Legalization of cannabis for recreational use has made way for a cannabidiol (CBD) industry to take root.
There is currently more demand for this cannabis extract than supply, which means it could be lucrative for at least a few growing seasons before supply catches up.
The problem is that little is known about producing CBD on a broad-acre scale, and many of the self-proclaimed industry leaders are touting unproven technologies and business models.
“Everybody I’ve recently met or talked to out there has the one and only process that will put everybody else in the dust, and everybody has the best variety, extra. Not everybody can be right on that.”
A stumbling block for producing CBD is that this cannabis extract is closely related to tetrahydrocannabinol, (THC), the compound that produces psychotropic effects.
Generally speaking, the relationship between CBD and THC is fairly tight. So the higher the CBD potential, the higher the THC also, so it puts it in the realm of marijuana as opposed to hemp.
Varieties that have below 0.3 percent THC are considered hemp, while plants with more are considered cannabis.
Growers need to be careful the variety they grow doesn’t exceed the THC threshold, because cannabis cultivation with high THC content is subject to much stricter rules and hefty fines when laws are broken
Most of what is produced in the United States in Kentucky and Colorado are grown in smaller plots of about 10 acres.
Until varieties are available that divorce the tight relationship between THC and CBD, a broad-acre approach to CBD harvest will see varieties with low CBD levels grows.
However, there is no established technique for CBD harvest at a broad-acre scale.
CBD is essentially attached to the chaff. I don’t know if this is the right terminology, but it can essentially gas off. Essentially, you need to keep everything enclosed to maintain the percentage of CBD. So every time you handle it, you run the risk of lessening the CBD within that product.
One harvest option for large-scale production includes full plant use where the entire plant is harvested, possibly by being cut and baled.
Another harvest method could have the top of the hemp plant cut off and taken by conveyors to a cart and later dried.
Another harvest approach would see a typical hemp seed harvest, but the chaff where the CBD is located would also be collected.
So some of the earliest beneficiaries of cannabis legalization on the agriculture side will be researchers.
For instance, is it possible to grow hemp to harvest the fibre, seed and CBD?
There is downward pressure on hemp seed values from countries like China that has increased seed production, and the United States is also on the verge of legalizing hemp production. Fortunately, hemp has other revenue streams.