Harvesting is a crucial stage in hemp cultivation as it determines the quality of the final product. Hemp takes 90-120 days from sowing to full plant. The bud will only blossom once.
It will then die off for you to plant the next crop. Seasonal changes affect the yield. It will stop elongating and begin flower production during short days. That is the reason why October is the busy season for harvesting hemp. It is essential to know this as you prepare to harvest.
Besides, it is critical to analyze your plant throughout its growth. You should then examine your plant to ensure that they are at the optimum maturity stage.
The Process of Harvesting Hemp
Choose the Appropriate Time
Generally, hemp takes between 90-120 days to be ready for harvesting. Auto flowers can take about 75 days, while early finishers are prepared in 90-100 days. Farmers cultivating industrial hemp can carry out regular tests.
You should check for the plant cannabinoid content, mildews, contaminants, and pests. Though the tests are expensive, there is compensation since the grower harvests the plants at their peak. You should know the regulations within your state since some require lab tests before harvesting.
Choose the Appropriate Methods
The farmer is in the right position to determine the most appropriate. It depends on factors such as cost and the final product.
Hand-harvesting is the best choice in case you have a small piece of land. Besides, it ensures the integrity of every bud if you cultivate hemp for CBD production. However, it may be time-consuming and even turn to be expensive at times.
When harvesting flowers, it’s recommendable that workers start by harvesting the largest and densest. They should also cut the topmost flowers and leave the lower ones for the second harvest.
Harvesting with a combine
A combine is ideal when harvesting hemp for seeds. It is a highly efficient method as it can cut a wide swath of about 40ft. Although it is optimal in wide-scale harvesting, it may break the moisture level below 15 percent. Besides, it may increase the susceptibility to microbial contamination if rain compresses the plants to the ground. If you intend to use combine harvesting, inspect your field, and carefully modify the settings to suit the method.
Harvesting for Industrial Fiber
Hemp stalks are reputable for their fiber. Stalks make different products, including textiles, papers, and clothes. If you grow hemp for its fiber, you should plant them closely and use seeds that result in tall plants. The harvesting process for fiber is easy and requires less precision than harvesting for flowers and seeds.
You can harvest using a straight sickle mower, disc mower, or a Discbine. A Discbine is advantageous in that it cut at a higher speed than any other machinery. A straight sickle mower is more suitable for hemp meant for textiles. It leaves neatly organized and intact stems on the ground. It is recommendable to harvest hemp stalks at the height of 10 cm from the ground.
Drying and Curing
Hemp should dry to moisture below 15% before taking it to the processor. Hemp biomass usually dries fast and reach the appropriate levels of dryness in 24-36 hours. However, the flowers take a longer duration. They dry in 3-10 days, depending on the location and the drying facility.
Curing involves more preparations of hemp in the drying facility. It is not a compulsory stage. However, some processors require you to cure your harvest before sending it to them.
You should consider the labor requirements when harvesting your hemp plant. There are financial consequences in case it over-matures while the workers are still in the harvesting process. Besides, the plant part determines the appropriate method. Hand harvesting is suitable if you want flowers for CBD production.