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Hanging Out in the Hemp Field


Hemp agronomy research is blazing forward at Farming Smarter

mike gretzinger hemp agronomy
Mike Gretzinger in front of the Hemp Grain Agronomy plot at the 2021 Lethbridge Plot Hop

For the CHTA variety trials, we’re doing things a little bit differently – we’ve broken our trials into two separate plots, one looking at fibre agronomy & the other investigating grain agronomy.

The Nitty-Gritty of Grain Agronomy

In our grain trials, we have mainly diecious varieties of hemp; distinctly male & female plants. Right now the plants are pollinating – bees are buzzing between the plants, helping spread the male pollen to the budding female plants. Soon, we’ll see hemp begin to blossom. Once de-hulled these hearts are delicious! Hemp hearts are the grain of the crop.

There are plenty of hemp varieties in our plot; we have different heights, leafing, and biomass characteristics between the plants. In these plots, we have dual-purpose plants that produce grain and fibre. The fibre can be used for straw, feed, or bedding.

While they do have cannabinoid profiles in the fibre, main purpose of this study is to get the most grain, fibre or both out of each plant.

Our Findings on Fibre Agronomy

The varieties in our fibre plots are much taller – pushing 8ft right now, with the possibility to reach 10 – 12ft, depending on the variety. The purpose of these trials is to cultivate fibre, so the taller the plant the more fibre to harvest. We’re after the thick, dense fibre rather than the seeds of the plant.

Hemp plants have two main kinds of fibre: the Bast & the Hurd.

Manufacturers use the Bast, the stringy outer fibre, in products like paper, clothing, and string. Its durability and strength are what suits it to products that need to be stronger.

However, there is a negative to how strong it is.

Even while it’s green, its durability is a marvel – but as it grows and dries up it becomes even stronger! This makes it difficult for farmers to harvest due to how tough it becomes.

To circumvent this, farmers will harvest it while it’s still green – reinforcing the need to grow hemp crops as tall as possible before its prime.

“There’s an old joke, ‘when you go out to harvest hemp you need a combine and a water truck; just to make sure you don’t catch anything on fire while you’re out there,'” says Mike Gretzinger, Farming Smarter Research Coordinator.

The inner fibre, or the Hurd, is a woody fibre that breaks much easier than the Bast. Manufacturers use Hurd primarily for making building materials such as hempcrete, mulch, and even vehicle panelling. While not as robust as Bast, it’s still a sought-after resource.

A lot of the plants in our fibre trials are monoecious, meaning they are hermaphroditic and self-pollinate. The leaf structure varies wildly amongst these hemp varieties.

Hemp from our Hemp Agronomy trials

Hemp Agronomy Research

While we aren’t testing for it, other researchers elsewhere study the variety of cannabinoids in the hemp varieties. There is a rising interest in the CBD & CBG terpenes in multiple industries.

For more information check out:

Our Hemp Agronomy Project page

Our previous Hemp Agronomy Project

Mike’s Hemp presentation at our July 2021 Plot Hop