Hemp is one of the oldest cultivated crops in history. Since the 2014 Farm Bill, State Ag departments and universities have been allowed to research and grow industrial hemp, something that has been prohibited since 1937. Finally, in December 2018, the new Farm Bill opened up the opportunity for states to elect their own set of rules regarding commercial hemp cultivation. For a list of states allowing hemp cultivation for commercial or research and pilot programs click here.
Hemp for grain and fiber production is planted in tightly spaced rows, often 6”-7” apart, and grows tall and lean. The seeds are harvested off the top of the plants and the stalks are cut for fibers. While hemp grown for high quality CBD production involves much more work and plants spaced farther apart, approximately 5 feet, in rows spaced far enough apart to accommodate bushy growth and walking the field to assure no male plants have infiltrated your crop. CBD Hemp is usually hand harvested, as well. There is a lot more to growing a successful crop than just throwing to seeds out in the field. We recommend doing a bit of research before you begin, this will make the entire process seem less overwhelming.
Hemp is one of those crops that will grow in less than perfect soil as long as temperatures and water source are sufficient. It is actually one of those plants that will rejuvenate and enrich old worn out soil making it a great rotational crop. Hemp prefers well drained, loamy soil with a pH level of about 6.0 - 7.5. Hemp is what you might call a short summer day crop, as it likes lots of sunshine (10 hours per day), so planting time is crucial for maximum yield. The short 100 - 120 day growing season does help make planning easier. Seeds are generally planted 0.5" - 1" deep after the soil warms to above 45 - 50 degrees.
Managing weeds is important because the use of herbicides and pesticides is limited. For this reason alone drip irrigation is a great choice for watering!
Irrigating hemp is most commonly done using drip tape, as this can be laid out in long, straight rows and is often more economical and keeps the plant leaves dry reducing any disease issues. Many drip tape suppliers recommend emitter spacings of 12" - 24" in a low or medium flow rate tape. We have had growers using drip tape with 4” up to 60” emitter spacing, depending on the end purpose for the hemp product. Each system will be different, which makes the flexibility of drip irrigation appealing. You might have an indoor grow operation, a few acres outdoors or many acres. Below are links to a couple of our larger drip irrigation kits for small farms. Just a quick look at these will give you an idea of what is needed to make a complete system.
As with all drip irrigation, a little research and planning is involved. You will need to consider several factors when planning your system.
Water Source - What is your water source and its flow rate? Is this clean water, such as municipal water or a potable well; or is it dirty water like a pond, lake or canal? How much flow can the water source provide? You can not expect to use more than your water source can provide. The great thing about drip tape is it offers the most flexibility in emitter spacing and flow rates so you can find something that fits your water source and system needs. Here is a link to our Flow Rate Calculator and instructions, if you do not already know this.
Filtration is pertinent to a successful drip irrigation system. Even clean water sources require filters. You will want to select the correct size filter(s) to fit your system requirements. Keep in mind, even with the advances in drip tape emitter technology, most manufacturers recommend at least 150 - 155 mesh filtration. See our Filter Buying Guide for things to consider when selecting a filter.
Operating Pressure is an important factor. If using drip tape, then lower pressure, such as 8 - 15 PSI, is necessary as the tape is thin walled and will not hold up to higher pressures. Follow manufacturers recommendations for optimal operating pressure, and run lengths for best performance.
Water supply lines will need to be sized according to distance and flow requirements. Small operations often just use larger sizes of poly tubing while a large operation might use PVC pipe or layflat or oval hose or the ever popular FlexNet distribution hose. Here is a link to our selection of Mainline Tubing and Hose. The FlexNet hose has pre installed connecting points with ½” female threads which are available at several popular spacings. A male threaded tee or elbow fitting is used to connect the drip tape or leader connection to the distribution hose fast and easy. Drip Depot offers a variety of components to fit all these options.
Driptape selection requires some research on your part because every location (environment), soil type, and desire is different. From the spacing of the emitters to the emitter flow rate, all can be determined by knowing what type of soil you have and how the water moves through it; how far apart the plants are; and how much water you want to provide in a specific time frame. See our selection of DripTape.
To make the entire operation even easier, automation of your irrigation can be included. Technology advances have provided us with many easy to use controllers for automating your irrigation. Drip Depot has a large selection of Controllers from several top name manufacturers in AC or DC power from easy push button programming to the newest WiFi controlled units.
Keeping your plants healthy is another task in optimizing your crop success. Fertigation units that require no electrical connections can be installed at your water source, near your fields, or even in remote locations and will deliver precise rates of fertilizers or chemicals with minimal monitoring. For more advanced fertigation/chemigation there are units, such as the Trident AG Batch Blending system, that can be programmed to combine specific nutrients in your precise levels to create the optimal fertilizer for your plants at specific stages of development.
We have several helpful resources you might be interested in. See our full list in the Irrigation Solution Center. Although some may seem to address smaller drip irrigation systems, the basic principals are the same for small or large systems, you can not exceed the capacity of your water source or your supply line size and components. Everything from pumps to tubing/hose to filters, pressure regulators, and emission devices, has limitations. It is important to select compatible components from the water source all the way to the end caps of your lines.
After doing your research and reviewing the resources, if you have unanswered questions, we are happy to assist you with finding answers. Contact our customer support team at firstname.lastname@example.org.