The legalization of hemp by the 2018 Farm Bill has brought concerns for outdoor cannabis farmers, and rightly so. There is a concern that the pollen from industrial farms might interfere with the crops from nearby outdoor hemp. This is a valid concern that has not just been voiced by the growers but has been studied and conclusive research has been drawn in the Journal of Industrial Hemp. What is interesting about this is that it is a study that has been going on for more than three centuries. So, do hemp farmers really have cause for concern?
The Science of Pollination
One of the biggest risks that hemp growers worry about is the challenge of long-distance pollination. A farmer who keeps a specific genetic breed of hemp would worry because of the risk of genetic contamination through wind pollination.
Naturally, hemp depends on wind pollination because its female flowers are not considered attractive to primary pollination agents like birds and bees. Therefore, wind pollination remains the only solution. A single hemp flower can produce more than 300,000 pollen grains. Considering that one hemp plant might have hundreds of flowers, this raises a serious issue for neighboring plants. Besides, hemp pollen can be carried by the wind to distances of around 30 miles, meaning that any female hemp plant within that radius would be ripe for pollination.
What is the Problem?
Farmers are worried about this form of pollination because once the female cannabis plant receives pollen, it produces seeds, resulting in low potency buds which are not attractive in the market. After all, it is not for that purpose that they were grown in the first place. This would also explain the trend where farmers prefer to plant cuttings instead of growing the plants from seeds.
It is important to mention at this point that hemp plants that are grown for CBD are all-female. The name sinsemilla, which the plant enjoys in many environments, is actually a Spanish word meaning without seeds. To make sure that the plants remain all female, the farmers are very careful with the growth process, and as soon as the plants’ sex is revealed, they cull the male plants, leaving only the female plants to grow.
Can Legislation Help?
Oregon CBD is one entity that has a strong case for legislation that would streamline the growth of hemp. Considering that they suffered an estimated $2.5 million in losses as a result of pollen from a neighboring farm blown on one of their fields which was primed for research and development, their plight presents an understandable case. Other than that, they also had to destroy more than 15 million seeds.
In light of these challenges, Oregon CBD has been vocal in their desire to have a ban imposed on growing male hemp crops outdoors. There are many more farmers who suffer the same fate that Oregon CBD has suffered for years, yet unfortunately, they don’t have a platform to air their voices. The fact that inappropriate farming choices by a few could hurt the investment of others is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.