With this season’s hemp harvest wrapping up, many farmers and landowners with a hemp crop this year have been scrambling to make their deadlines and harvest before their crop turns or worse. With an anemic growing season over the summer and a rapidly cooling winter almost upon us, Montana hemp farmers have had difficulty growing consistent, quality cultivars and maintaining that quality through the processing of the flower. For many of these farmers, this is their first season with hemp and even though many are experienced with alfalfa, potato or even hops, the differences in how cannabis grows and how the flower needs to be handled are very unlike any other cash crop.
First, many farmers forget that the only place the CBD, CBG, and other valuable cannabinoids are produced is in the plant’s trichome structures that form on the flower and bracteoles, or sugar leaves, in the flowering cola.
The trichomes are a semi-crystalline, fatty secretion that some of the plants in the Cannabaceae family secrete on their flowers to deter predators. These fatty secretions are also what hold all of the cannabinoids and make up 90% of the value of your plant. These trichomes also change over time as they age on the flower, creating different cannabinoid profiles as the flower ripens. Some beginning hemp farmers don’t know this and when harvesting, the ripeness or even the presence of trichomes is amazingly overlooked.
The second common mistake involves moisture content. Once that flower develops, rain, snow, and water, in general, will quickly rot out the flower if it is not given time to dry in the field or after harvest, and if wet flower is bailed wet, entire crops can be lost, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars rotting in the field.
Final flower and biomass still must be dried and this process is in many ways just as crucial as harvesting at the right moment. Resources exist for hemp growers, from the internet to making use of experts in the field; arming yourself with a better understanding of the botany of cannabis can only improve your crop. Finding and making use of a professional assessor can help steer growers through many of the specific processes involved with the handling of hemp such as harvesting, curing, and the final sale. These assessors or brokers can help assist in harvesting logistics, and the end sale so that the flower grown goes for the best possible price in this over-saturated market.
Farming is hard, and with a back-to-the-land movement that has been growing around hemp in the last year, the excitement around America’s new cash crop has risen. It’s important to get educated on the plants you intend to grow and sell and much of this information is openly available.