Stories of angry hemp farmers who discovered a high percentage of male plants in their hemp fields are becoming more frequent in the news.
Most recently, a Kentucky-based hemp farmer filed a $44 million lawsuit against an Oregon-based seed producer when they discovered 70% of their “feminized” seeds were male.
With no certified feminized hemp seeds available, farmers have to take seed producers at their word. So what can farmers do to protect their investment?
Male hemp and cannabis plants produce pollen, which fertilizes female plants and causes them to produce seeds. For industrial hemp growers producing grain or fiber, this is not a problem. Industrial hemp is often harvested for its nutritious seeds or fibrous stalk, not its cannabinoid and terpene-rich flower.
However, the popularity of CBD products has driven demand for CBD-rich flower to an all-time high. And seeded flower is the last thing a hemp farmer wants when their goal is to extract CBD. When males pollinate a hemp crop, that crop loses 50% of its biomass and 30% of its total cannabinoid content. This is because females spend energy that would have been spent producing big, resinous flowers towards producing seeds.
A Perfect Storm
A surge in CBD demand and new hemp-friendly federal regulations caused the 2019 hemp crop to be four times bigger than the previous year. With that came a new wave of inexperienced hemp growers.
In a recent New York Time article, new hemp farmers lamented the fact that roughly half of their crop came up male, and therefore useless. To be fair, they bought traditional seed. Had they been familiar with the plant they would know 50% males is an expected ratio. However, the article’s author profiled soybean farmers who brought on hemp as a way to diversify their crops and mitigate the effects of the trade war with China.
The 2020 hemp crop is likely surpass 2019, which means demand for quality hemp seed will be even higher. Reputable seed producers, such as OregonCBD, typically sell out, leaving new and old hemp farmers faced with purchasing seeds from new or unproven seed producers. How can hemp growers, especially those who are new to the plant, be sure their seeds match their expectations?
Hemp Sex Testing to Protect Investment
With DNA-based hemp sex testing, hemp farmers can identify male cannabis plants just one week after germination. That means farmers who are purchasing seed from a new or unproven seed producer can test a portion of their seed stock to determine male to female ratios, without having to grow the plants to maturity.
Seed producers can also allay prospective clients’ concerns and set accurate expectations by sex testing their seed stock.
Medicinal Genomics has developed two DNA-based hemp sex testing methods that look for the Y chromosome in a 4mm leaf biopsy. FemINDICAtor is a qPCR test that runs on a thermal cycler with an optical head for real-time results. The youPCR® Gender Detection Assay runs on less expensive equipment and delivers results visually, using a colorimetric reagent. We also work with several testing labs who offer sex testing as a service. Contact us today and we can connect you with a lab in your area.