Texas: 2020 Hemp Variety Testing Wrap-Up & 2021 Trials

    Flea beetles and a Eurasian hemp borer found on feral hemp. Photo: Purdue University

    Hemp variety trial results at San Angelo (cannabinoids) and Lubbock (cannabinoids and fiber) will be completed shortly after the first of the year.  I will detail results in my January hemp newsletter.  Results will also be posted at http://varietytesting.tamu.edu/hemp/  AgriLife will update program information for the 2021 round of variety trials in January.  In addition to test sites offered in 2020 (Lubbock, San Angelo, College Station, Commerce), at least one additional fee-based test site will be offered in South Texas mostly likely Weslaco in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

    Hemp cannabinoid variety trial, Texas A&M AgriLife, San Angelo, TX.  Sept. 2020.

    Tell Us About Your 2020 Growing Experience

    Texas A&M AgriLife wants to learn as much as we can about your 2020 efforts to grow hemp.  It does not matter if you grew 100 plants or 100 acres.  Your experience and observations count.

    Please review and download the online “Texas A&M AgriLife Hemp Crop Survey—2020” at http://varietytesting.tamu.edu/files/hemp/2020%20-Texas-Hemp-Field-Survey-Trostle.pdf  You can print, fill in your answers.  You do not need to answer every question.  Scan and e-mail to ctrostle@ag.tamu.edu, or mail a copy to Dr. Calvin Trostle, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Center, 1102 East Drew Street, Lubbock, TX  79403.  Your answers are confidential and AgriLife discussion will not identify you.  I will learn how to get this moved online for 2021.

     

    What will you do differently in 2021?

    Will you grow hemp again in 2021?  In addition to your 2020 crop, AgriLife Extension also wants to know what you will do the same—and especially differently—in 2021.  This topic is also covered in the above survey.  If the survey takes too much time, then simply e-mail your decisions about 2021.

    Premature reproductive development in a hemp fiber variety 24 days after planting.  Lubbock, TX, 2020.

    Major Concern from 2020 Texas Hemp Cropping Observations

    The heat that afflicted much of the Texas hemp crop in 2020 was a concern.  The scientific and commercial literature on hemp suggest optimum growing conditions are 70 to 80° F.  So, most Texas hemp this year routinely experienced temperatures 20° warmer.  Some of this was due to later planting.  I estimate the typical field of Texas hemp in 2021 will be planted up to two months earlier than in 2020.

    The greatest factor that AgriLife has questions about is the complex photoperiod sensitivity control of reproductive growth (and subsequent early flowering) observed in many varieties among cannabinoid and especially grain and fiber varieties.  As you consider 2021 varietal selection, you will need to press the seed sellers about each variety’s adaptation to more southerly latitudes.  The more northerly a variety (e.g., Canadian fiber variety) the more likely it will enter premature reproductive growth in Texas.  We are not completely sure how planting date (early or late) might affect this.  But it is an issue.  I will be looking to see what results may have revealed on this topic in other southerly states.

    Market Prospects for 2021 CBD Hemp

    According to recent editions of Hemp Benchmarks’ newsletter (by subscription, see https://www.hempbenchmarks.com/ ), prices for dried biomass for CBD remain about 85% below prices at the beginning of the 2019 growing season.  Demand for until something might trigger increased use.  This could be U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval of CBD as a food additive.  This would enable companies to market CBD-infused food brands and products.  Otherwise, without new markets developing, as little as 40,000 acres of production may meet national CBD demand.  Think about that:  2020 added several more states including Texas to national production.  So, supply likely still well exceeds demand.

    Hemp Benchmarks reports about 5,000 acres of outdoor hemp permits for all types in Texas in 2020.  Indications are that about half of this was planted.  Nationally, there was about 400,000 acres licensed for all hemp types in 2020.  About 80% of this was for cannabinoid hemp.  This licensed acreage is down about 30% from 2019.  Licensed acreage in Colorado was about 52,500 acres in 2019 (of which 17% tested above 0.3% THC).  It dropped to about 26,300 acres in 2020.  Kentucky’s decrease was reportedly more than 75%.

    Unless you have a specialized market niche for CBD hemp or you are vertically integrated, then the production prospects of being profitable in CBD hemp dictate you find means to greatly reduce production costs.  How can you do that?  Will seed and transplant costs drop?  Can you devise production and harvest/drying methods to greatly reduce labor?  Here is where innovators will stand a better chance of success.  Large scale production of CBD hemp is occurring as established farmers of other crops bring economies of scale to hemp production.  This could keep CBD prices depressed if this production cuts per-acre production costs by half or more.

    Irrigated hemp fiber crop, Sept. 23, 2020, Carson Co., Texas.  Planted about June 10 the fiber variety is about 36-42” tall.  It flowered early and the mainstem is mostly covered with floral buds.

    Fiber Hemp in Texas

    As noted before, Texas seems well positioned to be a leader in hemp fiber production.  Several companies are studying hemp fiber processing locations for Texas.  Panda Biotech has initiated equipment and infrastructure at Wichita Falls.  Some hemp industry individuals are suggesting that Texas A&M AgriLife might be better advised to at least put equal emphasis on our research and programs in fiber compared to cannabinoids.

    Fiber varieties that are adapted to southerly latitudes in Texas are a must.  As noted elsewhere, four of six fiber varieties planted in the Lubbock variety trial June 12 went into grossly premature reproductive growth.  Of those four varieties three were common fiber varieties from Canada, the other from Poland.  We are uncertain how their performance might have been if planted in April, but we currently have no assurance they would have been different.

    Winter Survival of Hemp Seedlings

    You may have heard about the potential cold tolerance of hemp, possibly to 20°F or so.  And hemp can germinate albeit slowly at temperatures a little below 50°F.  I have watched volunteer hemp seedlings emerge from my 2020 fiber test site at Lubbock.  To date the lowest temperature has been 22°F.  I see no sign of injury.  I planted a few hemp lines December 18 out of curiosity.  I watered them.  Will they germinate and emerge?  For each variety, half the seeds were planted ¼” deep, the others about ¾”.

    I have no vision that this has any viable meaning for hemp production.  But like you, having grown hemp for my first year, I have a lot of curiosity about how this plant grows.  The photoperiod sensitivity control in hemp could complicate growth (premature reproductive growth?).  But is it possible that fall or early planted hemp somewhere in Texas—with the right variety—might be a viable production scenario?  I don’t know, and I don’t expect it.  But as an example, there is now winter hardy safflower.  If planted in the fall it can offer some advantages to production.  One potential advantage is there are fewer weed issues.  This is important because there are few registered herbicides in safflower for weed control.  (And none yet in hemp!)

     

    Volunteer hemp seedling emerging in fall.  Dec. 3, 2020, Lubbock, TX.




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