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Industrial hemp growers face a lot of decisions at planting time

Industrial hemp (USDA photo)

DES MOINES — Growers planting the traditional corn and soybean crops in the state have a pretty conventional process — while industrial hemp growers face a lot more questions.

Robin Pruisner from the Iowa Department of Agriculture says there are four options for most hemp growers. “So you have to kind of figure out what you’re growing before you start — which is different from what we have with our normal crops in Iowa. Typically with corn you raise it and then you can decide if you are going to sell it to a feed mill or an ethanol plant,” She explains. “Hemp is a little more complicated than that and you have to start planning earlier.”

With hemp you can grow it to extract the CDB, to create seeds, for grain or for fiber. Pruisner says the different uses cause growers to use different methods in tending those crops.

“You will see an incredibly wide spectrum of fertilization techniques and products out there — with some people not fertilizing at all. Others investing in very specific products to their crop,” Pruisner says.

Pruisner says the cost of the inputs used for the crop are also varied. “Depending on whether you plant seed and if it is feminized seed — it can cost a dollar or more a seed. And it can cost a lot less if it is not feminized. And if you are planting clones or seed starts — they can run as high as five dollars a piece. And then you have you labor and planting costs,” Pruisner says.

Weather conditions are a factor for all crops — including hemp. “Once its established, it likes it on the dry side. It is not uncommon to see people irrigating if they are going for the high-value flower crop for extraction,” according to Pruisner. “It is also not uncommon to just see it planted out in the farm field with no irrigation. I really do see it from Alpah to Omega the way people are raising it.”

Pruisner says hemp growers do not want wet conditions around harvest time because that can cause the plants to get moldy.

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