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.
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.
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.