Hemp Cultivation

Growing in Italy cannabis light with our climate is perfect for doing so , it is not for nothing that we have historically been among the largest producers of hemp in the world.

There can be many reasons to grow hemp : the plant has food, pharmaceutical, recreational and industrial applications, particularly in textiles, paper and green building. This is why it can be an excellent income crop.

Cultivation in Italy is legal , as long as you sow varieties of industrial hemp with a low THC content. So let's find out how to grow this plant in the field , then we will also see the legal requirements and how cannabis can represent a source of income.

The Hemp Plant

The hemp that is mainly grown is a dioecious annual plant , ie there are specimens with female flowers and others with male flowers, having different morphological characteristics.

Officially this species is classified in the Cannabinaceae family, and in the order of Urticali . Although it is a debated point, two or more subspecies of Cannabis have been identified:

Cannabis sativa , used mainly for fiber and oil.

Cannabis indica , typical of hot countries and used mainly for therapeutic and spiritual purposes.

The shrub has a long tap root that can reach up to 2 meters deep and a rough, robust vertical stem of variable height (from 75 cm to 6 meters) to depending on the variety sown and the cultivation technique used.


Why grow hemp

Growing cannabis is an activity to be taken into consideration for many reasons: economic, agronomic and ecological.

Before starting a plant it is important to decide what we want to achieve . We can start a cultivation of industrial hemp, aimed at obtaining fibers , cultivating hemp to obtain seeds , very interesting in the food field also for the oil obtained, or we can cultivate for the inflorescences , interesting for the cannabinoid content.

The choice of variety and cultivation method will be different depending on what you want to harvest. However, mixed cultivation can also be undertaken.

Making money with hemp

From an economic point of view, it is an agricultural activity that can become a source of income . Hemp has many possible applications: in the therapeutic, food, recreational, textile, green building fields.

The various parts of the plant (inflorescences, seeds, leaves, fibers) can be used in different ways and this makes the cultivation of hemp a potentially profitable activity.

Hemp improves the soil

From an agricultural and agro-ecological point of view, hemp is a soil improvement crop , so it can be included in rotations, bringing value to the farm's soil.

Furthermore, it is a species with a purifying effect on the soil: as a phyto extractor, hemp can dispose of any pollutants that contaminate the soil.

Grow legal hemp

In terms of regulations, today growing light cannabis is perfectly legal, it is not even necessary to have an agricultural VAT number.

The main constraints for legally cultivating are the use of certified varieties and communication to the authorities of the activity of cultivation.

It is necessary to sow a variety cataloged in the European seed register , because according to the law only low THC content varieties of hemp can be grown. As soon as the seedlings have emerged, a special " declaration of cultivation " of hemp must be filled in to be delivered to the nearest police station.

We have explored this topic in an article dedicated to the current legislation on the cultivation of hemp.

Preparing the ground

Hemp is grown in all temperate - humid climate regions: requires soft, deep, permeable and fertile soils. Excessive temperature in the first phase of development can cause early flowering, a phenomenon which is very harmful both for the quality and for the quantity of the product. It is best to sow in soil that is at least 70 cm deep and draining.

The hemp plant is not afraid of late frosts , so it is grown well even in northern Italy, when it is well rooted it responds well to periods of drought. What it can't stand is water stagnation , lethal for the taproot of the plant, a good process will help to avoid it.

Tilling the land

The mechanical working of the soil begins with plowing and continues, before sowing, with harrowing or milling to break up the surface part and thus prepare the bed of sowing. Let's not forget that the cannabis plant has a deep taproot, it is good to prepare the soil to accommodate it and ensure the proper drainage of excess water.

On a small scale with manual tools you can dig and hoe superficial.

The moment of processing is also useful for adding fertilizer if necessary.

Fertilization methods

The organic substance is very useful to increase the possibility of obtaining qualitative cannabis productions, so it is useful to bring it. Like other renewal crops, hemp also thrives well on not very mature compost or manure.

A traditional organic fertilization technique for hemp is green manure. It consists in sowing a mixed autumn-winter herbage, with a prevalence of legumes, which is buried at the time of the development of a conspicuous biomass. Burying must take place at least one month before sowing, to allow sufficient decomposition of the plant biomass which can otherwise damage the shoots.

The sowing of hemp

To cultivate this plant you start with sowing , which should be done directly in the field. Hemp in Italy is sown in spring. The first important thing is to choose which variety to grow.

Choose the variety

Before we start sowing, we obviously need to get the seed . When cultivating for the inflorescences it is important to put a dioecious species , in which it is enough to eliminate the males to obtain seedless flowers. There are many varieties of light cannabis that we can decide to grow, with the constraint that they are among those registered in the European catalog for thc content.

There are excellent Italian varieties, such as Carmagnola and Eletta Campana , which can be the first choice because they are perfect for our climate and with a correct CBD and THC content. The discourse on varieties is complex, it deserves a separate study.

Sowing period

Hemp sowing should be done when the ground is not too wet and there is no risk of severe frost. It is up to the farmer to identify the best period for sowing in their territory.

Since young plants are sensitive to lack of water it is important not to delay sowing too much : you need to get to the hot and dry summer climate with plants over one meter tall, which will be well rooted thoroughly and capable of water autonomy.

Sowing density and planting layout

The amount of seed to be used varies according to the purpose of cultivation. Growing from fiber provides high density which forces the growth of plants in height and prevents branching of the stem. Cultivation from seed, on the other hand, requires a greater branching of the plant to maximize the yield and therefore a greater distance between rows. Of course, you can also choose a compromise by implementing a mixed cultivation.

We can use up to 50 kg of seed per hectare for fiber plantations and about 20 kg per hectare for seed cultivation .

In general a dense plant has the advantage of suffocating weeds , very important in organic farming because it results in less weeding work.

Sowing method

Hemp is sown in rows, the seeds should be placed about 1.5 or 2 cm deep . We can do it manually or using a seeder if we plan to cultivate a large area.

The cultivation of cannabis

After sowing the plant, cultivation begins, which generally turns out to be undemanding. Hemp is a resistant plant , little subject to animal diseases and parasites, and undemanding in terms of irrigation. Let us remember when the seedlings emerge to notify the authorities of our cultivation, to do everything according to the law.

If you choose a cultivation with organic method you can aspire to a better valorisation of the product on the market. In many cases, both for food and therapeutic use, the purchasing companies require organic hemp as a requirement.

Irrigation

Hemp is a crop that does not need much irrigation , while it fears stagnation. Once the plant develops it resists drought well. In Southern Italy, especially in Puglia, it is highly recommended to prepare an irrigation system to guarantee water needs (3000 cubic meters / ha), while in the center and north it is possible to cultivate even in the absence of artificial irrigation.

Weed management

The fiber crop, given its high density and the strong growth speed of the plants, is highly competitive with all common weeds and generally does not require weed control interventions, if the weeds are carried out in a timely manner. sowing operations.

Cultivation from seed, on the other hand, due to the wider planting layout, benefits from weeding , in particular immediately after the emergence of young seedlings.

Hemp can suffer particularly from the presence of some spontaneous species: the convolvulus (Convolvulus polyigonium), can oppose the development of plants, twisting around the stem that will continue to grow, albeit with difficulty. The 'Orobanca ramosa (Phelipea ramosa) and the European seagrass Cuscuta , which tangle around the foot of the plant sucking its nutrients.

Recognizing males

If we want to grow to pick the inflorescences we are only interested in unfertilized female flowers .

For this reason it is essential to know how to recognize the male specimens and eliminate them so that they do not spoil the harvest .

The sex of the plant is already recognized in the vegetative phase, the female produces more leaves. During flowering the differences become evident. Male plants should be removed as soon as possible , one specimen is enough to fertilize and thus ruin several female flowers.

Obviously, if you cultivate for the seed, fertilization is essential and therefore the presence of male flowers becomes a requirement.

The Collection

Collection of the flower

The inflorescence must be harvested at its best development, when it contains a greater concentration of substances of its phytocomplex. The light hemp flower is picked by hand , it will then be dried at a low temperature, with a dryer.

As a period we can say that flowering in the Italian climate occurs in summer, in July. After about a month the flowers are ready to be picked, between August and September.

Seed collection

The seeds are generally grown on a large scale, harvesting takes place with a combine having an axial beater and double ventilation.

The seed begins to ripen between August and September. The maturation is gradual, starting from the apical part and from the terminal part of the branches. Therefore direct experience is required to identify the right moment to seize.

Once harvested, the seeds must be dried within 12 hours to prevent them from fermenting. In hot areas it can also dry outdoors.

Collection for fiber

If you want to obtain the fiber, the stems must be collected , with a traditional tine mower and roto-baler.

After mowing, they must be left in the field for a week to macerate, in case of rain even a few more days. The crops will be po in round bales , as happens with hay. Drying well before roto-packing is essential: the humidity must be around 13%. The round bales must then be stored away from the humidity of the night and from any rain.

Botanical characteristics

Cannabis Sativa L. , this is the botanical name of hemp. It is a plant species belonging to the cannabinaceae family , the same to which the hops belongs , order of the urticals.

It is a plant with a spring-summer annual cycle , which can be grown very well in the Italian climate. The cannabis plant is a shrub with an erect stem and angular, it grows up to seven meters in height, with opposite palamate-seven leaves, lanceolate .

The tap root system can reach a depth of two meters in favorable conditions, guaranteeing the plant stability and resistance .

Reproduction: dioecious and monoecious varieties

Cannabis by its nature is a dioecious species , presenting a male specimen morphologically distinct from the female specimen, as happens in the human species. The peculiar aspect that differentiates the two sexes is the flower . That of the male is composed of 5 sepals inside which as many stamens develop, which have the function of containing billions of pollen microgranules.

The function of the male flower is precisely to produce pollen , which is then spread by anemophilic way (ie carried by the wind). The female flower comes in the form of a chalice, from which two filaments called pistils branch off, in the shape of a V, which have the function of capturing the pollen of the male and giving life to the seed.

Since 1960, man has also developed monoecious varieties , in which the male and female reproductive organ is found on the same specimen and the plants are therefore all the same < / strong>. Questand varieties can therefore be defined as self-fertilizing , as they have been specially selected for the production of the seed.

Dioecious varieties, in which only pollinated females produce seeds, are chosen for the production of fiber because they have 50% male specimens, while a field cultivated with monoecious varieties will instead have all the specimens bearing seeds.

The varieties of hemp

There are various schools of thought in classifying the different types of hemp but the most accepted theory is that cannabis belongs to a single species with numerous varieties . < / p>

The varieties of hemp are different thousands : around 400 indigenous varieties, many others are the latest generation types, selected in the last thirty years.

The historically considered classification divides the varieties into three subspecies: indica, sativa and ruderalis . From a morphological point of view, the differences between these three types of hemp are found in the development of the plant and in the shape of the leaves, as well as in the content of the active ingredients present in the inflorescence.

Indica is the one that grew and grows in the eastern part of the planet, the sativa that developed in the western part, the ruderalis cannabis that present in Eastern Europe, such as Russia and Ukraine.

Properties of cannabis

Cannabis contains about six hundred chemicals , it is the so-called phytocomplex. Of these, 140 are currently identified in the cannabinoid family, mostly concentrated in the inflorescences, the rest are terpenes and flavonoids .

Cbd and thc are the best known cannabinoids and studied to date. Cbd (cannabidiol) is a molecule that acts as a chemical antagonist of thc (tetrahydrocannabinol) and has a well-defined composition that is unique in each specimen. It has therapeutic effects on the human and animal organisms, interacting with all our systems (nervous, joint, gastrointestinal, muscular and immune) and is present in different concentrations for each variety.

THC is the molecule, with the same specific formula for each variety, responsible for the psychotropic effects on the body. It too has therapeutic effects but when we talk about the healing power of cannabis we must consider the effect of the entire phytocomplex that each plant has. That is: synthetic cannabinoids and medicines based on these will never be as valid as the phytocomplex in its entirety because it is the synergy between the substances all that makes cannabis a medicine without risky side effects.

Hemp cultivation in history

When we talk about cannabis cultivation in Italy we are talking about a very ancient crop and strongly rooted in our territories, it is good to do some history to keep this in mind .

The cultivation of hemp has its roots well 13,000 years ago , in 11,000 BC. This is the period in which the first finding of pollen in Italy is dated, near Lake Albano, in Lazio.

Cultivation was introduced to Europe from Central Asia, by the Shiites in the 4th century BC

During the period of the Roman Empire , hemp was grown for textile use , it was used to produce ropes, cloths, food, drugs thanks to the strength of its fibers. Speaking of ropes , the Amerigo Vespucci ship, launched in 1931, still carries hemp cloths and ropes. Cannabis was grown for textile purposes all over the world until the Second World War.

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