Hemp growers in the Southeast region of the U.S, such as Virginia, are faced with a dry and warm growing season, which is riddled with diseases and pest pressure.
Many farmers in these regions grew hemp for CBD production and flower for smoking. However, this season, their crops, especially the flowers, were attacked by corn eating worms.
To contribute to the research in the growing hemp industry, the state of Virginia, which is looking to revitalize the tobacco-growing region, donated $400,000 for a state testing lab for crops including hemp. Last week, researchers from Virginia Tech received a $500,000 grant from the USDA to forecast the route of wind-dispersed hemp pollen.
This year, Virginia issued licenses to 800 hemp farmers with more than 8,500 acres of hemp. Due to the early onset of the rainy season, most farmers were forced to plant their crops in May or June, which prompted rapid root emergence. Those who prefer to plant clones, planted as late as July because the suppliers were late.
The weather was dry throughout summer and some parts of September, and it was average between the months of August and September.
According to McKenzie, a crop consultant, due to the early root emergence, the crops developed fusarium root and canker disease shortly after planting, and this resulted in severe losses to the farmers.
Foliar diseases and Southern blight were detected in the mid and late flowering stage of the crop. Edmisten said that this season, the crop was overwhelmed with corn earworm.
McKensie added that other caterpillars like cabbage looper, tobacco budworm, and wireworm were found in the soil.
According to McKenzie, russet mites were present mid-July to mid-August while cucumber and Japanese beetles were detected in mid-July.
Because there are no pesticides approved for the hemp crop, some farmers used biological control to get rid of the pests such as Stargus, root shield, trilogy, venerate, grandevo, milstop, wettable sulphur, and botaniguard.
McKenzie further added that for the farmers to minimize fertilizer usage later in the season, they loaded the soil with nutrients before planting. The farmers used nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (NPK) mixes in an organic fertilizer consisting of poultry litter and potash.
During the growing season, some farmers applied granular fertilizer through top dressing while others fertilized their crop through drip lines during the flowering stage. Other farmers also used a foliar application of amino and humic acid together with other beneficial microbes in the soil.
Most of the farmers in Virginia planted Early Pearly, Sweetened, Hawaiian Haze, Merlot, Stormy Daniels, or Hybrid 9 hemp varieties.
Sixty percent of the farmers in Virginia used hemp clones, while the remaining 40% used seedlings. The farmers in Virginia started harvesting their crops late September and are planning to finish late October. The jury is still out regarding whether the harvest will be good despite the challenges that the farmers have had to deal with during this first season of hemp production.
Industry watchers opine that hemp companies like LiveWire Ergogenics Inc. (OTC: LVVV) and The Green Organic Dutchman Holdings Ltd. (TSX: TGOD) (OTCQX: TGODF) hope that the harvest is worthwhile so that the farmers don’t lose heart.
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