A Guide to Growing Hemp in Nebraska
Plant Hardiness Zone(s)
The state of Nebraska falls under plant hardiness zones 4a, 4b, 5a and 5b. This means that the region is more suited to hardier crops and plants that are conducive to the extreme low temperatures that occur during the winter months. Hemp, while better suited to temperate climates is adaptable and some strains are suitable for growing in colder climates.
Nebraska is in the North Temperate Thermal Zone which means that it has cool to mild temperatures. Hemp farming is therefore better suited to the summer season which falls between 21 June and 23 September. Hemp is a thermogenic plant which means it prefers warmer air and soil temperatures. However, some species of hemp can withstand cooler temperatures.
Length of Growing Season
The growing season for hemp cultivation should begin in May when the soil has thawed. Seeding should be determined by soil temperature rather than a specific date. Hemp is a short day plant which means that it will only enter the last phase of maturity when days are shorter than 12 hours. This should occur within about three months to 110 days after planting, in August.
Average Annual Sunlight
Sunlight is important to hemp which is a heliotropic plant. Nebraska gets a about 2,700 hours of sunlight every year. It is critical to ensure that crops receive maximum sunlight during the summer growing season.
Average Annual Precipitation
Nebraska has an annual rainfall of 30.25 inches most of which occurs in the summer months. Hemp requires between 10 and 12 inches during the summer growing season. Additional irrigation of crops should however not be necessary in the region due to the amount of natural precipitation.
With a low of 840 ft and a high of 5,424 ft above sea level, Nebraska has an average elevation of 2,600 ft. Elevation affects temperature, oxygenation and other growth factors. However, due to the adaptability of the hemp plant, most elevations are suitable. Extreme high elevations are however not ideal and gentle slopes are preferable for crops.
Soil pH in Nebraska averages between 5.5 and 7.5 which makes it conducive to growing hemp which prefers a pH level of between 6 and 7. It is recommended to have soil tested to determine the correct pH level and take steps to reduce acidity in some areas in Nebraska.
There are 138 soil series in Nebraska consisting of multiple different soil types. Hemp prefers loose soil rather than compacted. The plant has a long taproot to enable it to reach nutrients buried deep in the soil that are often inaccessible by other types of crops. Warmer soil is more suitable to hemp cultivation.
The Painted Lady and multiple other caterpillar species are common pests for crops in Nebraska as is the Japanese Beetle. Soybean aphids are also problematic. The effects that these pests may have on a hemp crop are largely unknown. However, hemp is well-known to attract various species of mites and aphids. Pest control and pesticides should preferably be used before the flowering cycle of growth begins.
Obtaining A Hemp Grower’s License In Nebraska
Under federal law, it is illegal to grow hemp 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. View our breakdown of the 2018 Farm Bill for more information on the legal status of hemp in Nebraska, as well as a breakdown of the application process.
|Program Name||Program Type||Resources|
|Nebraska||Research||Nebraska Department of Agriculture Industrial Hemp Program|