New Brunswick Hemp Trial Updates

The first few weeks (end of June)

Early July



Site 1: Note the 4’ marker separating variety CFX-2 on the left from CFX-1 on the right. Male plants are clearly taller and reach 5’

Site 2:  Male flowers in full bloom, female plants are shorter and dark green

End of August

It is now possible to draw preliminary conclusions on our farm trials even before the final data are in.  They are impressionistic at best, but still are instructive about issues that need to be addressed in the future. We need to remember that these trials were set under farm conditions rather than under controlled experimental conditions, so no neat alignment of trial plots should be expected. Weather conditions were far from ideal on both sites. Abundant rains in May made access to the fields difficult. Then June and July were exceptionally dry.

What was readily apparent from casual observation of test plots was verified in more detailed observations. All plots were invaded with annual weeds, and volunteer plants (residual seed from previous seasons) principally corn and barley. This is particularly true of the plots with the lowest hemp plant density. The broken stems appearing in photos are due to damage from corn borers.  This occurrence is unusual, as it has not been reported in the literature consulted.

Crop stature and appearance
We have been accustomed to pictures of hemp fields with stalks exceeding 10-12 ft. This is clearly not the case here and the average height is less than 6 ft. In fact this is in line with reports from more rigorous trials where heights of 50” for CFX-2 and 62” for CRS-1, and from promotional materials from Hemp Genetics International, the producer of this seed. It should also be said that these varieties are known for their high seed potential and their short stature. However at the recommended planting density of 25-30 lb./acre the results are disappointing, plants did not reach that average height and they certainly will not reach their grain potential. Much of this should be attributed to improper field preparation, and probably even more to the very dry weather experienced in June and July.

This dry weather may also have caused the premature yellowing of the crop through lack of moisture and by limiting the fertilizer uptake of the plants, even if fertilizer application rate was adequate.  The drying out of the male plants, which is normal at this stage, also gives a scrubby appearance to the plots.

Photo 5. Evidence of irregular planting on site 2

Seeding itself may have impeded performance. Hemp seed is very small and seed drills need to be adjusted accordingly. On site 2, seeding irregularity was clearly an issue, several seeds at one point and large spaces between others, as can be observed in the photo on the left. This was less of an issue on site 1.


Corn borer
The corn borer made an unexpected and unwanted visit to test plots causing breakage of stalks. Cornfields surrounded Site 2 and the invasion was not totally unexpected.  However, no corn was grown in the area surrounding Site 1 for a number of years and yet there was some incidence of corn borer damage, though not as severe as on test plot 2.  The borer (below, left) weakens the stalk and causes it to lodge as can be observed in photo 7 below.

Photo 7. Corn borer inside hemp stalk

Photo 6. Evidence of damage caused by borer

Photo 8. Distribution of flowers and leaves on the hemp plant

Harvesting issues
If the economic focus of the crop is to be its flowers & leaves for the extraction of CBD and the straw for the production of fibers and building materials, then a trade-off is apparent. In photo 8, flowers, where most of the economic value is located, are scattered over more than one-third of the plant. This may not be much of an issue with varieties developed by Alberta Innovates for their straw such as Silesia. It can easily reach 12 ft. with the flowers concentrated in the top third. Flowers have a larger concentration of CBD than leaves.

A related issue would be the evolution of the CBD content as flowers wait for processing. All flowers and leaves harvested cannot be processed immediately and need to be stored. How should they be stored to maintain their CBD content.



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