May 12, 2014 6:51 pm

Growing Industrial Hemp

As temperatures rise, more farmers are starting to seed their crops. Industrial hemp is one crop we could see more of this year.

Eight farmers in southern Alberta have signed on with Global Hemp Group to grow industrial hemp this year. They will plant about 1,500 acres and produce 1.5 million pounds of hemp seed.

The farmers will use the no-till technique to grow industrial hemp. No-till has a lower environmental impact than conventional farming and gives them a better bottom line.

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According to Health Canada, there will be 86,000 acres of hemp in Canada this year. Some of it will be grown for fiber and some for Hemp Hearts.

“Hemp Hearts are what they’re considering a super food which is a cereal topping or smoothie addition, high in oils and fiber,” said Rod Lanier, a farmer who grows industrial hemp near Lethbridge.

Eight farmers between Claresholm and Milk River have formed a group that will grow hemp hearts for Rocky Mountain Grain Products. They will also produce hemp for Global Hemp Group, which is based out of California.

Lanier said, “By spreading our acres from Claresholm to Milk River and between different farms we should be able to safely guarantee those two companies the large hemp seed that they may need.”

The farms have also formed an alliance with Stemia Group in the United Kingdom. Stemia CEO Mike Duckett is getting a good response to hemp fibre from the automotive and construction industries.

Lanier said, “If all goes well, we all have our fingers crossed that there will be a local fiber plant here in southern Alberta that we can deliver all our fiber to.” Construction of the plant could start soon.

The farms in the alliance are producing industrial hemp are doing it through a sustainable no-till method of farming. Southern Alberta is a favourable place to growing it.

“Producing hemp hearts in southern Alberta,” said Lanier, “because of the dry climate and usually low humidity at harvest we produce a very sweet hemp heart. In some of the other countries with higher humidity, the sweetness of the hemp hearts are lost.

In addition to producing hemp, the group will conduct research trials and share its technologies and solutions on fertility, weed control and the challenges of harvesting hemp.

In spite of this year’s late spring, it is not late to seed hemp. Lanier said industrial hemp grows well when it is seeded at the end of May. Industrial hemp can even be seeded in June.

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