In 2014 Oregon became one of the first states to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, and one of the easiest states to become licensed to grow. This makes it one of the key players in the introduction of industrial hemp flower as a standardized and viable industrial crop option, as agriculturalists who already have experience farming cannabis in the state can easily corner the potentially billion-dollar market. But what does go into growing cannabis on an industrial level? Is it a viable option outside the greenhouse?
Plant Hardiness Zone(s)
Oregon, which is known for its varied landscape and high lumber output, is divided into a number of plant hardiness zones, 4a to 9b, according to the USDA. Winter temperatures can dip to -20 degrees Fahrenheit in the coolest parts of the state to 30 degrees Fahrenheit in the warmer coastal region.
Hemp flower can only survive winter lows characterizing zones 8 to 11. Farmers should not attempt to grow the crop during winter in areas categorized anywhere below zone 8.
Oregon’s climate is perfect for growing cannabis on an industrial scale, with mild summers, a long growing season, and about 40″ of annual rainfall, the crop thrives easily. Hemp flower is also cold-resistant, and doesn’t mind the occasional freeze or cold spell, allowing for the odd late freeze without complete loss of crops. This is a huge boon in northern states like Oregon where spring weather can be unpredictable at times.
Length of Growing Season
Cannabis Sativa L, the cultivar authorized for use in industrial hemp cultivation, is an extremely fast growing specimen, with a growing season of about 4 months if grown for hemp fiber. The fast growth serves other purposes as well, quickly crowding out all any weeds that dare to surface. Once plants are 20cm tall weeding can be abandoned without repercussion.
Average Annual Sunlight
The length of the day is an important part of a successful hemp fiber harvest. Shorter days are key during the maturing months, leading to bulkier more fibrous stalks and a bumper harvest. Pay careful attention to this often-overlooked factor, making sure to plant at a time when you can take full advantage of the shorter fall days.
Average Annual Precipitation
Hemp flower is considered a drought-resistant crop, requiring half the water needed for corn, and less than a third of what is needed for cotton. Despite this, it is not a desert plant, requiring at least 20 inches of rain during the growing season. During dry spells, irrigation might be necessary to ensure maximum yield.
The elevation is important to bear in mind for operations that are cultivating hemp flower for the seeds. In higher altitude areas (over 600-800 ft above sea level) seeds mature at a slower rate, and might not reach maturity in time to harvest. Elevation should also be taken into account when sourcing seeds, seeds matured at a higher altitude can result in a slower maturity rate and a less abundant harvest.
Cannabis prefers loamy soil, with good drainage and a neutral ph of about 7. Although soil varies from location to location, Oregon’s Jory soil is great for hemp cultivation. Nitrogen is an extremely important factor in successful cultivation, and supplementation is often needed. If leaves are tinged with yellowish blue, then supplementation is key to avoid stunted growth.
Cannabis Sativa has few natural pests and is relatively hardy and pest resistant. The primary pests to look out for are the hemp moth, hemp flea, and hemp borer. Experts suggest rotating fields and avoiding cultivating the same field for more than two consecutive years to avoid allowing the insects to take hold and reproducing quickly.
Obtaining A Hemp Flower Grower’s License In Oregon
Under federal law, it is illegal to grow hemp flower anywhere in the United States without first obtaining a grower’s license from the appropriate regulatory body for the state in which the interested party intends to plant the crop. For information on the legal status of hemp in Oregon, as well as a breakdown of the application process, click here. Read about hemp legality by state.