U.S. seed developer New West Genetics (NWG) has released ABOUND, a line of dioecious hemp seeds for row crop farming, suggesting that conventional outdoor growing offers a path to scalability, dual-cropping of CBD and grain, and a stable supply chain.
“The costly manual labor required for feminized-only hemp seed production is not a scalable option,” the company’s president, Wendy Mosher, said in a press release. “We saw this in the 2019 season when many farmers ended up upside down financially.”
Much of the hemp currently grown for CBD in the USA comes from crops raised in greenhouses or controlled indoor facilities from feminized seeds (which produce no male plants). While that cultivation method is preferable for the production of smokable hemp flower, it won’t be economically viable to meet demand for other CBD products if the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) advances hemp rules, NWG said.
“Once the FDA gives . . . approval for use of CBD in supplements and the food and beverage market, as well as grain for animal feed, quickly scaled and affordable production will be urgently needed,” Colorado-based New West said in the release.
Some estimates say controlled “specialty crop” farming in greenhouses or indoor facilities with feminized seeds can cost as much as five times the outlays required for outdoor growing with dioecious seeds (which produce both male and female plants).
Mosher said planting hemp for CBD outdoors, which is common in Europe, will let farmers increase their return on investment through dual-cropping while avoiding those costs. Also, farmers don’t need to invest in new equipment to raise and harvest hemp as a row crop.
Processing capacity sufficient?
However, CBD yield per plant in a dioecious outdoor row crop is lower than quantities derived from feminized seeds, so more biomass must be processed to obtain the same amount of CBD that high-CBD plants grown inside produce. That means farmers who choose to grow outdoors could face challenges getting their flowers processed; U.S. companies that currently provide extraction services are generally not scaled up for such volumes and therefore prefer smaller amounts of raw materials with higher CBD content.
The new NWG dioecious cultivars are the result of seven years of research and development by breeders and geneticists experienced in crops such as corn, rice and canola, NWG said.