ONTARIO — In 2015 there was about 100 acres registered in Oregon for hemp, and there are about 53,000 acres registered for hemp in every corner of the state, according to state Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor.
And as an indication of local interest hemp was the subject of two sessions at the Malheur Experiment Station Field Day on Wednesday, including a hemp production workshop led by Clint Shock, former director of the experiment station, which packed a conference room in the station office of people wanting to learn more.
“It’s a very new crop,” Shock said, and there are still a lot of things to know about it.
One of the major problems with hemp is weeds and growers are looking for weed control as there are not a lot of products labeled for that use.
Also, “Kill the male plants,” he said, because sought after oils come from the female plant, and breeding between male and female plants causes them to go to seed, reducing the amount of oils that will be able to be extracted. Volunteer plants from previous grows and stray pollen can also be problem can also bring unwanted cross-breeding, Shock said.
Currently, there is no certified seed for the industry but that will come with time, Shock said, which will help ensure quality.
“Plants will tolerate heat,” he said.
The choice of fields is also important as well as soil preparation as the soil needs to be loose and not compacted, Shock said, adding planting hemp into “stale” fields can also address the weed problem.
Still to be determined is how best to irrigate hemp, he said.
One step that needs to be taken is to form an association of hemp growers, like there is with other crops, Shock said, to allow them to set standards or to establish best practices for growing and handling hemp in order to help improve the crop and protect the quality.