Hemp is a very tough plant.

The fibrous stalk makes it difficult to use conventional harvesting methods. Maximizing CBD can add extra complexity to harvesting. These two properties – fibrous and oil producing – are the whole reason this crop is valuable, and the same reason traditional machinery is disqualified.  

Regarding Fiber

Hemp fibers are incredibly strong. Before hemp was made illegal in the U.S., the fibers were used for rope on ships as well as other high-strength fiber and textile applications. During harvesting, hemp fibers naturally wind themselves into rope, wrapping around shafts, bearings, fans, and other components. You might as well throw a tangled truckload of old rope into your machine every time you start a row. Here’s what happens:

  • Mowers experience premature wear to blades
  • Fiber wraps up in combines feeder shafts
  • Choppers can, and will, wrap.
  • The heat generated from the friction of the fibers in the machine causes fires, and hemp is flammable. 

Some machinery can be modified to account for the toughness of the plant. Special shielding around bearings, harvesting smaller portions of the plant and making multiple passes can reduce load and the risk of wrapping, but it increases per-acre harvesting costs.

Formation Ag has witnessed traditional harvesting machinery used on hemp. It has resulted in the total loss of the machine due to fire or mechanical destruction. 

Regarding CBD 

A CBD crop has factors in addition to those above. The trichomes of the plant (the oil, which is the product…) are on the outside of the flowers and leaves. Therefore, the CBD crop is fragile. The harvest is not about the plant. The harvest is about what’s on the outside of the plant. 

Formation Ag has found that impacting, cutting, bailing, combining, and thrashing a CBD harvest will lead to losses of oil. Every time. In multiple cases, Formation Ag encountered plants with more than 8% oil content reduced to 0.2% oil after “traditional harvesting”. The farmers thought they were doing good “getting the harvest in”, but failed to understand the most basic requirement of CBD crops. At application, CBD harvest is about the oil ON the plant, not just the plant. 

Do not forfeit high value CBD by abusing your crop with the wrong equipment. Make sure to use equipment such as a CleanCut or Clean trip harvester, which are made specifically for a gentle CBD harvest, so that you minimize oil losses throughout the harvesting process.