Wisconsin saw a massive breakthrough in 2017 when the federal government passed the 2018 Farm Bill, allowing farmers throughout the country to legally grow and process industrial hemp. While this was a great step forward, relatively inexperienced Wisconsin farmers were faced with the difficult task of learning how to properly grow the crop. This post will be the first of a series in which I’ll try my best to explain the most efficient process of growing hemp in Wisconsin.
First and foremost, farmers must apply for a license to grow through Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP). More information on licensing can be found through this link. As far as the actual growing, the first step towards farming industrial hemp is to check for adequate soil.
There’s a few requirements the soil should meet if you’re looking to take a hemp crop from average to high quality plants. Hemp thrives in loamy soil that is drained well. The ideal acidity (pH) of the soil is somewhere between 7 and 7.5. Hemp is vulnerable to damage via soil compaction during its first stages of growth, so the less clay in the soil the better.
As for nutrients, hemp responds well to the typical optimal levels of nitrogen, phosphate, phosphorus, and potassium. If your soil is lacking any of these nutrients, it’s suggested to add the lacking element accordingly. One of the biggest struggles hemp farmers deal with is the inability to use chemical fertilizers or herbicides. Since the plant’s cannabidiol (CBD) will be extracted into oil after harvest, hemp must remain fully organic throughout the growing process. It’s encouraged to use organic fertilizers such as cow or chicken manure to fully prepare the soil for the grow. I hope this post educated those who are interested in adding to Wisconsin’s emerging hemp market, feel free to comment with any questions and be on the lookout for the next step’s post in the near future!