In the previous articles on using Industrial Hemp for creating the net zero hemp home design Industrial Hemp Home CAD designs by Scotty-Energy Efficient Post Frame and Hempcrete creating a Net Zero- Energy. and the basic building plans for building a 4 bed 2 bath home using a Post Frame build technique and then adding Hempcrete,, for the Wall Construction and Insulation also as floor and ceiling insulation.
The first part in this series on Growing Industrial Hemp will be information that I've compiled that will aid in growing the Industrial Hemp Plant for the fibers needed to create this net zero hemp home.
Just as picking the seeds to grow a backyard garden, field of corn or soybeans. The care in seed selection should be considered for Industrial Hemp production. Any Farmer can relate to the desire for a bountiful harvest and just as they realize that it all starts in the seed selection to create this bountiful harvest, the same care should be given while selecting a strain of seeds that has the genes needed for Industrial Hemp Production. The rest is left to Mother Nature and your talents as a hemp grower.
For Industrial Hemp Building Uses- Industrial Hemp is planted very densely, as it grows it will perform its own weeding by blocking out the sun and not allowing weeds to grow.
This is worth repeating, since weeds are the enemies of farmers anytime they can be controlled without herbicides is a winning scenario for both the farmers bank account and the farmers land--When hemp seeds are sown densely, as the hemp plants grow they will block out the sun and keep weeds from growing.
The Hemp plant is also pest and disease resistant requiring no special treatment of harmful herbicides. Hemp Reports suggest an average rainfall needs of 252 in per year. Industrial Hemp can be grown in dryer locals as long as adequate irrigation is supplied.
While good growing conditions are important for a crop to reach its full potential, that potential is determined by the genetic makeup of the plants being grown.
The following information provided by Hemp Reports
There are two potentially viable approaches to growing hemp commercially: growing hemp for fibre or for seed. If hemp is grown for fibre, it is sown very densely (a seed rate of 55-70 kg/ha is standard, though for very high quality textile fibre a much higher seed rate can be used). Since hemp grows so quickly, at this density hemp can effectively out compete weeds, and so weed control measures (herbicides) are not needed. If hemp is grown for seed, it is grown much less densely (typically 10 -15kg/ha) and is not as effective at suppressing weeds, so herbicides will probably be required. Hemp seed may be drilled or broadcast, though drilling is recommended for uniformity. A standard grain drill or modified alfalfa seeder can be used for sowing.
Pesticides are generally considered unnecessary in the cultivation of hemp, although researchers in Manitoba in 1995 reported that several pests had to be contended with. For the purpose of this paper, pesticide use will be considered to be nil to reflect the majority of findings and hemp's organic farming potential. Another positive aspect of the crop is that once planted, no further husbandry is required until harvest, thereby minimizing labour costs and energy consumption.
Hemp for Fibre
Presently, one of the most significant costs of growing hemp for fibre relative to other crops is the cost of seed. To ensure that seed strains being used will meet the generally accepted THC level of <0.3%, certified varieties from Europe will have to be imported since North American hemp seed germplasms have completely disappeared as a result of hemp's prohibition. Not only are the transportation prices very high (over half the cost of the seed), but certified seed demands a substantial premium because of current low world supply (perpetuated by the strict certification system) and continuously increasing demand, especially from Western European farmers. Based on recent experience, certified seed can be brought into Canada for approximately $2700/tonne. At a rate of 55-70 kg/ha, this translates to $61.80 to $78.75 per acre.
Although hemp generally requires no pesticides or herbicides, it does have significant nutrient demands. The figures of 120 kg/ha Nitrogen, 100 kg/ha phosphate, and 160 kg/ha potash are used for the purpose of cost calculation. These figures derived from Hemcore's U.K. hemp growing experience are consistent with other research. Irrigation is required if precipitation is less than 200mm over the course of the growing period. Harvest period is critical, since after flowering, the quality of the bast fibres starts to decline.
The operations required for growing hemp for fibre are: seeding, cutting, baling, and bale handling. According to a number of researchers, hemp can be cultivated using existing farm equipment, however, for harvesting some alterations maybe required. The machinery operating, investment and depreciation costs used in these calculations are based on Ontario and Manitoba corn production costs, but reflect the need for more robust equipment and /or higher repair costs due to the toughness of the crop. Storage may also be necessary, depending on the specific end use of the crop.
Claims for hemp fibre yields vary radically. Reported dry matter yields range from 5-15 tons/ha, of which 12-40% can be bast fibre. The yields generated by hemp depend greatly on the strain of seed being grown, and farming practices and conditions. Seeds bred for area with a shorter growing season, for example, will tend to flower too early, and so will have a reduced dry mass yield. Hemcore has, for example, reported that the Hungarian varieties they have tested have had a 70% greater biomass yield than the French varieties. Furthermore, three years of trials resulted in average yields of approximately 10.5 dm(dry matter)t/ha, while their first year of commercial crops yielded only 5.0 dmt/ha. Having no seeds bred specifically for its growing conditions, the U.K., like Canada, depends on seeds developed for other climes, so initial commercial results are naturally relatively low.
The natural, or "unimproved" content of bast fibres in hemp stalks is only 12-15%. Through selective breeding programs, primarily in France, Ukraine, and Hungary, the current average is over 20% and many strains have been reported to yield over 30% bast fibre. Only in Hungary has any work been done on developing high yielding hybrids, and so as Dave West points out, "the genetic load of the crop is probably quite high, which would indicate opportunity to significantly improve the crop's productivity."
Initial results from Canadian hemp researchers reveal dry mass yields lower than in other parts of the world. Australian farmers reported yields of 8-10t/ha, Ukrainian farmers 8-10t/ha, Dutch farmers 10-14t/ha, while in the U.K., in contrast, commercial yields of only 5-7t/ha were reported. Jack Moes, New Crops Agronomist for Manitoba Agriculture reported yields from their first year of test of 4500-7700 kg/ha for seven different varieties, while A.E.Slinkard of the University of Saskatchewan reported yields of 7100-9500 kg/ha. For the purposes of comparison, then a low and high estimate of dry matter and bast fibre yield will be calculated. A low , but realistic first crop yield of 6t/ha will be compared with realistic future yields of 10t/ha. Such yields would very likely be achievable on a commercial level after a few years of cultivation experience and seed breeding. Also, a low bast fibre yield of 22% will be contrasted with a high yield of 30%, for a range of 1.3-3.0 t/ha. This difference can be accounted for by seed variety and planting density.
Break-even Price for Whole Stalk (Farmgate $/tonne):
Exhibits 3 and 4 detail the expected costs per acre of growing hemp, and compares it to the costs of growing canola and spring wheat in Saskatchewan, and canola and grain corn in Ontario. Machinery costs are estimated using equipment intensive corn cultivation and harvesting as a comparable, and the high demands hemp places on equipment have also been factored in. The final figures are in line with the experience of Canadian hemp farmers, but lower hemp farmers in some other countries. Australian farmers, for instance, estimated their costs to grow, harvest, manage and secure their hemp crops to be US$240/t. This figure however, includes irrigation and storage costs, and the crop was also picked up by hand after being cut by machine and left to ret in the field. Note that the most significant cost of hemp relative to the other crops is the cost of seed, over half of which is the cost of transport.
Below are the prices required at farmgate for break-even, depending on the yield of stalk realized. These prices are intended to cover ALL fixed and variable costs incurred by the farmer.
Next in the Hemp Growing Series will be the Soil Preparation, Seeding, and Harvesting Industrial Hemp- needed to build the Net Zero Hemp Home
 11th Internation Conference-11th International Conference of the European Industrial Hemp
 "What is Hempcrete? | American Lime Technology Website." 2012. 14 Feb. 2014 <http://www.americanlimetechnology.com/what-is-hempcrete/>
 "HempCrete - Hemp Technologies." 2011. 14 Feb. 2014 <http://www.hemp-technologies.com/page15/page16/page16.html>
 "Industrial Hemp - Agricultural Marketing Resource Center." 2012. 14 Feb. 2014 <http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/fiber/industrial-hemp/>