do if you find any growing.
How to determine hemp sex
There are a couple of different ways to determine a hemp plant’s sex. First, it’s possible to send plant samples off for lab testing. Technicians will look at the DNA structure and determine the sex. This will tell you for sure what gender any specific plant is. However, it can become expensive the more plants you test. There’s also a chance the plants could pollinate before you get the results back.
Another way to determine a hemp plants sex is to pay close attention to its early growth patterns. For the first couple of weeks, male and female hemp plants look identical, but the telltale signs of gender start to come in soon after. Male plants will:
- Grow faster, get taller, and have thicker stalks than their female counterparts.
- Have almost spherical bulbs, which should appear four to six weeks into the plant’s life cycle. Female bulbs are tear shaped.
- Lack hairs on the bulbs, while females will have small, translucent ones.
If you’re using these visual cues to determine gender, it is best to conduct routine inspections of your fields. It’s also worth noting that hemp plants can be hermaphrodites, meaning they develop both male and female anatomy. Hermaphrodites can still pollinate females, meaning you should treat them as males.
Don’t let boys be boys out in the field
Because of the risk they pose to the rest of your crop, it’s always a good idea to cull male hemp plants as fast as possible. The best way to do this is pull them up by the roots and compost them somewhere far away. Burning them too also works. Fully removing them is the only way to maintain the integrity of your hemp crop if you’re growing to extract cannabinoids from your plants.
However, total destruction isn’t always necessary. Male hemp plants actually have some use that might make you want to keep a few around. For instance, male plants can help breed better genetics into your crop. If you notice a male hemp plant that has desirable traits such as growing quickly or being especially resilient to mold or pests, you could hang onto it and use it to pollinate a select group of females in a separate location. The resulting seeds will have fifty percent of the male’s DNA, meaning there’s a good chance to pass on whatever positive traits you noticed in the first place.
Males are also the ideal hemp plant if you’re growing hemp for something other than cannabinoid extraction. They make great plants for hemp fiber production due to their tall, thick stalks.
If you do choose to keep any males around, make sure they stay sheltered from the wind and far away from the female hemp plants. This will ensure no stray pollen, released by the males, gets blown into your female plants.
Feminized seeds can save you the headache of male hemp plants
To greatly reduce the risk a male hemp plant will pop up in your crop, start with feminized seeds. While males may still occur, buying feminized seeds decreases the likelihood that you’ll have to deal with an unwanted invader.
At Arbor Vita8, our wholesalers offer premium, feminized seeds in a variety of strains. Working closely with our team of scientists, we not only ensure our seeds to be nearly 100 percent female, but high cannabinoid producers as well. For more information on the seed and seedling varieties we offer, contact Arbor Vita8 today.