Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is a popular compound derived from the cannabis plant that is believed to have several potential health benefits. CBD can either be derived from the hemp plant or marijuana plant. However, CBD that is extracted from the marijuana plant is known to have high levels of THC which produces psychoactive effects and a high feeling in users. Hemp-derived CBD, on the other hand, has less than 0.3% levels of THC.
In 2018, through the Farm Bill, the U.S. government legalized the production and sale of hemp-derived CBD products. This has sparked a lot of interest in hemp farming because the CBD industry is projected to grow exponentially in the years to come. If you are interested in CBD production, this article will provide an inside look at the entire process of hemp farming, from seed to CBD oil.
Before you attempt to begin hemp farming, it is important to understand the state and federal requirements. The first rule is that you will be required to only grow hemp that contains less than a 0.3% concentration of THC. You should also contact your county, city, and local zoning agencies to find out if there are any additional codes, regulations, and conveyances that you need to comply with. This is important especially if you are growing hemp for industrial purposes. You will need to register as an industrial hemp grower and get a permit. You may also need to provide proof that your hemp plants will be processed within the state.
Unless you are growing hemp for its fiber, you won’t need any special farm equipment. Hemp grown for CBD production can be cultivated using normal farm machinery. The hemp plant can also thrive in most environments except high mountain regions and extreme desert climates. Hemp grows best in warm weather conditions. The soil should be well-drained in addition to being rich in organic material.
Before cultivating the hemp seeds, it is advisable to have the soil tested by an agricultural extension officer experienced in hemp cultivation. This will ensure that the rock phosphate, potassium sulfate, and elemental sulfur levels are optimum for the growth of the plant. Soil testing conducted in early spring or late autumn has been proven to provide more accurate and reliable readings.
Hemp seeds should be planted directly into the soil instead of potting them first and transplanting after they have grown. Planting the seeds when the soil temperatures are around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (usually between May and June) can help them to germinate and emerge quickly. This will enable the plants to grow tall and increase the yield potential. The seeds should be sown relatively close to each other, ideally within four inches of each other. This will, however, depend on the size of your hemp farm and your desired crop yield.
The seeds should be planted at depths of between ½ and ¾ inches. If the seeds are being sown mechanically, then conventional seeding equipment such as a corn planter or grain drill should be able to do the job. Once the sowing is complete, the soil should be rolled and packed. You will need to sufficiently irrigate the hemp seeds for the first six weeks after planting. Although the hemp plant is generally resistant to drought, the sprouting plant is fragile and can be sensitive to dryness.
Hemp is a plant that is generally resistant to pests and diseases. The plant can outgrow any surrounding weeds, and also grows organically so you won’t have to invest much in supplementary nutrition. However, if you must use any farm chemicals on your hemp farm, then it is advisable to first review the regulations surrounding the use of pesticides in your jurisdiction. While the federal government regulates the use of pesticides in farming, your state may have additional regulations that may be more stringent.
The hemp plant is usually ready for harvesting within 120 days. If you planted in May or June, you can prepare to harvest the plant around September or October. The head of the hemp plant is considered fully matured between 90 and 100 days after planting. If you wait too long to harvest the crops, their quality will decline and reduce your yield. The most common signs of maturity and readiness for harvesting are reddening of the pistils, broader stems, brown resin on the buds, and the leaves of the plant turning yellow and dying back.
After harvesting, it is advisable to test the plants for CBD and THC levels to ensure that THC levels are not above the legal limits. Foreign materials should be cleansed from the harvest before it is stored to await processing.
Extracting CBD Oil from the Hemp Plant
After harvesting the hemp plant, processing is usually done to extract CBD oil. There are four ways through which CBD oil can be extracted from the hemp plant:
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extraction
CO2 extraction is the most effective and sophisticated way of extracting CBD oil from the hemp plant. It guarantees high-quality CBD and is much safer. Most industrial manufacturers of CBD oil products use this method. In this method of extraction, pressurized carbon dioxide acts as a solvent and is used to extract CBD oil from the plant.
Some of the benefits of this method of extraction include the following:
- You can tune it to get different molecular weights.
- There are no residual solvents left in the resultant CBD oil.
- If you need to preserve the terpenes in the CBD or do temperature-sensitive extractions, then this method is the most appropriate.
- It is very easy to automate this process.
- Besides CO2 monitors and safety signs, you will incur minimal safety costs.
The equipment needed for this type of extraction is quite expensive. If you are working with budget equipment, then you will have to bear slow extraction rates. Manually operated systems for this method of extraction are also quite complex and difficult to learn.
Unlike the CO2 method of extraction, using ethanol to extract CBD oil from the hemp plant is quite easy and cheap. The hemp plant is usually soaked in an ethanol solvent. This will dissolve CBD and the other compounds from the plant. The ethanol is then evaporated to leave behind the CBD oil. The downside to this method is that other materials such as chlorophyll will also be extracted. CBD oil extracted in this manner is known to have a grassy, bitter taste. The heating could also destroy the cannabinoids and activate THC. Furthermore, traces of the solvent can remain in the extract. You will need secondary processing to remove unwanted materials from the CBD oil.
In this method, light hydrocarbon solvents with low boiling points are used, such as acetone, isopropyl alcohol, hexane, propane, pentane, and butane. The CBD extracted in this manner has high potency levels and is great for making dabbable CBD products such as CBD crumble, shatter, and honeycomb. The extraction rates are also very fast.
However, a lot of residue is left in the CBD oil when this method is used. The concentrations of terpenes in the CBD oil will also be significantly lowered. Furthermore, the method is quite dangerous.
For small scale production of CBD oil, oil extraction is the cheapest and easiest method. In this method, the dried hemp plant is first heated to a certain temperature so that the cannabinoids are activated. Once that is done, the plant material is then added to the oil which is then heated in order to extract the CBD. Coconut or olive oil is commonly used in this process. This method of extraction is more common among boutique companies and people who make homemade CBD oil.
After the extraction of CBD oil is done, it can be further distilled to remove any undesirable elements such as waxes, other cannabinoids, and lipids. This can be done through a process known as winterization. If you want to obtain pure CBD isolate, then another process known as short path distillation is usually completed.
Depending on the method and level of extraction, different types of CBD oils can be produced from the hemp plant. These include the following:
- Full-spectrum CBD oil, which contains all the natural compounds such as amino acids, terpenes, and the other cannabinoids found in the hemp plant.
- Broad-spectrum CBD oil, which contains all the other compounds except THC. THC is extracted from broad-spectrum through a process known as liquid chromatography.
- CBD isolate, which contains only pure CBD, and none of the other compounds.
Producing hemp-derived CBD oil requires a lot of hard work, from planting the hemp seeds to extracting CBD oil from the harvested plant. However, it can be a rewarding investment if you put in the work. If you are starting out on CBD oil production, you should consult with experts in the industry as their experience can help you realize a return on investment. You should also engage other hemp farmers in your locality so that you can compare notes.