Analysis of variability in crop yield for industrial hemp on two farms in Virginia
Although the cultivation of Cannabis sativa was substantially halted in the United States with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, Canada reintroduced licenses for industrial hemp research and commercial production by the mid 1990’s. This led to a resurgence of interest in exploring the potential for this industry across North America, and by 2016, permits were granted to grow industrial hemp in Virginia. The ultimate goal of this project is to explore the agricultural feasibility of growing industrial hemp on small and medium sized farms in Virginia, and integrating small-farm production with a potential supply chain for three key products: hemp fiber, hemp seed for livestock feed and human consumption, and hemp oil for biofuel. This phase of the project focused specifically on determining crop characteristics and yield. In May 2016, we planted industrial hemp on two ten-acre fields, one at Rodes Farm (Grottoes, VA) and the other at Walden Farm (Afton, VA). Each farm has unique soil characteristics and microclimate. In August 2016, the seeds and stalks were harvested. Seed weight, total number of seeds, total number of plants, stalk length, and stalk diameter were captured after harvest to measure crop characteristics and yield. We examined the differences in crop characteristics and yield based on farm and fertility levels, and explored strengths and weaknesses of the experimental design used in 2016 to recommend new strategies for planting in 2017.