The Hempening

We’ve wrapped up our study and are ready to leave the hemp fields!

We finished our third of three years in our Agronomic Influences on Fiber and Grain Yield in Industrial Hemp project. Currently, we are working on a final report to bring you the final data. Keep an eye out for the report closer to the end of March.

There’s still lots of interesting research to be done with hemp agronomy and we’re excited for our next opportunity to study this up-and-coming crop.

One of the major focuses in this combined seeding rates & dates trials that were separate in our first project.

We had three sites throughout Alberta: an irrigated trial in southern Alberta, here in Lethbridge, and two dryland trials in central Alberta at InnoTech and in the Peace region, in northern Alberta, at SARDA.

Investigating The Hempening

For our seeding rates & dates trials we were curious if there was any interplay between the rates and dates. For example, if you’re going to seed late, will you need to seed at a higher or lower rate & the same for early seeding.

Mike Gretzinger highlights the hemp project during a Plot Hop June 2020

In southern Alberta, we found that early seeding was effective at getting higher yields. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen this response in the other regions.

We found that dropping the seeding rate and seeding late caused the hemp to be outcompeted by weeds in the field. Additionally, the crop couldn’t develop good stalks and we routinely saw poor grain yields.

The biggest influencing factor we saw was in the seeding dates. By seeding hemp late, you run a higher risk of negatively impacting your yield. Our best advice to combat this is to follow your agronomist’s advice on when to seed.

Although we wish we could, we can’t say which dates are the best to seed because we found that the best times to seed varied between the regions. In the south, we found the best seeding dates were a little bit earlier than in central Alberta and the Peace region.

In our advanced fertility trials, we investigated which practices had a yield response with the more intensive management.

After finishing this study, we think that we’ve nailed down the basics of hemp agronomy. One of the interesting things to come out of this is the regionality to the data. According to what we’ve seen, hemp grows very differently depending on the region.

Overall Observations

Mike G. unplugging after harvesting some hemp

In the Peace region, compared to central & southern Alberta, growing seasons and conditions are entirely different. In southern Alberta, our hemp trials saw almost a dozen more frost-free days than in the trials in the central and northern regions. With the warmer weather we’ve been experiencing in the south that gap only widens.

However, while our southern trials received more heat units from the warmer temperatures, our northern trials received more sunlight exposure on average.

In the north, we saw a larger amount of fiber biomass in our yields compared to the south. While we know that we can produce high biomass hemp in the south, the challenge is that we would have to replace another high-value crop to do so. That would mean replacing potatoes or sugar beets with hemp and that might not be economically wise.

Central Alberta managed to be the most stable of our locations. They were able to avoid the extreme colds we saw in the north and the sweltering heat we got in the south of the province.

For producers looking to get into growing industrial hemp, you can check out our Plot Shots and videos on our hemp projects!

Additionally, you can check out the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance production guide for more information on growing this crop.