BY Stan Maddux
FORTVILLE, Ind. — A new Indiana company is offering farmers cloned hemp seedlings to eliminate the risk of growing an illegal crop that would have to be destroyed.
Half Moon Hemp has the ability to produce 45,000 clones a week in a six-thousand square foot production facility in Fortville in the central part of the state.
The firm working closely with agronomists at Purdue University and other hemp experts estimates it will produce one million clones for the 2020 season.
“We want our farmers to be successful which is why we have developed a quality product with the support of a quality team of experts,” said Adam Gilliatte, chief executive officer of the company founded in August.
His wife, Michelle Gilliatte, the chief marketing officer for the company, said the major reason for cloning hemp is making sure the plants closely related to marijuana do not exceed the 0.3-percent THC limit.
The ceiling was established by the Indiana legislature when commercial hemp production in the state was made legal in 2018.
She said THC, producing a sense of euphoria that comes from using marijuana, is produced strictly by male hemp plants. However, during pollination, male plants can trigger female plants to produce THC.
Farmers of hemp crops take an unknowing risk of purchasing seeds containing male and female varieties with THC levels at maturity above the 0.3-percent limit. Half Moon Hemp offers genetically tested female plants tested to make sure they have none of the THC producing components from previous generations before cloned. “You really have to be worried about that THC level. You can’t just go out and grow marijuana,” Mrs. Gilliatte said. She also stated that 800 mother plants are snipped at the base to grow the clones.
A farmer placing an order usually receives the seedlings for transplanting in two weeks. Presently many farmers turning to hemp obtain seed or seedlings from Colorado and Oregon. Cloning here means offering farmers in the region seedlings better suited to withstand a more humid Midwest climate.
Gilliate said cloning also lowers the odds of acquiring seed derived from hemp bred at some point with ditch weed, a low-grade form of marijuana plentiful in the wild in states like Indiana. Ditch weed tainted seeds won’t produce the flowers containing CBD oil, a major reason for hemp becoming an alternative cash crop since use of CDB oil is growing for a wide variety of medical ailments.
Gilliate said seeds cost anywhere from .30 cents to $1 apiece while the price for seedlings is $2 to $4 apiece. Also, she understands it might be more cost effective to plant seed at a large-scale operation but coming with the higher price for cloned seedlings is an insurance policy. “If your plant goes hot, you’re going to have to burn your whole crop and that could be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she said.
According to Gilliate the focus during the first several months of the company was on research. Next came the first clones for a handful of growers using greenhouses.
She said the need for cloning stems from the newness of the industry; farmers are turning to hemp with a whole lot to learn about successfully growing it. “The season is just starting. We should be getting our orders in within the next month,” she said.