Think You've Missed the Boat on Growing Industrial Hemp this Year? Don't Worry There's Still TimeThu, 25 Apr 2019 12:36:20 CDT
The planting window for the 2019 industrial hemp crop is rapidly approaching. Producers seriously interested in growing a crop this year will soon be able to start planting within a few weeks, starting May 20th when Oklahoma enters into its long-day season. As we near this critical time period, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays caught up with Jesse Tischauser of Herb’s Herbs, Oklahoma’s oldest and largest family-owned greenhouse operation and pioneer in the state’s industrial hemp industry. Hays was there for Herb’s Herbs’ first industrial hemp harvest last year, the same crop that has launched the hemp business here in Oklahoma. Today, they are positioned and ready to help source growers’ needs, providing clones to licensed farmers that are ready to go in the ground. He spoke with Hays to offer his advice on how to get started in this emerging enterprise. Listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“It’s definitely time to fish or cut the bait,” Tischauser said. “We’re about four weeks away from that key timeframe. May 20th will be the first day we can start planting outdoors.”
Oklahoma’s long-day season will last the duration of the summer until the short-days return around the end of August when established plants will start to flower. Around the first week of September, Tischauser says the crop should be in full-flower. After that, growers will have about a six to ten week cycle until the plants fully mature. According to Tischauser, some growers will plant anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 clones per acre. However, he says he has found that 2,000 plants per acre offer an optimal amount of spacing that fits most farmers harvesting and weed control methods. He says clones are a more practical option compared to sowing seeds, given the unpredictability of hemp.
“Every hemp seed has nine or ten different phenotypes that the plant can be. Some plants are desirable, some might not be,” he explained. “With our plants, we’ve chosen the desirable ones, so you know you’ve got plants that are going to produce. Cloning really is the only way to know for sure you’re getting the chosen phenotype.”
At present, growers are still under the restrictions of the 2014 Farm Bill’s industrial hemp pilot program and are required to obtain a license through a formal working relationship with a participating college or university. Tischauser says there are a few institutions in the state that are still issuing authorization letters, which can then be used to apply for the appropriate licensing through the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry. Governor Kevin Stitt recently signed legislation that conforms Oklahoma’s industrial hemp laws with the new rules of the 2018 Farm Bill, but this will not take affect until the following crop year.
Once a grower has obtained the necessary documentation, Tischauser has extended the invitation to contact him and his staff at Herb’s Herbs to supply them with their startup clones. Regardless your level of enthusiasm, Tischauser recommends starting out small, planting anywhere from half an acre to at most maybe five or ten.
“This season is going to be all about getting started with that learning process,” he said. “Because, in the big scheme of things, we’ve all got experience but we’re all still beginners and learning.”
If you are serious about trying your hand at growing an industrial hemp crop this year but are a little late in the game, Tischauser says not to worry. There is still time to make it happen.
“We still have room in our delivery schedule for May as well as June for plants and we can still probably make about 100,000 more clones in our schedule,” he said. “So, we definitely have room for some big players.”
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