To be clear, there are many “correct” types of planting methods but what is “correct” depends entirely on your business plan, not the opinion of some self-described “consultant”. The two most popular methods for planting and growing hemp are:
- Wide row spacing for “bush type” plants, and
- Close spacing for tall and slender plants.
Wide row planting and narrow row planting each has its own specific purpose, advantage, and disadvantage that are best used for specific business plans and product.
Regarding Wide Rows
While it’s true that large bushy plants increase the biomass per plant, they are more resource dependent. Wide spacing leaves large spaces for traditional weeds to take root, so cultivation and weed management plans (with commensurate expense and machinery) is often required in order to maintain this crop. Bushier, bigger plants also mean thicker stems (up to 8” in diameter). Depending on the row spacing and stem diameter, readily available weed control machinery and harvesting machinery may not work as intended.
Regarding Narrow Rows
Tall, slender plants on close row spacing generally yield the same biomass per acre as large bushy plants on wide spacing. Less sunlight to the ground means better moisture retention and significantly less weed pressure. Mechanical harvesting is more successful as well because the stalks are thinner and easier for machinery to handle. Tall, slender plants on close row spacing also increase the opportunity for two commodities; CBD and Fiber harvests in one. The downside to close row spacing is that it is more seed-intensive, but the lower overall cost of maintaining and harvesting offsets additional seed cost.
Regarding Labor Costs per Acre
Consider labor cost as a factor when choosing between wide vs narrow spacing. If you plant in a style that dis-favors mechanical harvesting practices, then labor cost (and headache) will need to be found, secured and paid for. Labor can cost around $4,000 per acre depending on the farm’s location. In many cases the higher seed cost in a densely planted field is offset by labor savings in mechanical harvesting.
Formation Ag has significant experience working with farmers who harvest up to 8 acres per hour with a CleanStrip and as a result are able to save the cost of the relative amount of hand labor.