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Hemp: Best Management Practices

 

 

Farming Smarter Collaborative Project

Timeline: 2014 – 2017

Project lead: Jan Slaski, InnoTech Alberta

Lethbridge Project contact: Ken Coles

Collaborators: SARDA Ag Research

Abstract

Farming Smarter was part of a research team which engaged in a three-year study focused on studying the growth of industrial hemp cultivated in Alberta. This project primarily focused on generating information in support of the development of best management practices for industrial hemp in Alberta.

Objectives

  1. Evaluation of cultivar performance in different regions of Alberta
  2. Impact of seeding dates on hemp performance
  3. Identify nitrogen fertility requirements for different regions of Alberta

Method

Locations: Lethbridge, Falher, Vegreville

Three distinct trials were undertaken. The first trial focused upon a performance study of different varieties of hemp, where differences in grain and fibre yield were evaluated for each variety. The second trial evaluated the effect of seeding date on grain and fibre yield. The third trial evaluated the yield response of six nitrogen application rates on hemp crops grown in nutrient-depleted soils. Each of these trials were run in three different areas of the province in order to generate robust, agro-climatic, zone-specific agronomic information.

Particulars of the trials

Trial 1 – Variety trials   

Twelve cultivars presently allowed for cultivation by Health Canada LOAC https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/health-concerns/controlled-substances-precursor-chemicals/industrial-hemp/commercial-licence/list-approved-cultivars-2017-growing-season-cannabis-sativa.html and having commercial importance including grain usage type CFX-2, X59, Finola, CRS-1, CFX-1,  and dual purpose (grain and fibre) Delores, Canda, Joey, Silesia were tested. This trial was conducted at all three locations using a Randomized Complete Block (RCB) design with four replications.

Trial 2 – Evaluation of seeding date on grain and fibre yield (conducted at Lethbridge and Falher)

Effects of early and delayed seeding at different seeding rates on performance of three grain-type and one dual purpose cultivars were tested. Varieties were selected based on their commercial acceptance in Alberta in recent years and included Finola, X59, CFX-2 (grain type varieties) and Silesia (dual purpose variety).  Three seeding dates were spaced approximately 10-12 days apart from the earliest practical seeding date (May 8 at Lethbridge and May 14 at Falher) until mid/late June. This trial was run in a split plot design with seeding date as a main plot at Lethbridge (irrigated) and in Randomized Complete Block design at Falher (rain-fed) with four replications.

Trial 3 – Nitrogen fertility (conducted at Lethbridge and Falher)

This trial was aimed to study the yield response of six rates of nitrogen on nutrient-depleted soils.  Soil test results were used to identify suitable parcels of land with low levels of residual fertility.  The following treatments were used to determine the effect of N fertility on yield of grain and fibre: 0 (residual fertility), 30, 60, 90, 120, and 150 kg/ha. Nitrogen fertilizer in the form of urea was provided to the three tested hemp cultivars;X59, Finola and Silesia.  P, K and S rates were applied according to soil test recommendations for an average yield. This trial was run at Lethbridge (irrigated) and Falher (rain-fed) sites in Randomized Complete Block (RCB) design with four replications.

Results

  • Unfavorable weather conditions including drought, waterlogging and hail were experienced in each of the three years of study at each of the test sites, with the Falher site being affected the most.  Therefore, the obtained data should be considered relevant for the commercial hemp growers frequently experiencing suboptimal weather conditions. 
  • The highest adaptability to a wide variety of edaphic conditions with respect to grain yield was found in X59, CFX1, CFX2 and CRS1, while early maturing, short stem varieties including Picolo, Grandi, Katani and Finola (collectively account for 80% of Alberta hemp licensed acres) continue to gain popularity among growers, were generally found to yield 15-20% less than taller top yielders.
  • Among the four fibre type varieties Canda, Delores, Joey and Silesia the latter was identified as the highest straw producer at all Alberta locations, averaging 7.2 t/ha. This monoecious, late maturing variety was also the tallest but had the lowest harvest index, although its average grain yields were comparable to several grain type varieties.
  • Across the sites and tested varieties, seeding delayed by a month caused a significant 15% reduction in grain and straw yield.  Lower straw yield on plots seeded in mid-June was attributed to a reduced canopy height.
  • Considerable differences in harvest index were found between the locations. Under the Peace Country conditions favoring production of vegetative biomass, harvest index was lower than at Lethbridge. This observation indicates that hemp for grain should be produced at southern locations, while the north is more suitable for the fibre production.
  • Increasing rates of nitrogen fertilizer impacted grain and fibre production in different fashions.  Grain reached maximum yields at 120 kg /ha N and then slightly decreased, while straw yields peaked at 90 kg /ha N and subsequently plateaued when higher N rates were provided.
  • Genotypical differences were found among the tested varieties with regard to nitrogen applications.  Both studied grain type varieties were more responsive to increasing rate of N fertilizer than the fibre type Silesia with respect to seed production while the opposite was reported for stem production indicating that separate N fertilization programs should be developed for varieties of different usage type.

Recommendations

Several online tools have been generated using the knowledge and information generated during the course of this project. Two notable examples are the Hemp Production eGuide developed by the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, and the Industrial Hemp Enterprise page found on the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry website. The information and knowledge generated in this study will support the ability of producers to successfully manage hemp crops for grain and fibre in Alberta and elsewhere.

Project Videos

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