07 Jan Autoflower Hemp 101 Webinar, Part 1 Questions and Answers
Following Part 1 of HiLo’s Autoflower Hemp 101 webinar, Scott Knippelmeir of Agrarian Supply and Christian Gray of HiLo Seed Co jumped into a live Q&A session. Find the rich collection of autoflower hemp farming questions and answers from this discussion below.
Is autoflower hemp really good for biomass or flower, or both?
Both. What’s nice about autoflower hemp for biomass is its flower-to-stem or stock ratio is really high on the flower side. So even if the flower has a relatively lower yield of CBD on a flower-to-flower basis with some of the other photoperiodic varieties, if your mass rating the whole plant in either situation for biomass, your total CBD say per bale is going to still be pretty high with autoflower because the plants are almost all flower.
Is autoflower hemp grown in the Northeast?
Yes, hemp farmers have grown autoflower hemp in every USDA zone of the country this year. The things that are going to affect you in the Northeast are just your first and last frost dates, primarily.
What are recommended soil amendments for the day neutral varieties?
They’re no different than amending your soil for any other really high-value crop. There’s nothing inherently unique about preparing your ground for day-neutral varieties than you would for anything else. That being said, knowing how long the plant will be in the ground and at what point it’s available to pick up the nutrients there, there are some nuances to that for sure, and what you are nitrogen release rates are. We could do a whole other presentation on nutrition and pest control and address a lot of those questions.
Based on the 2019 season, what was the ratio of success on transplanting with autos versus direct seed?
More often, transplanting is more successful if you follow the prescription that I outlined in the Autoflower Hemp 101 presentation. That being said, it sounds like from more recent anecdotal evidence, people are starting to get a little bit of a grasp on direct seeding.
The fall direct-seeded crops down in the desert and lower Imperial Valley are doing really well. That same area and lots of other areas across the country that had summer direct seeding did horrible. I would say, direct seed at your own risk. I would want to know that it worked at least once before I really committed a whole lot of money to it, but there’s positives and negatives to both for sure.
If you're doing the one-month staggering, what's the difference in biomass production?
We have both newcomers to the crop and some veterans on this webinar, so it might not be clear that staggering doesn’t necessarily impact biomass depending on practice.
The plants are basically going to be roughly the same the whole stagger period. In the early spring and late fall, there’s a little less temperature and daylight and the plants are going to grow a little slower, so you’re going to want to put a few more on per acre to get your canopy to fill in. But by and large, you’ll have the same biomass production every month.
Can you plant 52 weeks out of the year like in a greenhouse environment, and just stagger every week? Like the Sea of Green approach?
You certainly could. You might find that there’s not enough significant difference to work that on a week basis, and you might want to plant every two weeks and play around with that.
Regarding the PH and the soil the autoflower would prefer, and the nutrient uptake, how should we use an NPK?
Use the best practices for your area and whatever you would do for a super high value crop. That’s going to vary by soil type and by region, so there isn’t a blanket answer to that question. Do whatever you would normally do–but better.
Do you recommend using compost to help with nutrition and fertilizer? If yes, is dairy manure-based compost or vegetable-based compost better?
Yes, even in conventional cropping systems you see huge benefits from compost additions. When it’s viable and you can afford it, compost is the best. It helps with water holding capacity, and it helps buffer nutrient uptake and leaching. Dairy manure is best because it tends to be higher in calcium and hemp is a calcium hog.
What is the average CBD percentage?
One of the biggest threats to the hemp industry may not be the USDA or the FDA, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, or Big Alcohol. It might be Photoshop. At HiLo, we like to talk about a ratio versus percentages.
A lot of people are trying to make quick bucks with false claims. The truth is–cannabinoid ratios are fixed in the DNA, and you can test for those when the plants are young.
Most commercially available plants have a 1:24 or 1:30 ratio of TCH to CBD. If you run the numbers, you can predict what your CBD ratio is going to be at 0.3% THC. As with most of the autoflower varieties, you get somewhere between 6-8% CBD at the 0.3% THC point.
I’ve seen a test from Autopilot that is close to 14% CBD, but that’s at 0.8% THC.
Folks need clarity on ratios of CBD to THC production. They should also dig deeper into the interim ruling from the USDA and what it means, and how they are accruing different types of THC and THCA into a number that can cause challenges if people grow a crop too long.
One of the primary myths that’s been propagated is that there are lots of things you can do to make THC or CBD express more or less relative to each other. In reality, outside of a few odd things that happen in the last 10 to 14 days of the plant’s life cycle, there’s nothing you can do to change the ratio. There are only things you can do to make it express more or less within that ratio.
For the first 45 days, what are the biggest factors for not stressing the plant? Assuming we get it into the ground safely and get past the first new leaves on the seedling.
Irrigation management. During that period, make sure the plants aren’t drying down too much or being saturated for too much time.
There are some things you can’t account for–like 3-day prolonged 70 mile an hour winds. That would stress them, but we can’t do anything about that.
I’ve had successes and failures with different types of irrigation. Mainly, it has to be managed correctly and that’s a whole conversation in and of itself, but the ways that you apply it–flood, drip, fixed sprinkler or pivot–they can all be managed successfully.
What piece of direct seeding equipment have you seen with the most success?
Auto stem seeder.
Regarding pest pressure, what kind of birds do you have to worry about, or what kinds of birds have you seen go after it?
It’s regionally specific, but Starlings is what I’ve seen. But, there’s a whole lot more that are problematic.
Why do you think the direct seed results were worse in the summer and in Imperial Valley?
I don’t know, but I have a hunch — based on a conversation I had with a Canadian agronomist — that there’s an induced dormancy, based on soil temperature, that is exacerbated in autoflower because of the ruderalis that’s in the background and where that plant was cultivated.
Would rockwool work for transplants?
Yes. It wouldn’t be my medium of choice, but there’s no reason it wouldn’t work.
Rockwool is typically used in house or for an indoor environment. Most of the things that I’m talking about are for large field scale applications, but if you’re interested in doing an experiment on a table in a greenhouse or maybe growing it under lights to have some smokable flower for your household, there’s all kinds of stuff you could do and rockwool would certainly be appropriate.
If you touch the root ball is it true that you are going to risk stressing it out and then it'll trigger the flowering?
No, you don’t have to worry too much about touching the root ball. Handle with care as much as possible, but touching the root ball will not cause pre-flowering. Things that will cause pre-flowering are hitting the edge of the other cell tray, which will cause the roots to circle around. And, you can actually create that same effect in a field. If you plant a perfect transplant out in the field, but you put it into ground that has some sort of structural or chemical restriction, it will act in the same way. The roots will emerge from their Ellepot (lovely environment) and hit a harsh environment, and start to circle again. So, you can cause that same effect in the field at transplant. That’s why it’s so important to have your field prepared correctly and irrigated it correctly.
From north to south and dry to wet climates what kind of disease issues occur with this cultivar? Assuming what's going on in Oregon, it might be very different than what you see in Arizona.
Yes, that’s true. My short answer is that autoflower is a little more resilient to all of the hemp diseases. It stands up to wet weather better, and it stands up to most pest pressures fairly well. I haven’t seen a whole field of autoflower go down to a disease or pest that a field of photoperiodic hemp also didn’t, or anything be more of a problem.
What do you think about PlantTape technology?
Agrarian Supply is in the process of conducting a field trial at the University of Arizona Yuma Extension. It’s having Plant Tape go into the ground with 32 different treatment variables on February 1st, so check back in.