Hemp

Agworld Farm Management Software Client, Morgan Curtis, Hemp Farm

Optimizing Hemp Production with Digital Tools

Challenge
Hemp is a relatively new crop for most growers and not much research on varieties, production and inputs has been published. Hemp is a bio-accumulator, meaning that the plant naturally draws toxins from the soil, and it easily absorbs drifting pesticides. Hemp also utilizes high levels of nutrients and therefore requires skilful nutrition management.
Result
By being able to accurately track field use history, soil test results and crop management strategies in Agworld, growers, as well as agronomists, are able to optimize their hemp production. Agworld allows its users to ensure that they grow the best hemp varieties under the best circumstances and to use data from previous years to optimize their hemp crop even further in future years.

Introduction

Hemp is a relatively new crop for most growers and agronomists in the USA, as it has only recently been allowed to be cultivated again in most states. Growing a crop without much experience, knowledge or available research for this specific crop comes with a unique set of challenges; challenges that need to be overcome in order to grow and harvest a profitable crop. Agworld, the world’s premier Farm Management System, connects farmers and agronomists throughout the USA, Australia and other countries and is uniquely positioned to assist growers and agronomists with optimizing their hemp production. This case study shows how Agworld is already getting used in hemp production today and the role the platform plays for its users.

Nutrition Management

Nutrition is key to the profitability of any crop, and hemp is no exception. Researchers from the University of Kentucky for example recommend growing hemp on land that is seen as productive in current grain production systems (>170 bu/A corn) in order to achieve good yields. It is for this reason that it is very important to soil-test fields regularly prior to planting hemp so that accurate nutrition plans can be made, according to Valley Ag agronomist Morgan Curtis, who works in the Donald, OR area as a Horticulturist and who specializes in wine grapes, blueberries, hazelnuts and hemp. “Hemp is considered a biological accumulator as well as a nutrient accumulator, meaning that it easily absorbs nutrients as well as pesticides through both its root-system as well as its leaves. This is something that we constantly have to keep in mind when planning our cropping strategy.”

“We test our fields every year and store the results in Agworld so that we have an accurate overview of the nutrient profile of each field. Especially when we’re in the field and wonder: “what was that soil test from two years ago?”, Agworld allows you to bring up this information while you’re in the field without having to dig through emails from two years ago. Also, depending on the soil tests and field history, we feel certain products have a great fit for hemp, like ‘Valley Bios HF’, a biological inoculant product with beneficial bacteria and yeast that ‘supercharges’ the soil biology. The good thing about Agworld is that we can record our use of all nutrients, which then gives us data to make proper comparisons of what worked and what didn’t. There are lots of products out there but not everything is right for hemp in all conditions; Agworld allows us to trial nutritional inputs and then compare the data after harvest, so that we can make better decisions in future seasons.”

Quality Control

Most hemp currently grown in the US is grown for human consumption, either in the form of isolate, CBD oil or as smokable flower. “This makes quality control very important throughout the supply chain,” says Marty Dozler, Mark Lewis Farms, of Stayton, OR who grows hemp on his farm. “Agworld allows us to easily store data around inputs, soil test history, lab history for chemical residues etc, which all helps with the traceability of the final product. The hemp industry right now is the ‘wild west’ of cropping because it is such a new crop. Having a platform like Agworld to record our data helps us as hemp growers to make sure we are doing the right thing and achieve the best results possible.”

Valley Ag regional manager Dennis Roth however says that it’s not only the crop inputs and soil tests that need tracking: “As a business we don’t create recommendations for pesticides on hemp, as most chemicals don’t have hemp on their label, but we do obviously spray a lot of neighboring fields where other crops are planted. We have to be awfully careful not to drift pesticides onto hemp fields, as that could show up in pesticide residue testing. Agworld allows us to ensure all applicator operators know exactly where there is hemp planted so they can minimize the chance of spray drift.”

Results through data

Agriculture is rapidly becoming a very data driven industry and hemp is leading the way for many growers as they don’t have reliable trial data available and therefore feel the need to create their own ‘trial data’. Morgan Curtis elaborates: “I service quite a few hemp growers that use different varieties on different soil types and on different parts of their farm. These growers make sure that they accurately map their varieties in Agworld so that they create an accurate view post-season of what worked and what didn’t.” Mark Lewis Farms farm manager Randal Gilbert adds to this: “Data in Agworld helps us increase our quantity and quality by being able to tailor inputs but it can show us what we did and the effect it had on flowering, oil levels, etc. All this data is figured out for other crops like corn and beans already; with hemp we still have to test a lot of things and having the data in Agworld allows us to do this efficiently.”

Morgan Curtis continues: “The most commonly planted hemp varieties have had the THC bred out of them in order to be compliant with state and federald law, but there is not much information in the form of seed certification or variety data sheets available to growers. While there are organizations like OSU that are working on tackling this issue, it’s a very unregulated industry when it comes to breeding at the moment, so growers need to figure a lot out for themselves. Valley Ag uses Agworld and encourages growers to use it as well, so that they can start collecting data and improve their results without having to wait for research to become available. As an agronomist I’m passionate about helping my clients perform as best as possible; I feel that Agworld has a very good fit in the hemp industry and helps my clients and I achieve our goals.”

"As an agronomist I’m passionate about helping my clients perform as best as possible; I feel that Agworld has a very good fit in the hemp industry and helps my clients and I achieve our goals."
Morgan Curtis Agronomist, Valley Ag, Donald, OR
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