Hemp seed production is vital, as growers get ready to ramp up production. The question is, is there enough feminized hempseed to go around.
Western Farms Seed LLC in Scottsbluff will help in filling the demand, by growing seed for producers at its greenhouse.
The newly created business is owned by cousins, P.J. Hoehn, Mike Hoehn, their uncles Ed and Art Hoehn, and business partner Mark Johnson.
The business kicked off when Mike Hoehn received one of the 10 permits the Nebraska Department of Agriculture allotted to individuals in 2019 to grow hemp. Nebraska did a lottery where they allowed only ten businesses or individuals to grow hemp after the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the plant.
Hoehn grew a one-acre test plot outside of Mitchell, with three varieties of hemp seed.
“The current varieties are Wife, Franklin, and Montana, we also have T1s,” said P.J. Hoehn, president of the company. “We’ll be crossbreeding them and making new varieties.”
The three varieties have been proven to perform well for growers out in the field for the last couple of seasons.
Feminized seeds are bred explicitly in a way that eliminates the male chromosomes, drastically decreasing the chances of producing a male marijuana plant. Male marijuana plants are not desirable to any degree, except for pollination.
“The genetics, which we have chosen are specific for industrial hemp,” said Johnson, public relations for the company. “We feel pretty safe that we won’t have an impact from industrial hemp’s cousin (marijuana).”
Western Farms Seed is also working in collaboration with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln through the Panhandle Research and Extension Center on hemp production.
“We’re producers ourselves, so we want to number one make sure the quality is there and everything else, our germination, our testing will all be there,” Hoehn said.
He adds they are also making sure they will be able to advise growers on the equipment, such which as plates to use and vacuum. So, when farmers go to plant, they are ready, and if needed, Western Farms Seed would provide support in the knowledge of equipment, planting, and harvesting.
In terms of growing the crop, Johnson said a hemp crop is similar to corn or dry edible bean crops. Hemp should be planted by May or June and harvested after a 90 to 110 day growing period before frost.
“We found hemp to be very resilient after our two hail storms this summer,” said Johnson. “The crop was able to recover from both hail storms in really good fashion. Ending up producing a nice crop in light of Mother Nature.”
The business, with winter, has moved growing operations into the greenhouse. The five interconnected greenhouse buildings have 21,000 sq feet of growing spaces and house the female plants.
The plants will need light at different times, and when they enter the vegetative stage will need light for up to 16 hours a day.
“Industrial hemp has two different growth stages, vegetative, which requires more light, and reproductive growth,” said Johnson. “So people might notice the greenhouse lights being on longer when we go to the next stage of production.”
Both Hoehn and Johnson say producers should start small with an acre or so and of course, make sure they have a buyer before they even plant.