Hemp and Organic Farming: How to Cultivate the Best CBD

Hemp and Organic Farming: How to Cultivate the Best CBD

The term organic and organic farming are often used as a stamp that seems to indicate quality and freshness. Nowadays, you can buy just about anything organic, from fruits and vegetables, to food sources and consumer products. What does it mean for something to be organic? What are the methods used to ensure that CBD and organic farming combine harmoniously to produce superior products? Let’s find out some of the rules and regulations required to ensure properly sourced organic CBD makes its way to your front door.

A large farming operation houses long lines of mature hemp plants

Rules Are Rules

The USDA has set down a list of regulations that detail what it means to farm organically. This set of cultural, biological, and mechanical practices are guidelines used to promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. These focus on rules to promote soil maintenance, water quality, and land conservation, while avoiding the use of synthetic fertilizers, genetic engineering, and other non-organic practices.

For the sake of this run down, the rules that govern livestock aren’t all that important. Hemp isn’t made from chicken, after all. So let’s focus on the regulations surrounding crop production.

An organic farmer in a blue plaid shirt and tall rubber boots checks the growth progress of young hemp plants

Keep Them Healthy and Growing

For growing organic crops, there’s nothing like excellent soil. Developing plants much more easily resist disease, survive drought, and tolerate insects when they’re grown in well tended soil. Growers can build soil quality by cultivating it with compost, animal manures, and green manures. This organic matter breaks down in the soil and becomes nutrients that plants can absorb, sustaining soil quality.

Additionally, organic producers use cover crops, often a mixture of grasses and legumes which enhances biomass and mulch thickness, weed suppression, and organic matter inputs. This combination of cover crop also encourages a balanced carbon to nitrogen ratio. These cover crops also give the soil added resistance to wind and water erosion.

Organic crop growers use organic seeds and seedlings to ensure the integrity of their organic label. The one exception is when organically cultivated seeds are unavailable, organic growers can still receive an organic certification as long as those seeds have not been genetically modified or treated with substances such as fungicide or pesticides.

Crop rotation is another important aspect to keep organic crops healthy and strong. By systematically changing the crops that are grown in a given field, it interrupts insect life cycles, suppresses soil borne plant diseases, prevents soil erosion, and increases biodiversity. It’s typical for farmers to sow a field with a crop from a different family each rotation, waiting a number of years between plantings. This is mandatory for organic farmers to retain their organic certification from the USDA.

A pair of hands pats down the soil around a growing hemp plant

Get To Know PAMS

Organic crops require alternative methods to control pests, weeds, and diseases. Non-organic farmers use specially designed chemicals that do not harm their genetically modified crops in order to eliminate the maladies that can affect them. However, organic farmers do not have access to these types of methods, if they want to keep their organic certification. These farmers use a strategy known as “PAMS”, or prevention, avoidance, monitoring, and suppression.

Prevention

Prevention entails such tactics as using pest-free seeds, preventing weeds from reproducing, irrigation scheduling to avoid disease, thoroughly cleaning farming equipment, and eliminating alternate sites that host pests.

Avoidance

Avoidance involves combating infestations once they exist. Farmers rotate crops that do not host the pests they wish to eliminate, choosing cultivars with pest resistance, and using trap crops or pheromone traps, and choosing crops with maturity dates that allow for harvest before infestation can begin.

Monitoring

Monitoring and identifying pests through surveys and scouting programs that include trapping, weather monitoring, and soil testing should be conducted as the basis for suppression activities. Organic farms should keep detailed records of each infestation incident per field to help plan effective methods of suppression.

Once the monitoring activities are well documented, known issues can be addressed. If pest infestations are found to be present, suppression may become necessary. Within this, there are four typical practices that growers employ: cultural, physical, biological, and chemical control.

Cultural practices include narrow row spacing with optimized plant populations including those with what’s known as allelopathic potential. This potential gives these plants the ability to produce substances that inhibit the growth of nearby plants as a way of chemical protection. Alternative tilling and no-till systems may also prevent infestations.

Suppression

Some examples of physical suppression may include tactics such as cultivation or mowing for weed control, pheromone traps for certain insects, and temperature controls for pest and disease management. These practices further prevent potential pitfalls for the growing process.

Biological controls include disruption of mating for pest insects and may be a good substitute for chemical prevention. All naturally occurring biological controls should be exhausted before any attempts at chemical suppression.

Pesticides for chemical suppression should be used as a last resort when all other avenues of control have failed. There are several organically certified pesticides that use naturally occurring compounds and function much like commercially produced treatments. Any pesticides should be chosen based on the lowest ecological impact possible. Growers can work with their organic certifier to choose chemicals that align with their farming practices.

Two large areas of healthy hemp plants are separated by a wide row

Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated

Organic farmers are also responsible for ensuring that their organically certified crops do not intermingle with conventionally grown crops. Additionally, organic growers are prohibited from allowing their crops to come into contact with any non-organically certified pesticides or fertilizers. Any prohibited materials cannot be applied to organic land for 36 months prior to cultivation.

Organic cultivation of crops is a complicated process. The need to keep crops free from any commercially available contaminants and organically certified through these steps creates a burden on growers over and above what conventional farmers bear. With close attention to details and a lot of hard work, organic farmers are able to create certified crops that are grown without harmful substances. In the case of hemp, these regulations help produce organic CBD oil.

While organic certification from the USDA is hard to get and harder to keep, it can be a bonus to the products a grower produces, as well as their bottom line.