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Hemp is a plant that comes with numerous benefits, domestically and industrially. However, the hemp plant is generally grown for industrial uses and is known as industrial hemp.
Even after the ban, India cultivates industrial hemp on a wide scale for extracting seed, fiber, and cannabidiol. Below, we will discuss the Indian scenario of hemp cultivation.
An overall description
Hemp is an annual, herbaceous, and dynamic crop with a slender stem and a height ranging from 4 to 15 feet. Hemp will not freak you out as it can be easily cultivated, maintained, and harvested.
Upon harvesting, you can refine and shape hemp plants into several beneficial commercial products, such as rope, textiles, paper, clothing, insulation, biodegradable plastics, biofuel, food, and animal feed.
You may think that we can make the same things with cotton too. Then, why opt for hemp? It is because hemp is more robust and more durable. Additionally, it requires less water and space for cultivation than cotton.
If that’s the case, which states in India grow hemp?
Which states have legalized growing hemp plants?
India has also adopted hemp cultivation in a wide range over the past years. Many states in India have legalized hemp cultivation, with Uttarakhand being the first one.
The laws state that you can grow hemp plants only if you maintain the tetrahydrocannabinol or THC content to less than 0.3 %.
Other states with legal hemp cultivation, including Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, are soon expected to make it to the list. Moreover, we can also find industrial hemp cultivated in Suvagarh village in the Amreli district of Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan. Amongst which, Odisha is the leading producer of hemp plants.
Gradually, the states have started realizing the importance of hemp that was banned earlier. The Uttarakhand and Andhra Pradesh governments are ready to start hemp cultivation in Alamaru for medicinal, textile, and cosmetics products.
Now you may have a question, ” How to grow hemp?”
What are the favorable soil conditions to grow hemp plants?
When you wonder about cultivating a crop, the optimum soil conditions would be the first thing to cross your mind. The same is true for hemp.
You can grow it on a wide variety of soil that fulfills the required conditions. Hence, soil preparation is another factor you must consider to enhance hemp growth.
Hemp grows well on insufficiently deep, well-aerated soil, within the pH level of 6 or more. The earth must possess good moisture and nutrient holding capacity. Poorly drained soil may not work for hemp as it is sensitive to soil compaction and flooding.
Fertile clay loams or silt loam soils having neutral alkalinity is the best combination for Hemp cultivation. On the other hand, hemp does not germinate in acid sandy, heavy clay, and gravelly soils.
Waterlogging is lethal to hemp, especially young plants. So, you must break all soil hardpans and allow free drainage.
What’s more, a firm seedbed and good soil contact are what the tiny hemp seeds demand to germinate well and fill you with abundant crops.
What is the optimum temperature range for growing hemp plants?
An optimum temperature is another essential requirement for hemp crops as it affects the different growing stages. A wide range of environmental conditions suits hemp cultivation. But, the temperate climatic zones work the best for hemp.
The optimum mean daily air temperature for hemp growth is between 16 and 27°C. However, the hemp plant can tolerate warmer and moderate conditions as well.
Seed germination aspects of the hemp plant
Hemp plants survive when you take good care of the seed. The germination stage is the most fragile phase of hemp cultivation.
Maintaining the ideal soil conditions in the field is the best way to control seed germination. However, a greenhouse allows the cultivators to ensure other factors like pest and disease control.
A greenhouse compacts the hemp plants on a farm, thus conserving labor and resources for the initial phases of hemp growth. Hence, in this way, you can enhance the life expectancy of your tiny seedlings.
However, directly sowing hemp seeds in the field has its benefits. It reduces the labor requirement as the farmers can now follow one round of planting instead of germinating seeds in containers in greenhouses and then transplanting them.
So, you can choose any of these methods to fulfill your needs for hemp cultivation.
What are the optimum conditions for sowing hemp seeds?
If you have decided on sowing hemp seeds in the field, it is necessary to know the appropriate conditions for hemp growth.
While you can sow seeds anytime between April and June, you must always wait for favorable conditions rather than blindly following the calendar date.
Thus, whenever you achieve a soil temperature of above ten °C and well-drained soil, you can sow hemp seeds in full sun, maintaining 6-8 hours of sunlight every day.
It is necessary to follow the sowing process with deep watering and follow it once a week to eliminate evaporation. You can water the plants at dawn or dusk. Follow the same routine for the first six weeks to make your plant drought tolerant.
Once you follow the appropriate measures, the emergence of seed sprouts can occur between 5-10 days after sowing. Now, you can then take care of your tiny plants.
How does the paper towel method for seed germination work?
Many farmers even adopt paper towel methods for seed germination to regulate the oxygen, moisture, and heat requirement.
The paper towel method includes soaking the seeds in distilled water at room temperature for about 12-24 hours. After which, you can remove the additional water. To do this, you must place the seeds on a moist, sanitary towel or soil with mild nutrients for appropriate bedding.
However, large-scale cultivators prefer the soil-based germination process to avoid the additional step of seedling transplantation. It increases the chances of root breakage or contamination.
Hence, the paper towel method is a user-friendly step for the better growth of hemp seeds.
Space requirement for different types of hemp plants
Planting seedlings at suitable distances is a must for better growth. If you plant the crops near each other, it can destroy the crop. And, if you grow them at a distance, it will occupy a lot of space. The space requirement will differ based on the type of hemp cultivated.
Industrial hemp has fibrous stalks; and hence, requires minimal space of 4 to 6 inches. On the other hand, the cannabinoid hemp demands sufficient distance to 4 to 6 feet next to each other as it is the flowering type of hemp.
What varieties of hemp plants should you cultivate?
You can cultivate in several varieties, such as monoecious, dioecious, and female predominant varieties.
Generally, hemp occurs as dioecious plants, where the male and female plants are distinct. However, certain monoecious varieties have male and female flowers on the same plant.
Apart from these, hemp has female-dominant values because of artificial pollination of dioecious females with monoecious pollen.
You can even classify hemp plants based on their use or cultivar types. The fiber cultivars are the ones with long stalks and little branching. On the other hand, the seed cultivars have numerous branches, shorter stalks, and large seed heads. These seed cultivars have an oil content of 30-35 %, with a THC content of less than 0.3 % in both varieties.
So, you can choose your variety of hemp plants based on their use.
What are the stages of hemp growth?
Hemp grows in abundance when fed with appropriate nutrients in its growing stages and kept under suitable environmental conditions. Hence, you need to know how the growth stages are affected by nutrients in the soil.
During the seedling stage, soil with twice the nutrient requirement suits best for the hemp plant. It would help if you replenished it at least once in the growing season.
You can divide the stages of hemp growth into vegetative and flowering. The vegetative stage is when hemp grows tall and wide in size with abundant leaves and branches, while the flowering stage is the blooming or budding phase of the plant when CBD-rich buds adorn the plant.
The nutrient requirements for the two stages are different. While the plant requires nitrogen in the soil during the vegetative stage, it inclines towards phosphorus and potassium during the flowering stage.
Hence, a nitrogen-rich fertilizer such as NPK 10-6-6 would be preferable in the vegetative phase, and NPK 6-12-8 would suit the flowering stage.
What is the appropriate nutritional requirement for hemp plants?
As mentioned above, the essential nutrients for hemp plants are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. While the nitrogen intake is more during the first 6 to 8 weeks, the flowering stage demands potassium and phosphorus.
Hence, 80 to 100 lbs/acre (90 to 112 kg/ha) of nitrogen, 35 to 50 lbs/acre (39 to 56 kg/ha) phosphate, and 52 to 70 lbs/acre (60 to 80 kg/ha) potash would prove optimum for hemp cultivation.
Besides, feeding a liquid fish emulsion for about two weeks after the plant shows above ground is preferable to reduce yellowness due to malnutrition.
Next, let us understand the process for fiber and seed production.
What is the procedure for fiber and seed production?
Hemp can yield a good amount of fiber and seed. Hence, if you are looking forward to utilizing this benefit of hemp plants, here are the steps you need to follow.
You must use a direct seeding method with standard seed drills, maintaining the row spacing from 6-7 inches to 20-25 inches. It depends on the variety you intend to cultivate.
The seeding usually requires a depth of 0.5-1 inch. If uniformly planted in dry conditions, the seeding depth can go up to 1.5 inches. A more than 1.5 inches seeding can lead to poor plant emergence.
You must consider the high volume requirement for stem fiber and seed heads, which demands many plants per acre. Hence, it is necessary to maintain a plant density of 10 to 15 plants per square foot or 435, 600 to 653, 400 plants per acre for optimum grain production.
On the other hand, the optimal plant density for fiber is 30 to 35 plants per square foot or 1.31 million to 1.52 million per acre.
The seeding rate also must be regulated, which generally requires instructions on the seed variety. However, seeding the hemp plant at 25 to 40 pounds per acre for grain and 40 to 80 pounds per acre for fiber is best suited for regulating germination, emergence, disease, and interplay competition. So you can determine the appropriate seed size.
The plant population and branching also impact the fiber quality. A higher seeding rate leads to no branching, producing better quality fiber and easing the harvesting process.
After the seeding phase, the seedlings show up within 3 to 10 days. It would help if you controlled the growth conditions for faster growth and better yield. An air temperature level of 15 to 27 degrees Celsius is the optimum range.
You can have a flood or sprinkler to irrigate the plants, which are expected to grow slowly for 3 to 5 weeks and rapidly for 5 to 6 weeks.
However, shorter day lengths affect the rapid growth of hemp plants. The fiber hemp plants acquire a height of 16 to 18 feet, and grains reach up to 3 feet. And here is your fiber or seed hemp ready to yield higher amounts and slay the market.
What are the appropriate conditions for harvesting hemp?
The harvesting period of the hemp plant depends on the end product and its requirement for hemp maturity. The maturation time differs slightly from plant to plant. Generally, it takes 100 to 120 days to mature.
However, some plants are early finishers and mature in 90 to 100 days, while the auto flowers are ready to be harvested in about 75 days.
The traditional harvesting period of the hemp plant falls between mid-August and early October, and visual cues help determine the appropriate time to harvest.
Hemp yields much faster than many other crops, with stalks maturing in 3 to 4 months and trees in 20 to 80 years. The high cellulose level in hemp plants is another feather on the cap.
As mentioned earlier, the end product determines the harvesting period. Hemp is harvested soon after the shedding of the last pollen to obtain a high-quality fiber. The seed yield usually demands 60% ripened seeds, and hence the optimum harvesting period is 4 to 6 weeks later.
Harvesting hemp after 70 to 90 days of seeding is apt for fiber. So, you can harvest the hemp plant depending on the product you need.
The best part is even if you hold one acre of land, it can yield an average of 700 pounds of grain, producing 22 gallons of oil when pressed and 530 pounds of meal. Apart from this, you can get around 1,300 pounds of fiber through 5300 pounds of straw obtained from hemp cultivation in the same acre of land. Hence, the above aspects of hemp cultivation in India are sure to make you a top cultivator only if your state has legalized it.