26 Mar Know Before You Grow Hemp Webinar
What started as a workshop tour throughout the US, Know Before You Grow comes to you online as a webinar. Learn from hemp expert Kevin Nowell on the basics of farming hemp — from choosing the right genetics to avoiding common mistakes.
The following video transcription covers every minute of his valuable presentation. For more on the live question-and-answer portion that followed the presentation, check out the Know Before You Grow Q&A.
Hi, everybody. This is Christian Gray. Just making sure you can all hear me. We’re just about to get started. We’ll go over a few housekeeping items, and then we’ll let Kevin share a little bit of his insights and knowledge about farming hemp. If you have questions, please make sure you drop them in the chat area. We’ll save questions till the end so Kevin can get through the content, and then we’ll make sure and answer as many of those as possible. If you can please go ahead and stay off the video portion of Zoom. As you may imagine, there are a lot of folks doing remote sessions and virtual meetings, so we just want to try and conserve the bandwidth. And we’ve got Kevin’s happy face there so we can see what he has to say while he’s going through the slides and the content. If for any reason Zoom starts to lag or is kind of not working as well as we hoped, we’ll make sure and complete the session and we’ll get a capture of the entire session out to everyone so they can share it with their team or review it later.
So, thank you so much for joining us. As you know, HiLo’s been active in hemp genetics here for the last year and a half or so. We’ve really focused on farmers first and education. We think that informed farmers and educated farmers make better decisions. And while, of course, we always hope that you choose our seeds when they’re appropriate and our genetics, we know there’s a lot of choices out there. So, first and foremost, we want to make sure you’re well informed. Our farm is out Edenton, North Carolina. It’s where we’re growing the autopilot and doing propagation. We’re going to be doing a number of webinars and outreach. We had a pretty robust schedule of trade shows and live in-person workshops scheduled. Kevin was becoming the road warrior for us.
He was all over Arizona getting ready to tee up Texas. And I know we were going to do some more California and Nevada and end up in Colorado, and now we’re going to be doing things virtually. So, we want to make sure that we answer your questions, we focus on the things that you care about, and we’re going to go ahead and expand from just doing a few seminars or webinars to a pretty comprehensive calendar. I hope we can get some surveys or polls out to you even today. If there’s specific things that you want to know more about, please let us know, and we’ll bring other people into the conversation.
So, what we’re planning moving forward next week is we’re going to kind of have two different webinar sessions on a regular, we’re hoping to have what we’re going to call Hemp 2020, so 20 minutes of kind of content or presentation or a conversation with somebody else and then 20 minutes of Q&A. You guys can ask any question you want, and we’ll do our best to answer it. And then, on Thursdays what we’ll do is we’ll have scheduled presentations. We’ll be bringing in subject matter experts. If you didn’t make it out to the World Ag Expo or Tulare, I think we produced something like, I want to say, 15 to 20 sessions over three days with 50 plus speakers and panelists. So, we know a lot of folks across the country that are farmers and agronomists, crop consultants, and we’ll be teeing up some sessions.
So, I think next Thursday, Bert James from North Carolina is going to join us a week or so later. We’ll have a Dr. Mark Lewis talking about CBDV, which is one of the minors that you may or may not be familiar with. Alison Justice is going to join us from the hemp mine from down South Carolina, and we’ll continue to just provide an opportunity for you to get educated and have a conversation while you make decisions about where you’re going to be in 2020. So, we’re looking forward to talking with you more about all this. I want to be very thoughtful that our good friend Kevin had planned to make this a three-hour course, right? And now we’re asking him to get the highlights into a 30- or 40-minute session, make sure we save some room at the end for Q&A.
So, we’re going to let him move through this content. Be clear, he’s not going to get to all the level of detail, and he can’t take three hours and turn it into 30 minutes thoughtfully, so we’ll have additional sessions. So, next Tuesday, we might get more into irrigation or nutrients. The following Tuesday we can talk more about pest pressure or planting methodologies or harvest, et cetera. So, we really appreciate you making the time and showing up in light of all things, and I want to hand it over to Kevin and let you get rolling, buddy.
Awesome. Thank you, Christian. And to reiterate what Christian said, this’ll be a very high level of the Know Before You Grow Workshop, and in the coming weeks we’ll definitely be diving deeper into some of these subjects. So, my name is Kevin Nowell. I’ve been farming certified organic produce in California for going on eight years right now. 2019 was actually the first year we planted a certified organic hemp crop here in California. Although, I’ve been heavily nerding out and educating myself since Colorado turned online six years ago and building relationships and networks, and that’s how I’ve come to have all the knowledge that I have now.
And late last year I joined HiLo Seed Company in the Farmer Relations role, where I’ve been working with farmers. There’s a few things I’ve been focusing on lately, but focusing on educating farmers about the hemp crop, avoiding certain caveats, or becoming aware of certain caveats and nuances of the crop and avoiding some of the major pitfalls, helping farmers select the right genetics for their farm and their cropping seasons, as well as helping them devise plans and circling back with the farmers after the season’s done and seeing how everything went. So, as I said, everything’s going to be relatively high level today on the content and overview of everything we’ve got, and in future weeks, we’re going to really get into the nitty gritty on some of these subjects.
Choosing the Right Genetics
So, without further ado, I’m going to start by speaking about choosing the right genetics. There’s a lot of things to consider and a lot of things that are maybe not necessarily common knowledge for most farmers, especially because a lot of farmers have, outside of maybe recent years, a lot of farmers have not necessarily touched this crop or seen this crop, and so there are just certain things about this crop that are different than others and we want to help you avoid some of the common mistakes and help you choose the right genetics.
So, first, I’m going to talk about the different types of hemp fiber, grain and cannabinoid. I’m going to start here with fiber. So, brief overview, fiber hemp is typically grown, well, for the fiber, so whether that’s the bast fiber or the hurd, or otherwise known as the shiv. The bast fiber would be the outer layer on the stalk, typically consists of long strands of fiber. You can see those strands in the image there on the right. That would, that would be the bast fiber. Those are most commonly used for rope textiles and composites and plastics.
The hurd, or the otherwise known as the shiv, would be the woody inner core of the stalk, commonly used for animal bedding, mulch, hempcrete insulation, fiberboard fuel, pulp for paper purposes, so on and so forth. There are a lot of uses for both the bast and the hurd. Some of them have more infrastructure requirements, and slowly but surely, we’re seeing infrastructure being built across the US to make better use of the fiber. But right now, it’s somewhat at its infancy, and it’s exciting to hold out for the future and see what fiber has in store for it.
So, some of the agronomic characteristics and traits of the plant. Single purpose fiber varieties are typically ranging from eight to 15 feet tall and yielding from one to five tons of straw to the acre. That straw consists of yields of both the fiber and the hurd. The fiber and the hurd yield that you get from the straw can vary. The denser you’re planting your stand, typically the higher the bast to hurd ratio would be. And as your densities drop down, you’re going to get a lower bast to hurd ratio out of your crop. So, depending on what your ultimate outcome in it is and what your buyer wants from the crop, would help you determine your planting densities and how to proceed.
With that said, commonly, fiber varieties are planted at 40 to 50 pounds to the acre, dependent on variety and obviously seeds per pound, so on and so forth. Typically, 40 to 50 pounds to the acre is going to give you a million to 1.2 million seeds to the acre. Hopefully, you’re getting a 80% germination, 80% stand on that. All of these things, height, yield, so on and so forth, can really vary drastically dependent on environmental conditions, fertility, planting density, variety, as goes for all of our traditional crops. There’s a lot of other factors that influence your ultimate outcome. Keep in mind, most single purpose fiber varieties are actually only 60 to 90 days to maturity, and that’s for the most part because a single purpose fiber variety you’re going to harvest before pollination occurs and that will give you the highest quality fiber possible.
So, whereas if you’re planting for dual purpose, maybe a fiber and grain dual purpose crop, obviously pollination needs to occur for you to get a grain yield, and you might have a less desirable fiber but you’re still going to get a fiber yield in addition to a grain yield. There’s some more images there of the fiber. As you can see, those plants are probably 10, 12 feet tall, and on the right hand side, as I described earlier, the bast, the outer layer of the stalk or the bark, if you want to call it, versus the hurd or the shiv, the woody center core.
Harvesting of fiber varieties. There’s some traditional equipment that can be used that’s out there on the market. Some of it performs with extreme variable and various success rates. Just depending on the stands you have, the density it was planted at, how tall the crop is, moisture content, so on and so forth. Some of that equipment would be disc binds, disc mowers, sickle mowers, swathers. And as I said, performing with various levels of success depending on the make and model, and then the stand that you’re dealing with out in the field. There are some companies making specialized equipment for fiber harvesting. Obviously, everybody’s trying to get after the fiber and grain markets from the equipment side of things to make it more accessible to farmers. There’s all kinds of specialized equipment hitting the market and more to come. Now, the drawback of buying specialized equipment is that there’s going to be a significant upfront cost, so some farmers are going to lean towards for budgeting purposes more than anything, they’re going to lean towards trying to make some of their traditional equipment work and maybe having to modify some things to get it to work, ideally.
So, the other thing to keep in mind with fiber is that it needs to be retted or rotted. It doesn’t need to be, but it does assist in the decortication process. Decortication is the process of separating the bast from the hurd, and this just needs to be done for further processing so you can separate the two fibers and then move them down the line to the various, products that you might make from them. Retting is otherwise known as rotting.
Traditionally, for many centuries, crops were left to ret in the field. That would be called field retting or dew retting, where the natural moisture that settles out and accumulates on the crop over the night, in addition to temperature, would influence how long it takes for that crop to ret in the field. It can take anywhere from a week to four or even over four weeks depending on your environment. There’s also other forms of retting which would be pool retting, or water retting, where you just soak them in ponds or pools. There’s steam retting, as well as chemical retting. And so, depending on your infrastructure or the processor and how they want the crop, those are all things to keep in mind.
So, next, I’m going to be talking about grain hemp. Grain hemp, obviously, grown for the grain or the seed. Grain is definitely a very novel grain compared to lots of others that are out there in the world, primarily because it has over 30% fat content, being exceptionally high in Omega-6 and Omega-3, as well as the grain has over 25% protein, and it is a complete protein, meaning it has all nine of the essential amino acids. So, for human nutrition, as well as livestock animal nutrition, there are a lot of benefits to grain hemp, and I think these are markets in the US. They’ve been around for quite some time, but I think we’re slowly but surely seeing them gain some traction. And I think in the next decade or so we’re really going to see things pick up.
Grain hemp is typically planted at about half the density of fiber hemp varieties, so 20 to 25 pounds to the acre, which would be approximately 500,000 to 600,000 seeds to the acre. As I said earlier, these numbers are kind of assuming an 80% germination, an 80% stand out of that, what’s planted. Most grain varieties are shorter than fiber varieties, or they’re shorter than single purpose fiber varieties, although not always. Common days to maturity on grain hemp would be 100 to 150 days to maturity, and this is significantly longer than that of fiber varieties because, obviously, pollination has to occur and those seeds are going to take 30 to 45 days to fully mature before they can be harvested.
The grain, the seed, is typically harvested when it’s at 10 to 18% moisture content in the seed. Just like with any other crops, we see what the moisture content is of the seed itself of the grain before we go ahead and harvest the crop, so 10 to 18% moisture is most common what we see. Yields can range pretty drastically anywhere from a quarter of a ton up to a ton and a half per acre. Obviously, as with any crop, variability due to environmental conditions, fertility, as well as the variety that’s being planted. Mostly, for the most part, harvest is done by combine. At the current moment, when you combine these plants, you’re going to send off that seed and chaff mixture to be separated and cleaned, where you’d be separating the seed from the chaff, so then the seed can be further processed into some form of food products.
The chaff of that crop does have cannabinoids in it, so some folks are getting a cannabinoid yield out of their grain hemp. And it’s worth mentioning there are some folks with tri crop varieties and that a really dialing thing the agronomic practices with tri crop varieties where they’re getting fiber, grain, and cannabinoids out of the same a stand in the field. So, that’s kind of, I think, the future of the crop and where things are heading. But for now, I think, for the most part, we’re looking at dual purpose fiber and grain and then cannabinoid. And, obviously, some folks, there’s some overlap in between all those.
Next, I’m going to talk about cannabinoid hemp and farming cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are a family of compounds produced in generally significant quantities in the cannabis plant. Most common being CBD, although we do have minor cannabinoids entering the markets such as CBG, CBDV, CBC, CBN, so on and so forth. There’s over 140 cannabinoids known to exist in this plant as of right now, and that list is ever-growing. So, the minor cannabinoids, over the coming years, we’re slowly but surely there’s going to be more minor cannabinoids that are, through selective breeding, there’s going to be higher concentration of these minors found in the flowers of the plant, in the resins. And so, we’ll start seeing emerging market markets for those minor cannabinoids as time goes on.
But the most common one that everybody’s familiar with right now, and the majority of acres being planted in the US, are for CBD. Days to maturity and the size of cannabinoid, the varieties really depends on whether you’re planting a photoperiodic or a day-neutral variety. And I will get into those a bit more later, but a brief summary on those right now. Photoperiodic varieties, you’re typically planting anywhere from a thousand to 5,000 plants to the acre, and those plants can have a large range in size. And as I said, I’ll elaborate more on that later. Auto flowering varieties commonly planted at 10,000 to 20,000 plants to the acre. Bio mass yields can range drastically, just like with every other crop, and with grain and fiber, depending on environment, fertility experience, and variety, so on and so forth. But yields can be expected from a half of a ton up to two and a half tons to the acre. And we’ll further the cannabinoid hemp conversations, as well as all of a grain fiber and cannabinoid as we go through this presentation here.
So, next, I want to talk about seed types. Primarily we have dioecious seed, monoecious seed, and feminized seed. To start with dioecious seed, dioecious is what is commonly found in the wild and hemp varieties where you have separate male and female plants. This is most common to the species. As you can see in the picture here, the left image is a picture of a male plant. These are a day neutral variety. These are the autopilot. This is about four to five weeks old. That’s the age of these plants here. With autoflowering varieties, they’re typically going to start sexing anywhere from three to five weeks for the most part. This is a feminized crop and I’ll talk about feminization in a bit, but yeah, as you can see on the left, male plants. Those are pollen sacks. All those little round sacks that you see are pollen sacks.
And on the right distinguishing factors on the female plant are the pink hairs that you see, those are pistols. Those are what would receive the pollen to make a seed. Those pistols are not always pink. They can be white, brown, tan, beige, anywhere and everywhere in between, as well as pink and red and some cool off colors in some varieties will be expressed. Now, things to keep in mind with dioecious varieties, if you’re farming for cannabinoids, for the most part, most folks that are farming a single purpose cannabinoid crop are going to want to avoid pollination, and this is important, because with dioecious seed, having separate male and female plants in a population, typically you’re going to see anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of the plants being male or female. What that means for the farmer, if you’re planting dioecious seed for a cannabinoid crop, ultimately, you’re going to be scouting your fields and removing 40 to 60 percent of the plants out of the field so that you do not pollinate yourself.
Now, with grain production, obviously, males are essential. You need pollen to pollinate your females so that you can get a grain yield. With fiber, it’s not quite as much of an issue, because you are harvesting prior to pollination, at least if you’re a single purpose fiber variety, if you want to obtain the highest quality fiber possible. Now, with that said, that leads me into the monoecious discussion. On the left, dioecious, on the right, monoecious. Monoecious is where the male and female anatomy are on the same plant. An individual plant can express both male and female parts. Monoecious varieties are commonly found in grain and fiber. Eastern Europe … Well, Europe in general as well as some Canadian companies have really been pushing grain and fiber towards the monoecious side of things. The monoecious trait is found through extreme selective breeding and is quickly lost if you’re saving seeds.
With monoecious varieties, really have to be obtaining seed every year from your seed supplier. There’s not so much to be said for saving seed, because that monoecious trait is lost so quickly when you’re saving seed. Monoecious varieties, the benefits in grain production, well, if you have the male and female parts on the same plant, typically you’re going to see higher grain yields out of the acre, because with the dioecious crop, if 50% of your plants in the field are male and 50 are female, well the female plants are the only ones that are going to be producing a grain crop for you. When you have male and female parts on the same plant, typically you can get higher grain yields out of your acreage. With fiber production, there are some companies pushing for monoecious varieties for fiber production.
Reason being is that in field production, your males will typically mature, release pollen and then they’ll start dying off once they’ve done their job and they’ve pollinated. What that means in a fiber situation is that your male plants will start dying in a dual crop situation. In the meantime, your female plants will be pollinated and continue on. As far as their growths, where they’re at in their stage of growth, the males have pollinated and are getting ready to die, whereas the females are just ready to receive pollen, and so that makes for uneven stands in regards to moisture content and just your overall stand in the field. When you have the male and female parts on the same plant, basically every plant in that field, when grown for fiber grain, every plant in that field is more or less maturing at the same rate. And so it really lends itself to the harvesting side of things more than anything by having even stands in the field. Even stands as far as size, stature, as well as moisture content and maturity. And then I don’t have a slide for feminized seed production, but feminized seed production, more or less at the current time, is really specific to cannabinoid farming.
And that reason being is because most folks farming for single purpose varieties for cannabinoids don’t want their crops to be pollinated, because once their crops are pollinated, the plants will start focusing time and energy into the grain and seed production instead of into cannabinoid production. Feminized seed for the time being is really unique to cannabinoid farming. Feminized seeds, well, the feminized seed production is not perfect. With somebody that knows what they’re doing making feminized seed, in a population, you’ll usually see one male for every 2,500 to 6,000 plants. And that’s just because 1) It’s not perfect, but 2) Really because the plants have natural tendencies to want to reproduce. And so even if you took a sample of that plant and tested it at a laboratory, it might show that it’s female, even though it’s producing male anatomy. In feminized seed, as I said, one out of 2,500, one to 6,000, you’ll see plants that are producing male anatomy. It still justifies scouting the fields for plants that are showing male anatomy and removing them from the field if you do not want your single purpose cannabinoid crop to be pollinated.
Yeah, so that goes for that. And as far as scouting for males, even in feminized crops, well you should be scouting your fields anyways to monitor for pest disease and fertility issues. It shouldn’t be the end of the world to add scouting for males into the mix. If you’re following proper practices for successful farming, you should be out there walking your fields and keeping a close eye on everything anyways.
Now, the next discussion, as I said earlier, we were going to circle back to photoperiodic versus day neutral. A unique trait about photoperiodic hemp is that it is not going to start flowering until after the solstice. Most varieties on the market, sometime between late July and early September, and the majority of what’s on the market is beginning its flowering sometime in August. Now, this is important because if you plant this photoperiodic variety in May, from May all the way through August, it’s going to have going on four months, depending on exactly when you plant it, three, four months of vegetative growth before the flowering begins. This is important, because when the plant is in vegetative growth, it is just getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Keep in mind, with photoperiodic varieties, the earlier in the season you plant, the larger that plant is going to be and thus the lower your planting densities would be.
If you’re planting as early as May, depending on your climate. Out here in California, we can be planting in May, you might be planting at a thousand to 2,000 plants to the acre depending on variety and what the stature would be of that variety. You start moving more towards June plantings, 2,000 to 3,000 per acre depending on variety, July and you could be 3,000 to 5,000 even really variety dependent. But that’s the primary trait of photoperiodic hemp to keep in mind. It’s not going to be flowering till after the solstice, so the size and planting density is directly correlated to your planting date. The other thing to note, photoperiodic varieties can be cloned as well as by seed. Benefits of clone is that you have an exact replica of the mother plant. Clones do have their pros and cons as do seeds. I think the majority of plants in the U.S. currently being grown are grown from seed.
Day Neutral Hemp
Now, day neutral hemp, otherwise known as auto flower or autos. Unlike photoperiodic varieties, day neutral varieties will flower regardless of day length. They typically have a 75 to 90 day to maturity. Some go longer than that, but with autoflowering or day neutral hemp, we’re really looking at this in a cropping system more like we would look at our traditional crops and a traditional days to maturity sense that isn’t hugely influenced by your planting date. It is influenced some depending on what time of the year, but it isn’t hugely dependent on your planting date. For the most part, with day neutral varieties, you’re going to have 25 to 35 days of vegetative growth. Once you’re through that first four or five weeks, then the plants will start flowering automatically, regardless of the time of year it is. In some climates, the benefits would be there is potential to get multiple crops out in a season. In parts of California we could do a May planting, we could do an August planting, and we could even do a winter planting in some areas down south.
Now, obviously, you start going to Northern latitudes and higher elevations across the U.S., or if you start moving east or the more inclement weather in the winter, a winter crop is not feasible. And the other benefit of day neutral hemp, because it is maturing on a standard data maturity, would be that you could stagger plantings and thus stagger your harvests. Depending on your avenue of sale, where you’re selling the crop, who’s processing it, so on and so forth, maybe they want a constant supply of a fresh crop being harvested. Those are two unique things to autoflowering hemp that are important to keep in mind when creating your plan for the season. That’s pretty much it on the autoflowering hemp. Another thing to note is that I guess that autoflowers, they can be a little bit tricky or finicky. That’s kind of a long discussion and I would leave that for another day, because we’re going to have plenty more webinars to come, but it is important to note that in the first few weeks, these plants can be a little bit finicky and there are some important things that we’ll talk about on a future webinar.
This was a crop that I grew on the central coast in California this year. It was seven acres. As you can see there, these plants, autoflowering plants, really max out at about three feet high and 18 inches to two foot in diameter.
Obviously there’s some variability in there just like with everything, depending on fertility environment, so on and so forth. This is actually the row I’m standing in in this picture is the same row that you see pictured here:
This crop was planted at about 15,000 seeds to the acre and it was a pretty good stand at the end of the day. I’m pretty happy with it.
Fertility Management and Integrated Pest Management
The next thing I want to move on to talking about is fertility management and integrated pest management. This slide and the next slide are supplied by Agrarian Supply. They’re really our go to agronomists and consultants when it comes to hemp farming. I would say these guys are experts at what they do and these NPK charts, they go a long way when it comes to planning out your season. The thing to keep in mind, his is a 16-week photoperiodic variety that this would be representing.
And this would be representing a luxury fertility program, meaning trying to optimize cannabinoid production and optimize yields. When you’re planning out your fertility for the season, it is important to keep in mind your budget. I’m not going to go too far into the fertility here, but these are here for you to view and nitrogen, if you don’t already know, nitrogen typically increasing in quantities being applied on a weekly basis through veg, through the vegetative growth, and into early flowering before tapering off. Same thing for potassium increasing through veg, maybe even a little bit later than nitrogen, it would go peaking about mid flower before tapering off phosphorus. Obviously, as you can see, not necessarily required as high of quantities, but increasing throughout veg and early- to mid-flowering, it would start tapering off. And there’s obviously … this is a guideline. Nothing here is necessarily set in stone and this does represent elemental NPK in a hydroponic medium. This does not take into account your soil analysis. That’s very important, because once you take into account your soil analysis and the existing NPK in your field, these quantities of NPK that you see in the chart, odds are, in most soils, you’re going to require less of all NPK, because there’s already existing nutrition in your soil. That’s important to keep in mind when you’re looking at these charts.
The other thing, as I said to keep in mind would be budgeting. Not everybody should be feeding the luxury, feeding fertility program, but for some folks that are really trying to optimize yields and cannabinoid production, this is along the lines of what it would look like. This chart that I just switched to was representing a 75-day day-neutral autoflowering crop.
Once again, the NPK, the nuances to those, I already explained for the full season, the 16-week photoperiodic variety and the same applies here. It does look a little bit different.
Integrated Pest Management
Now, moving on, integrated pest management. The link up top that you see, that is a link to the EPA website for the existing pesticides that are approved for use on hemp. To date, there are only 26 products that have been reviewed and approved. It’s important to know if you’re legally applying something to your crop or not. Some states have exemptions to the EPA regulations, and some states have their own lists of approved pesticides, but nonetheless, these are the 26 that are allowed by the EPA.
A lot of these are OMRI listed products for organic production. And things to consider in regards to IPM, obviously, there’s not a huge arsenal, there’s not a huge list of products folks are able to use. It’s important to consider other biological cultural practices to control pests in your system. Definitely do not overlook those.
Harvest and Post-Harvest Considerations
Next, I want to briefly talk to harvest and post-harvest considerations. Mechanical harvesting can be done wet or dry. Obviously, you have to have the right equipment. For most folks, that’s the biggest hurdle. I think where the direction of the margins is going in the industry, most folks are moving towards mechanical harvesting if at all possible, because margins are dropping year over year as most of you are probably aware.
Some of the equipment for mechanical harvesting could be combines, stripper headers, silage or forage choppers. A lot of these things, depending on whether you’re wet or dry harvesting, are pieces of equipment to consider. This is something we will dive into more in later webinars and this mechanical harvesting is really suited for the most part for biomass production. Hand harvesting, I think we’re seeing most of the industry moving away from hand harvesting, really because it entails a lot of labor and added expense to hand harvest. The only people that I really see doing it nowadays for the most part are folks that are producing flower, and this is really because the margins are becoming so slim on biomass production to remain competitive. Hand harvesting is really getting phased out as being a legitimate option just because of the economics. Hand harvesting really only suits itself, I think moving into the future for flower production.
Drying. It’s important to consider drying, because you need to be able to store your crop. If your field drying, that would be as simple as chopping the plants, leaving them on the ground to field dry. Really only suited for arid conditions where it’s very dry air and little rainfall during your harvest. And for the most part, field drying is really only suited for biomass production, because you are going to have a high amount of terpene loss, potentially some, a small amount of cannabinoid loss as well. But it’s really for scaled biomass production where you don’t necessarily have mechanical drying options. Field drying is really the most economical option for a lot of folks. But then again, it only applies to folks that are in dry areas.
Mechanical drying. There’s all kinds of different mechanical drying equipment coming on the market, whether it’s belt or conveyor dryers, rotary drum dryers, there’s some other nifty negative pressure dryers that are coming out on the market. The pros to mechanical drying are that you can process high, large amounts of volume. So, volume is one major benefit to mechanical drying as well as in areas where you cannot feel dry. So, humid environments or environments that get rainfall during harvest season are really going to lend themselves better to mechanical drying as well as for volume. And this for the most part, unless you have really specialized mechanical drying, for the most part, mechanical drying is really lending itself to biomass production as well. A downside of mechanical drying is that there’s significant upfront investment in infrastructure as well as ongoing monthly utility costs to run that equipment.
Barn or hang drying. That’s similar to hand harvesting in the last slide. Barn hang drying really for the most part is suited for flower production. I don’t see it really being hugely economically viable moving into the future as prices come down further for biomass. I don’t see it really fitting biomass production for the most part. Not to say that some operations can’t make do with hang drying and barns for biomass production, but for the most part, barn and hang drying is going to be a thing of the past, I think. And you’ll really see it for flower where you really want to produce the highest quality smokable flower product.
Storage. So, getting your crop dry is essential for storage unless you’re wet baling. But if you’re going to store your crop for any amount of time, you’re going to want to dry your crop down to 10 to 12% moisture. So that last slide all about drying, that’s a very important step to the process if there’s going to be any length of time that you’re going to be storing this crop. If it’s going directly to the processor, that’s one thing, but most farmers are not in the situation where their crop goes directly to the processor. Most farmers are storing their crop in their barn for weeks or many months. So, it is important to have your crop dried properly. As I elaborated on in the last slide.
Now, wet baling, it is not for everybody. There’s a lot numerous pieces of specialized equipment you for wet baling, a wet baling would, not to get too far into the weeds, but would be compressed bales using some specialized baler to make compressed bales and then wrapped with the white plastic. You may have seen these things lined up on the edges of people’s fields that looked like giant marshmallows. Those would be wet bales. Now those, you must do wet baling properly, otherwise your crop will rot inside of your bales. That’s something that I note because there are plenty of people that don’t know how to properly wet bale and their crop spoils inside those bales and essentially, they have a crop loss at the end of the day.
So, wet baling, definitely not for everybody. If you’re going to go that route, you know there’s significant equipment investment that you need unless you’re renting it or borrowing it. It’s some pretty pricey equipment to create wet bales. So definitely not for everybody. And then the other consideration would be at the end of the day, unless your processor is going to process a wet crop, it’s still going to have to get dried at some point. So some processors can process a wet crop. Others, hey, you can wet bale it, but you’re still going to have to dry it before they process it. And so, ultimately, you’re going to incur a drying cost anyways.
And Kevin, I know we asked you to do an impossible task, which was compress time. You’re a farmer not a physicist. And we’re about 43 or 44 minutes into it. We wanted to save some time for Q&A. And I know you’re about to tee up sales and marketing and contracts. Do you have time to bring it home in five or do you want to just hit pause and we’ll save this for a future session?
Let’s say hit pause because this is a piece of the puzzle that I could easily do an entire webinar on. So let’s hit the pause button on sales contracts, budget planning and yeah, please tune in the future and we’ll touch on all of this.
For sure. Awesome. Folks, we are not going to skip over on anything that’s critical. I think if we gave Kevin tenure at a local university or an agronomy program or if he was tied in with an extension center, he could literally present eight hours a day, five days a week and he wouldn’t have enough time. We’re really blessed to have him as part of the team. He’s a farmer first. He understands the value of the plant and how hard it is to make a living as a farmer. He’s critical to our success and kind of really systemic to what we’re trying to do here. All that being said, we want to save the next 15, maybe even 20 minutes. We can go over a little bit based on questions and the level of detail folks want to get into.
I want to make sure and share a few notifications with you or announcements that’ll be of interest on future webinars that we have booked. And also our million seed giveaway and some new genetics we’re bringing online. So, a little bit more information on that front before we jump into some of the Q&A.
One, if you’ve stayed on with us through the entire webinar, thank you for making the time. Thank you for holding the space, while we’re all dealing with a bunch of external inputs and stressors, we are going to keep the lights on. We’re going to keep producing seed. We’re going to keep educating you and hopefully get you as prepared as possible for a 2020 season. A couple things in the chat if you want to cut and paste it or a link out to it. We’re actually giving away a million seeds in 2020 and I can’t believe that folks don’t know more about this yet. It’s just been so much other noise and things going on, but we are literally giving away a million seeds. If you want to de-risk your first crop, if you want to see if you can get a couple of acres out of us.
The first drawing is going to happen here at the end of the month and I can tell you confidentially there’s not a thousand farmers who have registered, so if you get in there, the odds of you getting a couple acres of seed are actually pretty high. And I will be supporting those seed giveaways with some support from our folks at Agrarian and some agronomy support as well. So, we’ll get you the genetics and we’ll get you the best advice we can and hopefully you can kind of do some learning through experience instead of having to take all the risks yourself. In addition, I posted the link to the webinar we’re going to be doing with Burt James next week. Burt’s super solid, very smart guy who’s been deep in hemp, he’s been a crop consultant for 18 years in the Carolinas. Helped put together a cooperative down in North Carolina. He’s a good friend of ours and Kevin’s going to chat with him a little bit next week about some of the big mistakes and pitfalls.
You know, what we like to do is be really straight about it. There’s, there’s huge opportunities here and there’s also a huge risk. So as often as possible as we can cover off on the risk and be pragmatic and realistic where we’re doing something proper. And beyond that we’ve got the lowdown with Burt and then like I said, we’re going to try and get into a regular rhythm on Tuesdays. Next week we’ve got the lowdown Wednesday. I think we’ll move that to a standard Thursday, noon Pacific time and we’ll just be rolling with our subject matter experts and guests.
If you have any suggestions on folks that we should be talking to and whether we just have a conversation with them or whether they share a presentation, we’ll work those in. Tuesdays will probably be a little bit of HiLo, mostly Kevin, sometimes myself or others sharing some information or just answering questions that you guys have for us. Think about Tuesdays as kind of a coffee chat and Thursdays is more like getting to the classroom. So, Tuesdays and Thursdays we’d love to see you. I put a link in here to where we posted this on LinkedIn. If you guys go up there and say you liked it or shared or say thanks, that helps the community know what we’re up to and we’ll keep getting the content out there. We appreciate your time and I hope, I hope you got some value out of sitting with us today.
Yeah, thanks everybody for tuning in.