By Tim Alexander
URBANA, Ill. – Early-season production considerations for hemp were the topics of a University of Illinois Extension Commercial Agriculture Team webinar that included information about a new, research-driven database for Midwestern hemp production. A collaboration among Illinois Extension, Purdue University Extension, Michigan State University Extension and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the goal of the Midwestern Hemp Database is to provide regional insight into agronomic performance and cannabinoid development of industrial hemp varieties.
“This project utilizes dedicated grower-cooperators to properly collect and record data in exchange for discounted cannabinoid profiling,” said Philip Alberti, Illinois Extension commercial ag educator, during the Aug. 13 webinar. “Primary goals of this project are to obtain a better insight on a varietal performance regarding cannabinoid production, and agronomic performance. Through our partnerships with our grower-collaborators we have 430 variety entries in the project, and we will be able to obtain a great deal of information on production systems and variety performance.”
Growers who agree to contribute data for the project will receive a significant discount on cannabinoid profiling ($30 instead of the regular price of $75). Profiling will be conducted by Rock River Laboratory, Inc. and Pride Analytics and Consulting of Wisconsin.
The database has agronomic information including previous crop planted, planting method and more for each of the 430 variety entries, according to Alberti. “Over the course of the flowering period we will start to obtain information pertaining to the cannabinoid production of each of these varieties, which will be displayed on the database. We are also looking at things like seed sourcing to see how different varieties are performing based on where they are coming from,” he said.
“This information will be updated frequently based on when it becomes available, and we are also adding information like yield and other agronomic data at the end of the season. This database is unique in that it is interactive and allows you to search based on selective parameters.”
In addition to introducing the database, Alberti offered a hemp progress and condition report from the U of I’s Monmouth-based research farm. The “virtual field day” report was part of a four-day series of virtual reports from the research farm given by university extension ag educators, entomologists, field crop pathologists and others.
Both auto-flower and full-season hemp varieties were planted in the Monmouth test plots. Alberti is monitoring the timing and development of both plants throughout the growing season.
“The auto-flowers were planted on June 1 at 38-inch row spacing and about 4,500 seeds per acre. They started maturing about a month after getting in the ground, and with a relative maturity at around 75 days, these plants were ready for harvest around Aug. 10,” he said. “The plants were harvested by hand and were taken to the shed to be dried. From soil to harvest, these plants were in the field for 72 days.”
Full-season varieties, which were planted at both 38- and 76-inch row spacing, will not be ready for harvesting until mid-October, Alberti reported. “We can see that the planting populations were significantly lower, because these varieties are not going to be flowering until mid-August or so. We can see that the structure of these plants is much taller than the auto-flower varieties, so the production system to grow these is substantially different,” he said.
“The plants with 38-inch row spacing have grown to where, before they are even beginning to flower, are already almost touching each other. This goes to show how important row spacing is depending on the plant population and the variety that is being planted.”
Alberti noted that it is too early to make economic recommendations based on the research farm’s 2020 hemp production study. That information, when available, will be shared on the Midwestern Hemp Database.
A recording of the hemp webinar can be found at https://youtu.be/bAMBUy0R_PI.
The Midwestern Hemp Database is accessible at go.illinois.edu/hemp. Questions may be directed to Alberti at firstname.lastname@example.org.