CROP HARVEST AND STORAGE

1. Harvesting and storing hemp tea

The process of harvesting and storing hemp tea takes place in two phases:

  • harvesting at the end of the vegetative phase with the purpose of obtaining food-grade tea
  • harvesting in the last flowering phase with the purpose of obtaining extracts and essential oils from hemp flowers.

The harvesting of food-grade tea (early flowers) takes place at the end of the vegetation cycle, when flowers start to form at the top of the plant. Harvesting food-grade tea is also called "topping", since we manually pick 5–10 cm of the hemp tip, composed of the newly formed flower and the leaves next to the flower.

Unlike food-grade tea, flowers for obtaining extracts and essential oils, i.e. late flowers are harvested during the last flowering phase, immediately before seeds mature, since the essential components of hemp are at their highest concentration during this phase. We cut the fully matured flowers at the upper third of the stalk, and prepare them for storing and drying, together with the stalk.

The following figure provides information on appropriate maturity of food-grade tea (left) and late flowers for obtaining extracts or essential oils (right).

2. Harvesting and storing seeds

Before the harvest, it is important to properly prepare the combine harvester: clean it well and sharpen the knives in order to guarantee an uninterrupted harvesting process. Combine harvesting experts say that the slatted drum basket should be opened as much as possible, while the drum should turn as slowly as possible. The speed of the harvest (movement of combine harvester) should be slow. It is important to harvest during the dry part of the day. Due to excess humidity, morning is not an appropriate time of day. As always, caution and the experience of the combine harvester driver is the best measure to prevent mechanical issues during harvesting.

We harvest hemp seeds when the stalks are still "green" (when 70–90% of seeds are mature) and when the fibre is not yet the strongest. Green stalks still contain water and are not yet lignified, which enables us to cut them easily and encounter less issues during harvesting. In order to find out and "catch" the right moment, we must observe our field for some time (one of the signs that the appropriate time for harvesting is approaching is the appearance of birds on the hemp field). Mature seeds are dark brown but can also be black or striped. In order to determine maturity, pick the entire flower from the bottom up, then remove the leaves by rubbing the flower together, and examine the seeds in your hand or, even better, on a piece of paper. Most of the seeds should be mature. Some of them could still be green, which doesn't mean that they are not full. Since hemp does not mature evenly, a part of the seeds will always be immature. Before examining the plant for maturity, shake the entire plant and determine the degree of dropout. If we waited until the plant was fully mature, the lower seeds would already start to fall off, and additional dropout would also occur during harvesting. After harvest, stalks of different sizes will remain in the field, along with the straw which passed through the combine harvester. Dry these stalks and straw in the sun, occasionally turning them. Then, bale dry straw in square bales, tie them together with rope, and inform the company Hannah biz which will buy the straw and take it to their drying room. Other plants could also be mown and dried. Alternatively, you can also turn them to green manure, thus producing organic mass for soil fertilisation.

 

3. Storing stalks

Mow the stalks a couple of days after harvesting the seeds. If you are only manufacturing hemp for fibre, mow it when the stalks turn yellow and when the bottom leaves start falling off. It is important to mow the stalks in suitable weather conditions (i.e. not in the morning, when dew is present, and not immediately after rain). Then, the stalks need to be dried. Make sure to turn them in order for them to dry in a uniform manner. The optimal possibility is to dry them from 60% of humidity to 18% of humidity. When drying, make sure that the stalks (or the straw, at that point) are stored in a dry place. The advantage of an early spring sowing is the storage of stalks; the harvest can take place in September, when there are enough sunny days for the straw to dry well in the field.

 

When harvesting late varieties in the autumn, when more moisture is present, storing stalks is a more complicated task. Harvesting seeds in autumn, however, is simpler, since the crop is more uniform, which enables easier harvesting. The straw crop largely depends on the sum of temperatures from the sprouting to the end of the flowering period. Early sowing enables longer growth and higher straw yield.

Since the growth does not stop at the end of the flowering period, the straw crop depends on the date of the end of the flowering period of each individual variety. The end of the flowering period strongly depends on the length of the day and night. In a particular area and with a particular variety, this date is always the same: regardless of the sowing date, a certain variety will stop flowering on the same date.

Late varieties guarantee higher yields but have to be stored later as well. Fibre yield, therefore, depends on straw yield and the cultivation technique in itself – lower density reduces the yield of fibre from straw. Yield of dry stalks: 5–10t/ha or 1–2t/ha of fibre.

 

 

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