Farmers and hemp enthusiasts all over the world are eager to know more about the hundreds of possibilities of this miracle crop. Yes, in many countries around the world and the U.S., you can grow hemp legally. Although this crop is highly profitable, and the products can have countless applications, the hemp harvesting process is not that simple. Read on to understand how to know when hemp is ready to be harvested and more details about the hemp harvesting process.
Watching a hemp field grow is undoubtedly exciting because there is progress every week, and the plants can grow fast and tall. However, farmers must contain their excitement and wait for the right moment to start the harvest. From planting to the hemp harvesting process, it can take approximately four months. However, the entire process, from preparing and testing the soil, selecting and sowing seeds until harvesting and processing can take up to 10 months. So, farmers must have that time frame in mind when planning a hemp crop.
Hemp Harvesting Process: Crop Goals
Before diving into the details of the harvesting process, you must be sure of the goal product of your crop. The final product can change drastically how your hemp is harvested and processed. The process is different if you’re harvesting for fiber, seeds, buds, or biomass for CBD. Any hemp farmer asking themselves “when is hemp ready to harvest?” can get a different response depending on their goal. This answer is different because the optimal times for harvesting are different if you want seeds or fiber, for example.
When To Harvest Hemp?
How long does it take to harvest hemp? Independently from the goal that you have for your hemp crop (seeds, fiber, or biomass), the harvesting process usually begins after four months. The hemp variety of your crop, the local weather, and the amount of rain can influence the plant’s growth pace. All these factors will influence how to tell when to harvest hemp.
If you’re harvesting hemp for seeds, you should begin the process as soon as the plant’s leaves fall, and the flowers are fully blooming. You’ll be able to remove the seeds easily; they should not have any cracks and can look like tiny marbles. For this process, you should remove the tops of the plants.
If you’re harvesting hemp for leaves and flowers, you should wait until flowers are fully bloomed, and the drying process after the harvest is crucial. Harvesting for fiber is the earlier pick: you can start when the plant develops the first seeds.
How To Harvest Hemp Fields?
If you have only a small batch of hemp plants, you can cut them with a sickle or a large pair of pruning shears. Cut the stalk close to the base, and do not try to cut it by hand or pull it from the ground. Hemp stalks are firm, and you can either hurt yourself or hurt the plant if you try to pull it out by hand.
A medium-sized hemp crop could benefit from harvesting with a sickle-bar mower, which can be manually operated or attached to a tractor. The equipment needed to harvest hemp must be very well maintained, as the stalks could damage unsharp blades.
Although larger fields of hemp could require a swather tractor, there are several harvesting equipments for hemp, such as the double-cut combine. Depending on the size of your farm, production, and cash flow, you should consider this type of investment. Hemp harvesters for large commercial crops can collect stalks, leaves, flowers, and seeds at the same time.
As industrial hemp harvested for fiber is not viable for a small scale, the farmer focusing on this goal will likely invest in heavy equipment as well. The large harvesting equipment for hemp usually removes and separates the biomass from the plant, leaving the stalks behind. The stems are typically left in the field in a process called retting when the fibers naturally separate from the rest of the plant.
How Is Hemp Harvested and Processed?
The harvesting process can also be different depending on the size of your crop. If you intend to plant one acre of hemp, you can likely harvest it all manually. But if you’re planting 100 acres, you may as well need to invest in heavy harvesting equipment for hemp. In either case, you should plan accordingly and hire farmworkers in advance to help you.
Another detail to have in mind before the harvest is how you’re planning to process the hemp. Planting and harvesting hemp at the right time and ensuring a way to handle your crop is crucial to protect your investment. To extract CBD, the hemp buds must be dried entirely and without any dirt or mold. To have dried plants, one must set up a drying facility to process hemp.
Thus, make sure to set up an indoor drying facility, like a shed with temperature and humidity control. Many farmers isolate a small construction, add dryers, fans, and lines to hang the plants. This process can take from 3 to 5 days in a good weather condition to up to 10 days in a wet environment. The goal of this process is to avoid the presence of any mold.
After all, the answer to “when is hemp ready to harvest?” is not a simple one. However, we hope this article helped you set goals and plan your hemp crop accordingly. Hemp farming can indeed be an enriching and exciting experience for both skilled and beginning farmers.