How to Choose the Right Hemp Seed Genetics for Harvest 2021
In this post:
- State laws and seed genetics
- Hemp seeds vs. cuttings
- Cultivation environment and seed genetics
- End-product and seed genetics
- Choosing a hemp seed dealer
- Seed genetics and THC compliance
Choosing hemp seeds or cuttings with the right genetics is one of the most important decisions you can make to ensure a successful harvest–and maximum profits. So whether you’re new to hemp farming or want to improve upon last year’s yield, it’s wise to adopt a novice’s mindset. Before buying hemp genetics this year, make sure to learn everything possible about your local terrain, regulations, and market demand.
To help you choose the right hemp variety for your end product, we sat down with David Raab, CEO of Roseville Farms, for insider tips. David is a second-generation nursery operator who exclusively produced roses and clematis plants for two decades before diversifying into hemp two years ago. Today Roseville Farms grows terpene-rich smokable hemp and tests and certifies various genetics for the UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project.
“The most critical aspect of choosing the right genetics is education about the plant and the regulations in your area. Then, once you add good genetics to the mix, you can create a unique and highly sought-after product,” said David.
What Questions Do I Need to Answer Before Choosing the Right Hemp Genetics for Harvest?
The questions you ask yourself will help lead you on the path to making the best decision about which genetics to choose. Breeders create hemp seeds and clones with specific traits, so you’ll need to determine which characteristics make the most sense for your goals and circumstances.
1. How do state laws affect my ability to choose the best hemp seed genetics?
Understanding state laws is without a doubt the first prerequisite to choosing your hemp seed genetics. Every state has different rules and regulations surrounding seed selection.
Some states, like Oregon, allow you to procure genetics from non-certified breeders assuming the final crop passes safety and compliance tests. Other states, like Florida, have a much more closed system. In Florida, regulators must approve the hemp seeds or clones through one of its pilot projects, such as the UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project.
Alternatively, farmers can choose from one of ASCOSA certified genetics. If you live in a highly regulated state like Florida, your genetics’ options are limited. That can feel restrictive, but on the upside, such rules can also provide you with peace of mind knowing any variety you choose will meet regulatory criteria and come from a reputable source.
“We work for the Food and Agriculture Services in Florida to approve varieties based on the quality of the genetics. If the plants grow properly and test below the legal THC threshold, we approve the cuttings for sale in the state. With hemp cuttings, you have much more consistency than seeds,” said David.
2. Should I buy hemp seeds or hemp cuttings?
According to David of Roseville Farms, the answer depends on the size of your operation and your budget. A 50-cell cuttings plug can cost five dollars each, getting very expensive depending on how many acres you have.
“If you plant 100 acres or more, it makes more financial sense to put seeds down. But if you have 4-5 acres, you’ll probably want to purchase hemp cuttings because the process is much more efficient and reliable,” said David.
Hemp cuttings are stems of the plant that are cut off in order to be rooted and grown into a clone of that plant. Cuttings are more reliable because they mature faster and are genetically identical to the original variety, so you’ll never have to guess what the terpene, CBD, THC, or other cannabinoid content will be.
3. How does my environment affect my hemp seed genetics choice?
Whether it’s a temperature-controlled greenhouse, indoor growhouse, or outdoor field, your environment will determine the type of hemp seed genetics you can choose. The amount of light the plants receive, the temperature, and the moisture conditions all play a significant role in whether you can select short-day varieties, long-day varieties, or autoflower varieties.
“You can find a lot of different genetics, but not all of them will grow in your environment–especially hemp.”
4. What type of hemp product do I want to sell?
Ultimately, the product you choose is the key determining factor to which genetics are right for you. According to David, hemp products fall under these three broad categories.
- Hemp for CBD extraction
- Hemp for Fiber production
- Boutique Hemp (high-end smokable hemp, hemp for terpenes, high-CBG hemp, etc.)
“Some hemp genetics grow great buds with lousy terpene and cannabinoid content. Others grow small buds with high cannabinoid or terpene content,” said David. “You can even purchase genetics that grow into flavored varieties, like lemon, chocolate, strawberry, and diesel.”
You can find hemp genetics for any type of product. Just make sure to have a business case before you grow. Ask yourself:
- Is there a market demand for my desired product?
- Do I have buyers lined up?
- What do my buyers want?
“Demand for CBD isn’t going away, but extractors are getting savvy, and they want the highest level of quality,” said David. That means it’s vital to choose the hemp genetics that aligns with your clientele’s needs before getting started.”
5. Are autoflower hemp seeds suitable for me?
“Theoretically, who wouldn’t want hemp varieties that grow on queue? The problem with autoflower genetics is I haven’t seen any that are top-tier quality,” said David.
According to David, autoflowers are great for beginners, but they probably won’t yield products with the highest market value–at least not today.
“Several breeders across the country are working on creating autoflower varieties that yield higher terpene content and CBD levels. I’m sure we’ll have excellent autoflower hemp genetics soon,” said David.
Once that happens, you’ll have access to efficient, predictable genetics that you’ll be able to plant all year and in every terrain.
How to Choose a Reputable Hemp Seed Genetics Dealer
Now that you’ve determined the type of hemp genetics you need based on your region, growing conditions, budget, and desired end-product, it’s time to choose your dealer. If you live in an open state where you can choose from non-certified seed dealers, it’s essential to do your due diligence before purchasing.
“Ask the dealer who they sell to and who grows their seeds or clippings. Then talk to the people who have bought their product and ask about the experience,” advised David. “Also, be sure to ask the dealer for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) to verify their claims about cannabinoid content”
1. If I choose hemp seed genetics from a reputable dealer, will my hemp grow precisely as promised?
No matter how reputable your seed dealer is, you’ll need to employ proper cultivation and testing procedures to make sure the crop grows as you expect.
According to David, when you grow clones from hemp cuttings, the genetics are always the same, and you should get exactly what you expect. Pesticides, for example, will not affect the final cannabinoid content of cuttings in any way.
“If the seed dealer tells you the variety will run hot on week nine, it should be hot on week nine,” said David. “But Hemp seeds are a different story.“
“Hemp seeds are like different children from the same parents, whereas clones are identical matches,” said David.
2. How can I be sure my hemp harvest won’t run hot?
The only way to ensure your hemp is compliant–containing less than 0.3% THC–is to test it regularly before harvest. According to David, if you’re growing five to ten acres of material, you should test twice a week starting around week five.
“Some people think every few weeks is fine, but then you won’t know the results until harvest. And by then, if you test above the THC limit, it’s too late to do anything about it,” said David.
So you’ll want to know THC levels regularly because one week can change everything and could indicate that you need to harvest earlier than you thought.
“Some people make the mistake of letting the crop grow too long because they want as much volume as possible. Others buy unapproved or unvetted genetics from a shady supplier. These are two major reasons hemp can grow hot,” said David.
The Bottom Line
According to David, every hemp variety will grow hot if they’re allowed to develop to full maturity. That’s why it’s so vital to buy from a verified dealer and to test early and often with certified third-party laboratories. Moreover, most hemp varieties will yield a wildly different crop. That’s why it’s critical to choose genetics that were bred to generate the specific qualities and compliance you expect.