FAQs

Get smarter about hemp and HiLo Seed Co. We answer many of the most common questions we hear from farmers below.

AUTOPILOT & AGRONOMY

What is feminized hemp seed?

Seed that only grows female plants. Feminized hemp seed tends to grow larger and sturdier plants that produce no pollen. This means more of the plant’s energy goes toward flower production and you get higher levels of cannabinoids.

What is the ratio of male to female seeds?

Our feminized seed is 1 male for every 2,500 females. This means the plants will be female 99.96% of the time. Request a sex test to learn more.

What does day-neutral mean?

Same as autoflower. With day-neutral seeds, you get a predictable cycle of days-to-maturity, regardless of specific climatic concerns like average temperature or elevation. As long as there’s no frost, day-neutral grows along a fixed schedule from germination to flower.

Is autoflower hemp grown across the US?

Yes, hemp farmers have grown autoflower hemp in every USDA zone of the country. The primary factor affecting farmers differently in different zones is first and last frost dates.

What is the average CBD percentage?

At HiLo, we like to talk about a ratio versus percentages. Some sellers are trying to make a quick buck with false claims here. The truth is that 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 THC 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.

We advocate for clarity and transparency in the hemp industry with respect to ratios. One of the primary myths that continues to get propagated in the market is that various techniques can make THC or CBD express more or less relative to each other. In reality, outside of a few odd things that can 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.

How many plants should I plant per acre?

We recommend between 10 and 20,000 seeds per acre for Autopilot, our autoflower genetics. Autoflower matures on a fixed schedule, so size restrictions are unrelated to the time of the season. Why the wide scale? If you’re planting early or late to extend your season, the plants are likely going to be smaller and you’ll need more per acre to fill in. Also, marginal ground with known quality restrictions will tend to require more plants per acre to fill that space. HiLo includes free crop consulting with most purchases, so drop us a note.

With photoperiodic plants — so not an autoflower like Autopilot — the plant size falls in direct relation to the time of year you plant. For example, whether you plant on May 1st, June 1st, or July 1st, those plants will finish their reproductive cycle around October 1st. Photoperiodic plants will be successively smaller the later that you plant them, and depending on when and how you plant them, you can fill in your farm block area with as few as 1,200 plants per acre or as many as 8,000 plants per acre, if you plant later in the season. Just remember that the earlier you plant, the bigger those plants are going to be — and harder to deal with — at harvest.

You can also end up with a lot more lignified stem material with photoperiodics, which is only marketable if you’re growing for fiber. We’re a big fan of small plants at HiLo, even though the upfront costs of seeds and starters might be a bit higher.

What is the footprint of autoflower on the surface at maturity?

Depends on the season and the soil type. For most growing areas in the continental US, you’re looking at somewhere between 2 x 2 inches and 3.5 x 3.5 inches, depending on the fertility of your soil, and whether or not you’re growing for a primary season crop or a shoulder season. If you’re trying to grow an early autoflower crop so that you can either get to market early or follow-up with another crop on the same ground, plan for a 2 x 2 space.

It’s hard to put too many autoflower seeds down. For weed control, we like to put autoflowers pretty close to each other. When we’re direct seeding, we’ll go 14 inches between seeds and line. Even though the plant might not have the room to stretch out side to side, this helps for weed control in the seed row because the plants will close out earlier and help to hold each other up.

Another interesting fact relates to latitude. The further north you go, the larger the growth potential for autoflower because, as opposed to a photoperiodic variety, it’s size limitation depends on the amount of light units, growing degrees, and solar radiation. At a high latitude such as Canada, you can grow quite large autoflower plants when the days are 18-20 hours of daylight.

Where is the best place to grow hemp for CBD extraction?

When it comes to successfully growing hemp, seed plays an enormous role. Our farmers have seen high yields with Autopilot in numerous states, from California to the Carolinas. Because of its sturdiness, high resistance to heat and mold, and high resilience to wind and rain, Autopilot has fast become a favorite among new and seasoned farmers, alike. HiLo also offers seed with specific growth profiles tailored to different climates, including early and full-term photoperiodic.

Is autoflower hemp 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. Your total CBD ratio per bale is going to stay high, even if a photoperiodic variety offers a higher CBD yield in the flower, because the plants are almost all flower.

Is there any difference in biomass production with one-month staggering?

Staggering does not necessarily impact biomass, depending on practice. The plants are going to stay roughly the same during the whole stagger period. In the early spring and late fall, there’s a little less temperature and daylight, so the plants will grow a little slower and you’ll 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?

So the Sea of Green method. You certainly can. You might not find enough difference to work on that weekly basis, so try two weeks and play around with that.

What are the recommended soil amendments for day-neutral varieties?

It’s no different than amending your soil for any other high-value crop. Accordingly, you need to know how long the plant will be in the ground, and at what point the plant is able to pick up nutrients. There are nuances for sure, like your nitrogen release rates, so that’s why we include crop consults and lab testing with most seed purchases.

Any special requirements for soil pH and NPK?

For those who might not know, NPK stands for the three main macronutrients in fertilizer — nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Use the best practices for your area, whatever you would do for a high-value crop. That’s going to vary by soil type and by region, so there’s no blanket answer to this question. HiLo offers free crop consultations with most seed purchases to get you the right answer to this question for your specific farm.

Do you recommend using compost to help with nutrition and fertilizer?

Yes. Even in conventional cropping systems, you see huge benefits from compost. When it’s viable and you can afford it, compost is the best. It helps to hold water, and it helps to buffer nutrient uptake and leaching. Dairy manure is best, because it tends to be higher in calcium and hemp is a calcium hog.

How do I know how much compost to use?

Depends on the quality of the compost. As long as the compost doesn’t have too high a salt index, you can drop 20-40 tons per acre, which often gets cost prohibitive. A nice target number is 5-10 tons of compost per acre, which gives you a nice amount of nitrogen and helps build up your soil microorganisms.

Can I add gypsum to raise my pH?

No. Gypsum does not raise the pH. It acts as a neutral in the soil. When gypsum separates, it splits into a calcium ion and sulfate ion. The calcium is positive, which would raise the pH, but the sulfate lowers it for a neutralizing effect. Gypsum is good for adding calcium to the soil, but it will not raise the pH.

What about biochar as a soil amendment?

We think biochar is interesting, but make sure it’s high quality. Biochar can have unexpected effects on your soil, depending on how the biochar was created and its original feed source. We approach biochar with caution. You’ll want to make sure that the soil maintains a stable pH. Some low-quality biochar can cause pH fluctuations in the soil, and lock up nitrogen after adding such a big carbon sink. If you’ve got low nitrogen in your soil but lots of microbial activity, those microbes can eat first before the nitrogen is made available for the plant to take up. Biochar can be fantastic, but it needs to be used judiciously and with caution.

Can I spread all my amendments at the beginning of the season?

Depends on many things, including your yield goals for the season, the release rate of nutrients, and your type of soil. HiLo offers free crop consulting on most seed purchases, so drop us a note for more info.

What about ripping or spading?

If you prepare your soil for planting by ripping or spading, you’re using a deeper tillage. Just remember that hemp has a rooting depth of 0-10 inches for the feeder roots, and 0-30 inches for the structural and water roots. With a disc, you’re often limited to around 6 inches of soil work, and the plant needs more than that to explore for the root zone.

Do different types of seeds need different nutrients?

Yes. Different varieties do have different nutrient needs, and agronomists are still learning a lot here. Importantly, the size potential of the plants will also cause different nutrient needs, so a single autoflower like Autopilot is going to have less of a total nutrient requirement than a 10-foot high photoperiodic variety.

What about biochar as a soil amendment?

We think biochar is interesting, but make sure it’s high quality. Biochar can have unexpected effects on your soil, depending on how the biochar was created and its original feed source. We approach biochar with caution. You’ll want to make sure that the soil maintains a stable pH. Some low-quality biochar can cause pH fluctuations in the soil, and lock up nitrogen after adding such a big carbon sink. If you’ve got low nitrogen in your soil but lots of microbial activity, those microbes can eat first before the nitrogen is made available for the plant to take up. Biochar can be fantastic, but it needs to be used judiciously and with caution.

Any tips for boosting microbial life?

Compost and cover crops. Microbes eat sugar, and roots leak sugar. Up to 40% of a plant’s total photosynthates can leak out the roots. So keeping a cover crop that is leaking those sugary photosynthates into the soil will increase your microbial population. And compost is basically microbial life. Adding compost, keeping a cover crop, not destroying your soil structure through excessive soil working, and not pulverizing and mixing your soil layers — all of those behaviors will boost microbial life in your soil.

Would rockwool work for transplants?

Yes. It’s not our medium of choice, but there’s no reason it can’t work. Rockwool is typically used for an indoor environment. It’s rarely used for large, field-scale applications, but if you’re interested in doing an experiment on a table in a greenhouse or maybe growing under lights for personal use, rockwool would be more appropriate.

For the first 45 days, what are the biggest factors for not stressing the plant?

Assuming you get it into the ground safely and get past the first new leaves on the seedling, we’d say irrigation management. Make sure the plants aren’t drying down too much, or being saturated for too much time. We’ve seen successes and failures with different types of irrigation, so there’s no single answer to the best approach, whether that’s flood, drip, fixed or pivot sprinkler. They can all be managed successfully, so we offer free crop consulting with most seed purchases to help you protect your investment.

Regarding pest pressure, what kind of birds do you have to worry about?

It’s regionally specific, but we’ve seen the most problems with starlings.

Does touching the root ball stress the plant and trigger 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 another cell tray, which will cause the roots to circle around. You can 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, hit a harsh environment, and start to circle again. This is why it’s so important to have your field prepared and irrigated correctly. This is also why HiLo offers free crop consultations and lab testing with most seed purchases.

What kind of disease issues occur with autoflower? Does this change by climate?

Yes, climate matters here. The short answer is that autoflower is 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. We have yet to see a whole field of autoflower go down to a disease or pest that didn’t also affect photoperiodic hemp.

What piece of direct-seeding equipment have you had the most success with?

Auto stem-seeder.

HILO SEED COMPANY

Who is HiLo?

We are a dedicated team of growers, biochemists, geneticists, and extraction engineers with a passion for hemp. All together, we have more than 65 years of experience in commercial agriculture, farming everything from industrial hemp to organics⁠.

Where is HiLo located?

Leary Farm, a 100-acre, 100-year-old plant farm near Edenton, North Carolina. But our seeds are grown by farmers in the know throughout the world.