The hemp industry is expanding at a rate that wouldn’t have been predicted years ago. Back in 2017, VoteHemp reported that 25,713 acres were grown. By 2019, that number skyrocketed to 511,442 acres. As the demand for cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp-produced products continues to climb, so does the necessity for more acreage.
New West Genetics, a global leader in hemp seed genetics, understands this along with other problems facing this industry. In turn, it’s developed a family of hemp seeds under the name of ABOUND that makes it easier for row-crop farmers to cultivate hemp for dual-purpose CBD and grain.
“As the regulatory environment catches up with the consumer demand for CBD as well as grain and fiber, the hemp industry of the future must be scalable to ensure a stable supply chain with high-quality products,” reports Wendy Mosher, president and co-founder of New West Genetics. “Row-crop farmers are uniquely positioned to help the hemp industry scale hemp in a manner that is sustainable and dependable.”
The majority of row-crop farmers are located in the Midwest, which is where we’re also seeing a huge jump in hemp acreage. In order to make hemp more scalable, it’s vital these farmers are able to use existing farm machinery in order to minimize any labor and operational expenses.
However, beyond profit margins, we’re in need of a hemp seed that can maintain the high quality that the CBD industry is known for. This is where New West Genetics comes in.
The Problem with Feminized-Only Seeds
As the industry currently stands, most farmers are only growing feminized hemp seeds as they produce high concentrations of CBD. While this is great for smokable flower production, it’s inefficient for the scale this industry will need, not to mention the expectations of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
“Farmers are always looking for a profitable crop to add to their rotation,” Mosher discusses. “Superior, dependable seed genetics are the best way to ensure a successful crop. We believe we have a seed that will give farmers the peace of mind they need to feel confident planting hemp, just as they do any other crop.
“The ABOUND family of varieties ensures not only enhanced CBD flower and nutritious grain but also high germination, yield, and harvestability,” she goes on. “We continue to do research on our fiber as well. ABOUND can then potentially offer growers the opportunity to drive profitability across three revenue streams.”
This seed is not just designed for CBD production, which is what makes it so profitable. Seeing as hemp has more than 25,000 known uses, using both male and female seeds can support farmers in more ways than one might initially consider.
In fact, this was one of the difficulties met with last year’s harvest. While there was a huge increase in industrial hemp production, the majority of crops were cultivated for CBD using feminized-only seeds. Not only was this an expensive endeavor, but overproduction brought a dramatic decrease in profit.
In order to curb such problems in the future, it’s absolutely vital for businesses to begin looking toward hemp for non-CBD products, such as building material, clothing, food, and paper.
“Markets exist today for nutritious grain used in food products and fiber products across multiple industries,” Mosher states. “Yet, hemp is still a nascent industry and requires further approval by the FDA for human food additives and animal feed to grow and develop. Infrastructure and development are also critical to ensure the sustainability of the hemp industry and thus a dependable supply chain.”
The Demand from Farmers
While the majority of us sit back and enjoy our CBD, we don’t often consider what goes into its production. The truth is, farmers across America are struggling and are desperately seeking out a seed that’s easier to cultivate, not to mention one that can be more easily incorporated with their other crops.
“Over the course of the spring , we talked with over 700 growers – most of whom had grown feminized seedlings in 2019,” explains Mosher. “We repeatedly heard comments about the challenge of the high level of manual labor needed to grow feminized hemp.
“Many of these farmers also grew 2,000+ acres of corn and soybeans. Another common complaint was the amount of time it took to grow 50 to 100 acres of feminized hemp, as it took too much of their focus away from their mainstay production crops. Most agreed they are looking for a hemp seed that can deliver high-CBD flowers while also offering an additional revenue stream of grain that fits with their row-crop production.”
Interestingly, New West Genetics’ hemp seed has garnered the attention of farmers who currently aren’t cultivating hemp. These farmers understand that the superiority of seed genetics is the most viable way to ensure a successful crop. With that, they’ve considered ABOUND as their potential introduction into this industry.
“The feminized-only seed planting method is frequently promoted as the only method for high-CBD flower products,” Mosher notes. “As farmers learn more about our approach to hemp planting, their interest continues to grow. A lot of what we do each day is education.”
Follow the Seed and Flower
Beyond developing this innovative hemp seed, New West Genetics has also started a monthly virtual educational series called Follow the Seed and Flower, which documents a number of aspects of growing hemp, from post-harvest drying to seed separation to lab testing.
As so much misinformation surrounding this industry remains, such efforts are almost a necessity. However, New West Genetics also hopes to help farmers understand what to expect from a dual-purpose crop and the potential market and consumer expectations for hemp grain.
“We launched our showcase in person on September 14th, and will continue virtual series to introduce our varieties and focus on successful production and harvest methods, processing techniques, and end-market opportunities,” Mosher tells us. “As we ‘follow the flower,’ we will test moisture levels, yield, and cannabinoids at each stage of the process to enable growers, helping them understand the impact of the choices they make along the way.”
Follow the Seed and Flower invites farmers, agronomists, university hemp experts, and industry professionals to join them and continue to learn about how ABOUND can change this industry.
As ABOUND begins to take the world by storm, New West Genetics continues to focus its breeding on increasing CBD while decreasing THC. With that, it can be expected that a number of varieties with new and exciting improvements will be released under the ABOUND name.
Furthermore, with more opportunities for farmers to learn and incorporate ABOUND into their annual crop rotation, it’s likely we’re going to continue seeing an increase in hemp production. While large-scale hemp cultivation has always been on the horizon, it looks like this industry is ready to take that next step.
“The hemp industry has had its ups and downs over the last three years,” Mosher reflects. “This is not to be unexpected for any new industry. Anyone who farms knows that farming has always been a cyclical business.
“At New West Genetics, we are very excited about the future of the hemp industry. We will continue to focus our research and development on hemp varieties for row-crop farmers. We believe utilizing row-crop production principles will ensure the sustainability of the hemp industry, and row-crop farmers play a vital role in moving the hemp industry to the next level by producing high-quality hemp at scale.”