As more states legalize marijuana for medical and even recreational use, more farmers are looking to grow hemp for CBD extraction. But this crop is severely challenged by a lack of water.
Hemp growers in South Dakota and Colorado are grappling with water issues on top of an oversupply of hemp. California’s federal legalization of hemp as an agricultural commodity and the enactment of a state law allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp has created a situation where there is too much hemp for the demand in the U.S. and Canada.
In the past year, the amount of land used to grow industrial hemp in the United States has doubled to about 15,000 acres, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service. The authors of the report say this increase is largely driven by growing demand for high-quality CBD hemp products. Hemp is classified as a form of the cannabis plant.. Read more about vote hemp petition and let us know what you think.
Cannabis producers in the American West have been hit hard by this year’s severe water shortages, which have prompted farmers producing commodities like almonds and blueberries to pull out plants or let them die in the field.
The drought is reducing hemp acreage and increasing complaints of illegal marijuana producers stealing water.
“To put it simply, it’s a hot mess out there,” said John Nores, a special operations lieutenant with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who told Hemp Industry Daily that water theft has never been this bad in his state.
“On the West Coast, these outdoor trespass grows range from 2,000 to 20,000 plants, leaving a tremendous environmental impact on public areas and right at the border of headwaters, pristine waterways,” he added.
Hemp has taken a big blow.
Water constraints are leading to a drop in hemp acreage throughout the country, as farmers shift their focus to crops with lower price volatility.
According to an early estimate of permitted acreage, national hemp acreage for 2021 may be considerably lower than last year.
Hemp Benchmarks reported 107,702 acres registered for outdoor cultivation in 27 states in late June.
From 2020, when Hemp Industry Daily reported 465,787 outdoor acres in 47 states, that partial study indicates significant acreage reductions.
According to Lewis, a shortage of water is definitely leading to farmers in the West growing less hemp crops.
“Right now, we’re getting a peek of what the new normal will look like in terms of our weather patterns. It has an impact on cannabis, and it has an impact on all crops,” he added.
“We will see crops not being produced because farmers are unable to get water rights or do not have sufficient water to allow crops to grow effectively.”
However, Matt Cyrus, a farmer in Sisters, Oregon, who chose not to grow hemp in 2021, believes cannabis can flourish in hot, dry climates.
According to Cyrus, who served as president of the Deschutes County Farm Bureau, hemp needs approximately a third as much water as a hay crop.
Studies on water use
Cannabis plantations have a long history of being notoriously “thirsty.”
However, a recent research from the Cannabis Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, found that licensed cannabis producers use less water than authorities anticipated.
Data from producers’ water-use reports, as well as anonymous questionnaires, were utilized by the center, which started studying water usage on cannabis fields in 2017.
According to Natalynne DeLapp, executive director of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance in California, cannabis is “by far the most water-efficient agricultural product in California,” based on the average size of a Humboldt County cannabis farm and comparisons to how other agricultural commodities and specialty crops use water.
She believes that a single big almond farm in the Central Valley consumes 33 times the amount of water as all legal cannabis farms in Humboldt County combined.
With California’s continuing drought and water scarcity, cannabis growers are preparing for water storage and better water efficiency, according to DeLapp.
Drip-irrigation experiments in California, Colorado, and Oregon were used in a research sponsored by Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center.
The research will compare crop responses to 40 percent to 100 percent of projected water needs across five locations with various soils and climates to evaluate water usage for CBD production under different irrigation regimes.
Water rights protection
Regulators are limiting water access to communities, including farmers, as the drought worsens.
According to Mike Lewis, an organic farmer in Kentucky and president of the Hemp Industries Association, some farmers are discovering that selling water rights is more lucrative than cultivating this year.
Farmers are being encouraged to sell their water rights in northern California, where 35 percent of all crops have not been planted this year due to the water crisis.
According to Christopher Strunk, a partner at Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani in Cleveland, securing water rights will be essential for cannabis growers.
However, since marijuana and hemp farmers often have no previous experience with water on freshly purchased or reused property, this may be problematic. Last month, at the AmericanHort Hemp Conference in Columbus, Ohio, Strunk stated.
Water rights, according to Nores, aren’t a free-for-all, which means that farmers can’t drain a natural supply simply because it’s on their property, since wildlife, agricultural enterprises, and towns may all rely on it.
“Water diverting from a creek, a stream, or a river will be thoroughly examined, authorized, and allowed.”
The issue is the polar opposite in the East.
While farmers in the West struggle to obtain adequate water, cannabis growers in the East have the reverse issue, according to Lewis: too much rain and moisture.
This summer has brought an excess of rain to hemp growers from Kentucky to Florida and throughout the Midwest, causing crop development to stall and illnesses to proliferate.
Lewis said, “My area is simply covered with rain.”
“We have disease and pest pressures, and the plants are adapting, which alters the THC threshold and cannabinoid profiles,” says the researcher.
According to Lewis, ongoing unpredictability and severe weather patterns from one end of the nation to the other may lead to changes in the agricultural environment.
Weather patterns and variety performance will likely lead to regionalization for various kinds of cannabis cultivation – and perhaps other agricultural crops as well – as fledgling businesses like marijuana and hemp develop, according to Lewis.
“It’s just a part of the reality we have to deal with… “We shouldn’t be growing water-intensive crops in areas where there is a severe lack of water,” he added.
Nores agrees, saying it’s in the country’s best interests to “lighten the burden” for agricultural areas like the West by regionalizing cannabis and other agricultural products.
“It’s possible we’ll have to accept it, particularly if the West Coast continues to experience drought after drought.”
In the face of a federal crackdown against hemp and a glutted hemp market, Canadian farmers are facing a water crisis on top of an oversupply of hemp.. Read more about kentucky hemp growers list and let us know what you think.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- hemp growers association
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- american hemp association
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