Free MU Extension guides help prospective industrial hemp growers
Source: Raymond Massey, 573-884-7788
COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Extension specialists have developed educational guides for those interested in growing industrial hemp. The Missouri Department of Agriculture plans to take applications for grower permits as of Dec. 2.
The four guides cover planning, agronomy, budgeting and marketing.
Specialists created planning budgets that give estimates of income and costs for growing hemp for three different end products of industrial hemp production: CBD, fiber and grain.
Because farmers have not grown hemp in Missouri for decades, MU Extension economist Ray Massey used information from states such as Kentucky, Tennessee and North Dakota that have grown hemp for the last several years. Massey recommends using the Missouri Industrial Hemp Budget tool for best estimates. The tool is available for download under “Resources” at extension2.missouri.edu/programs/industrial-hemp.
“The high financial costs and labor requirements of growing industrial hemp for CBD likely will limit the number of acres a farmer can grow,” Massey says. Volatile market prices exist for CBD because it is a new high-demand product with limited price history, he says. State and federal regulations also will affect the markets and prices for CBD. Labor for hand planting, weed control, and harvest can reach several hundred hours per acre.
Growing industrial hemp for fiber or grain is more like growing hay or row crops, he says. Farmers will find these production systems more in line with their existing equipment. Labor needs for growing industrial hemp for fiber or seed are also similar to conventional crops.
Industrial hemp, like other new crops, presents several risks that farmers should consider, Massey says. Farmers must meet strict THC-limit standards set by federal law. He recommends that potential growers secure a sales contract or market outlet before growing industrial hemp. Confidence that the processor offering the contract can fulfill the contract is also important. There has been an abundance of industrial hemp grown in the U.S. this year with limited processing capacity currently available from many startup businesses, he says.
Agronomic information for Missouri also is limited, says Greg Luce, MU Extension agronomy specialist. He leads the Industrial Hemp Working Group at MU. Researchers planted industrial hemp at the Bradford Research Center near Columbia this season, but they netted limited data due to delayed planting and unfavorable weather. MU demonstration or research plots in six other locations also will help researchers observe and better understand industrial hemp as a crop option in Missouri, Luce says.
Nutrient recommendations are based on what has been seen in other states. There are no labeled pesticides, he says. Weed control is critical. He recommends starting with a weed-free field prior to planting. Luce also recommends tillage at this point. Plastic mulch also may be necessary to control weeds when growing industrial hemp for CBD because seeding rates are too low for the canopy to provide weed control.
Luce says harvesting hemp is more difficult than traditional crops. Producer should budget for additional equipment costs.
The MU Extension industrial hemp budgets are part of a comprehensive industrial hemp feasibility study to be publicly released in December.
The study was funded by the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority and commissioned by the producer steering committee that formed the Missouri Hemp Producers Association.
For updates from the Missouri Department of Agriculture, go to agriculture.mo.gov/plants/industrial-hemp.
You can find the free downloadable MU Extension industrial hemp planning budgets on the MU Extension website:
• Industrial Hemp for Grain Planning Budget, extension.missouri.edu/p/g668
• Industrial Hemp for Fiber Planning Budget, extension.missouri.edu/p/g669
• Industrial Hemp for Grain and Fiber Planning Budget, extension.missouri.edu/p/g670
• Industrial Hemp for CBD Planning Budget, extension.missouri.edu/p/g671