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The Hemp Life Cycle

Updated: Jun 12

For people blessed with a green thumb, industrial hemp may just be the perfect cash crop. It is relatively easy to grow and can reach maturity within only a few months of planting. Plus, a single acre of hemp yields a large amount of marketable product. It’s also the perfect plant for farmers who are concerned about growing organically. In this article we will discuss the growth cycle of this amazing product, and provide some tips to get the most out of your hemp, whether you are planning on producing CBD or fiber.

What is industrial hemp?

Industrial hemp is the term used to refer to the strain of the Cannabis Sativa plant that is primarily used for making hemp fiber, seed oils, and CBD. As opposed to marijuana, industrial hemp is low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is a psychoactive chemical. To be considered industrial hemp by the USDA, the plant must produce less than 0.3% THC, meaning that it would have little to no effect on most people. Hemp is not going to get anyone high.

Since 2018, industrial hemp has been legal to grow federally in the United States. A lot of hemp is planted in order to extract cannabidiol (CBD), which is a natural oil that has been purported to have healing effects, helps in relaxation, and may reduce inflammation. Hemp is also grown for the plant fiber which has been used in textile and garment manufacturing for thousands of years.

Hemp is an ideal choice for organic farming. Most pests and crop diseases do not have much of an effect on the plant, reducing the need for pesticides and herbicide. Since hemp grows so quickly, many weeds cannot keep up, so there is minimal weeding required, and no need to use destructive toxins. It also works great as a mulch for other plants, allowing soil to retain moisture.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of hemp is how versatile of a plant it is. Hemp can be successfully grown in almost every state in the US. It has a short growth cycle, usually starting in May or June and can be ready to harvest by early Fall. For most types of harvesting no special machinery is required, and the oils can be processed with the same presses used for other neutral oils. Hemp fiber is the strongest and longest natural fiber, and is used in a variety of products and in construction.

The four stages of growing hemp

There are four stages of growing this miracle plant:

  • Planting (germination)

  • Seedling

  • Vegetative growth

  • Flowering

In the planting stage, the introduction of water to the seed causes the embryo to break through the shell, and roots and a stalk begin to develop. After 5-10 days the sprout will emerge from the soil and develop two cotyledon leaves, which are round. These start to soak up sunlight and convert it into energy. This stage ends when the plant begins to develop the first long leaves, which will look more like cannabis leaves

At this point, the plant has entered the seedling stage. The leaves will start to develop into the iconic 5-fingered fan leaf, although some fan leaves may grow up to 7 or more fingers. Plants are very susceptible to stress during this stage, so many farmers choose to keep them in a greenhouse while they are seedlings. Throughout this stage the plants should remain short and grow thick vegetation. If they do not receive enough sunlight they will reach, meaning that the stalks will grow too long in search of sunlight, and will not be strong enough to support the weight of more vegetation.

Once the plant is consistently growing 5-7 fingered fan leaves, the plant has entered the vegetative growth stage. It is very important to provide plenty of sunlight during this stage, up to 24 hours a day. As soon as the plant receives less than 12 hours of sunlight it will go into the flowering stage. During vegetation it is important to maintain a steady regimen of pruning and training. It is also imperative to provide enough nutrients to the soil, particularly nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Make sure not to overfeed or overwater the plants. It is during this stage that clones would be taken to preserve the specific strain.

Once the plant begins to receive less than 12 hours of sunlight a day, it will begin to start flowering. This can happen naturally throughout the early Fall or be replicated in a grow lab. The sex of the plant will be evident in this stage, with females producing pistles and males pollen sacs. The sexes must be separated to make sure that they don’t pollinate. The plants will require less nutrition during this stage, although they should be supported to help them bear the weight of the flowers. When the plants produce strong buds that have milky-white trichomes, they are ready for harvest. Fiber harvest can be executed with standard farming equipment, but many farmers choose to hand-harvest their buds if they intend to produce CBD.

Market potential

One acre of hemp can produce twice as much oil as an acre of peanuts, and up to four times the fiber as an equivalent area of trees. That’s a great yield for a plant that has so many uses! Plus there are a number of by-products of hemp that are also marketable, including hemp paper and hempcrete, which is a composite material used in construction and that can act as an insulation. It is estimated that the typical acre of hemp will profit between a few hundred and a thousand dollars in one harvest. At this time, most industrial hemp farming in the US is for CBD, but because of its potential marketability, many tobacco farmers are considering making the switch to hemp.

One final note: Since hemp is related to marijuana, it is currently regulated by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Anyone who is considering to start growing this fascinating and lucrative plant needs to obtain the required permits and licenses from their local government.

Making money in hemp?

If you are a hemp farm, CBD products producer, or have any other role in this growing industry, you need a specialized accountant to help you take care of your finances. The average accountant or bookkeeper just isn’t familiar with the unique opportunity the evolving hemp industry is. At Sonder Accounting, we have over 33 years of combined experience in the hemp and accounting industries, and are intimately aware of all the potential pitfalls and windfalls that you may face. We’ve worked in the trenches of the legalized cannabis business, and were active in efforts for legalization. Consider working with an accountant who understands you and your industry, and see how our services can help you make more money and let you focus on your passion for plants.

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About the Authors

Sonder Accounting was founded in 2016 by Kara Janowsky to serve the financial maagement needs of the nascent cannabis industry. Our small and specialized team has partnered with over 250 businesses in similar industries to build functional financials that drive business growth:

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