Factors such as cost, space and soil conditions are just part of the industrial hemp farming equation. Choosing which cannabis strains to grow can be more challenging—what will the final cannabidiol (CBD) yield be? Will the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content stay under federal legal limits? Why should seeds be feminized?
Those are questions Scott Edson of northern Illinois-based Midwestern Hemp Seed Co. frequently answers as farmers inquire about his seeds and seedlings. As of late March, he’s filled more than 20 orders from Wisconsin farmers; a slight downtick from last year at this time, but he doesn’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. “People are more experienced, and they’re not diving in over their heads like they were last year,” he relates. “They’re researching the product, the crop, and starting small. That’s what I see farmers doing this year, and that is the right approach.”
Edson offers seeds produced by Happy Hedgehog Hemp Products, in Oregon. He also has several propagation centers throughout the country, including one in Steven’s Point, Wis. He’s sourced five strains of both Indica and sativa categories to offer through Midwestern Hemp Seed Co.: 1942, Gatsby, Stormy Daniels, Cherry Boax and Grape Indica. The characteristics of each plant, along with ideal growing climates, feminization rates and expected harvest time is listed, as well the link to the certificate of analysis (COA) for each plant. The COA displays the lab that conducted testing; total THC; expected CBD content of the finished plant; total cannabinoids and cannabinoid profile; collection date; and other data.
Farmers and growers can purchase seeds that arrive by mail. Seedlings can be picked up at the propagation centers or arrange to have them transported. Edson says the most expensive strains in the lowest quantities are around $1 per seed; depending on the order size, that can come down to 35 cents per seed.
When choosing which strains to offer, Edson considers the strain’s ability to reach double digit CBD percentages while staying federally THC compliant (below .03%). “There are fewer hemp strains we know of that will fit into that total THC complaint level and still reach 10-plus percentage points of CBD content,” he says.
Feminized seeds contain a high percentage of female to male plants. When left unpollinated, the female plant produces flower that contains CBD. If a female plant is pollinated by a male plant, it goes to seed and yields little to no CBD.
Edson likes to work with production companies that are producing strains he’s familiar with, strains that he’s actually grown, or strains that his hemp-savvy farming peers have grown and can vouch for the quality and reliability of the documentation. He offers some consulting, and he also refers customers to the genetics companies he works with for in-depth consulting.
Finding good genetics in plants and seeds is a challenge in the hemp industry, and it’s still a buyer beware realm. “Between the snake oil type stuff and the real stuff, it’s not easy to find quality companies. Right now, there are still people looking to take advantage of folks that don’t understand hemp as well as they do other crops. I want to take my experience to help other people.”
Because there have been and still are seed and seedling dealers making false claims about THC compliance limits and CBD percentages, or falsifying lab reports, Edson advises people to carefully vet their seeds before purchase and contact labs listed on COAs to verify that the reporting on their documents is correct. He also highly recommends that people potentially interested in growing CBD should talk to people about where to sell their end product. “Don’t plant a crop that you don’t have an end plan for.”
For more information, visit midwesternhempseed.com
Sheila Julson is a freelance writer who enjoys capturing the stories behind Milwaukee’s happening food, beverage and urban farming scenes. She also pens articles about holistic health, green living, sustainability and human-interest features.
Mar. 31, 2020