What is Industrial Hemp?

Industrial Hemp is the distinct oilseed and fiber varieties of the plant genera Cannabis.  Similar to flax, hemp provides raw materials for both food and fiber.  Hem has absolutely no negative drug value as THC is limited to less than 0.3% by legal definition.

Hemp Basics 

  • Hemp can be grown as a single end use, or dual-purpose crop for both hemp grain and fiber.8 
  • Hemp’s growth period is ~ 100 – 120+ days.6 

Hemp: A Profitable Crop 

  • Farmers have a gross profit average of $1,400 an acre for CSX varieties of hemp grain.8 
  • Hemp can be grown as a single end use, or as a dual-purpose crop for both hemp grain and fiber.8 
  • A bushel of hemp weighs 44 lbs.6 
  • The hemp stalk is composed of ~20-30% long fiber (bast) and ~ 70 – 80% short fiber (hurd / shive).16 
  • Hemp seed super foods and hemp seed oil have a high concentration of essential fatty acids (Omegas 6 and 3 at the optimum ratio of 3:1) including the rare gamma linolenic acid, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. It is also a source of readily digestible protein. 16 

Hemp Seed: Facts & Benefits 

  • Hemp seed and hemp seed oil have a high concentration of essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6 at the optimum ratio of 3:1) and include rare gamma linolenic acid, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. It is also an excellent source of readily digestible protein.16 
  • Hemp does not contain known allergens. 


  • Canadian average yields for hemp grain are between 600 to 800 lbs / acre (ac). The highest seed yield has topped 3,000 lbs/ac.3 
  • Canadians report an average from fields grown and managed for fiber, ranging from 6 to 10 tons/ac. 11 
  • According to Canada production statistics, one acre of hemp yields an average of ~ 700 lbs of grain, which equals 50 gallons of oil and 530 lbs of meal.  That same acre could yield an average of 5,300 lbs of straw, which could be processed into ~ 1,300 lbs of long fiber.2 
  • Field observations have reported average grain yields of 1,320-1,800 +/- lbs/ac.

The U.S. Hemp Market is Rapidly Growing 

  • SPINS marketing data published February 28, 2014, shows a 24% growth in hemp foods and body care products to $184 million in retail value.5 
  • The Hemp Industries Association has reviewed sales of clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products, and estimates the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2013 was nearly #581 million.5 

Industrial Hemp: A Beneficial Rotation Crop 

  • Hemp grows well in rotation after green crops, legumes and potatoes.8
    Note: Avoid rotating hemp with other broadleaf crops i.e. canola, sunflower and corn due to common disease, and pest pressures, and spice and gluten crops due to flavor and gluten contamination.8 


  • Grown best in fertile soil that’s rich in nitrogen and phosphorous. 8 
  • Fertility requirements: 75 – 100 lbs/ac actual Nitrogen, 50 ~ 70 lbs/ac actual.6 
  • Phosphorus, Potassium and Sulfur should be applied where deficient. 6 
  • Good fertility and agronomy leads to weed control.6
    Conventional hemp is fertilized similar to a high yielding corn crop. 6
  • Organic hemp production benefits from a perennial legume such as alfalfa, in heavily well-manured composted fields or 

after summer fallow. 6

  • Soil testing is recommended to determine soil fertility.6 

Planting Hemp 

  • Hemp is an annual crop that should be sown shallow (0.5 – 1in.) into well-drained, warm (50°F+) soil that is damp and weed free.6 
  • Seeding rates for most grain varieties range from 25-30 lbs/ac.15 
  • The crop can be seeded using conventional seeding equipment  i.e. air seeders/drills, disk-press drills, hoe-press drills.8

Agronomic Benefits 

  • Hemp naturally suppresses weeds and returns nitrogen back to the soil. 7 
  • Great rotation grain that can help break disease cycles.7 
  • Preliminary research showed that rotating hemp decreased nematode cyst populations. 8 
  • Hemp requires low to zero chemical inputs.8 
  • Hemp is both frost and drought tolerant but cannot handle standing water as seedlings. 7 
  • Hemp can be seeded later than other crops and it can be re-seeded if required. 7 
  • A hemp crop is day length sensitive thus it sets grain about the same time each year. 7 


  • Grain harvesting is typically a two-step process i.e. combining the grain followed by stalk cutting and baling.7 
  • The retted stalks are baled at 12% moisture or incorporated back into the field.7 
  • Operators should watch for fiber wrapping on moving parts.7 
  • Minor on farm equipment modification may be required to ease harvest.7 
  • Harvesting methods vary depending on if the cultivar is grown for seed/grain only, fiber only or for dual purpose.7 
  • Fan and air speeds should be reduced to prevent cracking of the hull.7 
  • Dual purpose varieties should be harvested at 17-25% moisture and moved immediately from field to drying bin.20 

Pests and Disease 

  • Hemp has very little disease and pest problems that have caused economic impacts.7 
  • No pesticides are registered for hemp grain production in Florida. 8 
  • Sclerotinia stem rot can be an issue in wet weather and improper rotations.7 
  • Grey mold/head blight have been noted.7 
  • Some insects such as grasshoppers, bertha armyworms and cut worm have been seen in hemp stands.7 

Storage of Hemp Grain 

  • Harvested grain should be dried immediately under aeration to 8 or 9% moisture to retain grain quality.8 
  • Grain driers can be used if harvested at high moisture content. 8 
  • Quality parameters include: intact hull, maintenance of quality and nutrition parameters.8 
  • Storage bin should be closely monitored to avoid hotspots from forming.8 
  • CSX Agricultural contracts require: clean, dry grain, containing no plant or foreign materials.8 


  • Irrigation is very rarely used in the cultivation of industrial hemp as a well-established hemp crop will have a large rooting system that allows it to extract water from deep within the soil.19 
  • Once the hemp canopy has established it is relatively tolerant of drought. 7 
  • Drought conditions and water logging can result in reduced seed/grain and fiber yields. 4, 8 
  • Total rainfall during the growing season will effect consistent high yields.   







1. AGCanada.com “Right agronomics are key to hemp growing”, Posted Nov. 15th, by Alexis Kienlen, Posted Nov. 15th, 2012, http://bit.ly/UlorGh 2. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – Industrial Hemp: Profile, Statistics, Associations and Links. http://bit.ly/ppgyJS
3. Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development Industrial Hemp Production in Canada, June 29, 2012 http://bit.ly/AkYu3
4. Blade, S. 1998; Industrial Hemp in Alberta. Alberta Hemp Symposia Proceedings, http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca. Accessed Dec 2005. 

5. Steenstra, E., 2013 Annual Retail Sales for Hemp Products Exceeds $581 Millionhttp://thehia.org/PR/2014-02-28-hia_$581_million_annual_sales.html
6. Hemp Agronomy 101 2006, Hemp Agronomy Guide, Hemp Oil Canada Inc., Ste Agathe, MB http://www.votehemp.com/PDF/HempAgronomy101version2006.pdf 7. Hermann, A., 2008. Appendix D. Canadian National Industrial Hemp Strategy (NIHS) pp. 284-344, – Literature Review of the Agronomics of Industrial Hemp: Seeding 

and Harvesting Literature Review Agronomics: Industrial Hemp Seeding and Harvesting Prepared for: the National Industrial Hemp Strategy (NIHS)Composites 

Innovation Centre Project Sponsor: ARDI III B-27 http://www.votehemp.com/PDF/National_Industrial_Hemp_Strategy_Final_Complete2.pdf
8. Hermann, A. M.Sc., B.Gs., P.Ag, The Ridge International Cannabis Consulting (per comm.)
9. Johnson, R., Congressional Research Service, Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity, December 18, 2012, http://votehemp.com/download#CRS
10. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Comer discusses industrial hemp. Morgantown, Kentucky. February 29, 2012, Jobe Publishing News, YouTube, http://bit.ly/yCitHA
11. Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) – Industrial Hemp Production /Production & Management of the Crop/ Yield Expectations, http://bit.ly/WJtUn9
12. MAFRI – Industrial Hemp, Cost of Production, 2011, http://bit.ly/SCPPQq
13. MAFRI, Crop Production Costs 2013 (Dollars Per Acre) – Guidelines: Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives, Eastern Manitoba Costs
14. MAFRI – Industrial Hemp Production / Seeding Rate, (No Date), http://bit.ly/W0PveW
15. Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF)2000,ProjectNF0307 HempforEuropeManufacturingandProductionSystemshttp://www.ienica.net/usefulreports/ hemp.pdf
16. National Industrial Hemp Strategy, March 30th, 2008 Prepared for: Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiative, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, The Agricola 

Group, George Brook, Kristopher Liljefors, David Brook, Any Stewart, Ottawa, Ca. http://www.votehemp.com/PDF/National_Industrial_Hemp_Strategy_Final_Complete2.pdf
17. Schäfer T. and Honermeier B., 2005. The influence of growing factors and plant cultivation methods on biomass and fibre yield as well as on fibre quality of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.). J. Natural Fibres. 2(1):1-14.
18. Valley Bio,Industrial Hemp Production Basics, 2013 Ontario, Canada http://www.valleybio.com/for-our-growers/industrial-hemp/ 19. Van der Werf, H.M.G. 2002. Hemp Production in France. Journal of the Industrial Hemp Association 7(2):105-109
20. Federowich, C. 2013 Federowich Farms, Canada (per comm.)