The Harvest Phase: When To Harvest Hemp

When To Harvest Your Hemp

When To Harvest Hemp

Generally speaking, hemp will be ready to be harvested between 90-120 days after planting. There are a variety of factors that will impact the timeline, including (but not limited to): date of seeding, general climate conditions, summer temperatures, and types of cultivars grown.  For example, when growing hemp for CBD, there are "auto-flowering" cultivars that are ready for harvest as quick as 70 days.

Because most geographic locations begin planting in May and June, typical harvest dates range between September and October. Natural weather patterns lead to prime wildfire season in the Pacific and hurricanes on the Atlantic. Therefore, timing is critical here. Two other major risk considerations for proper harvest time is ensuring the crop doesn't mold and for CBD hemp farmers, making sure the crop doesn't "run hot" by testing too high of THC levels. 

Visual Assessment

One way to determine your harvest's readiness by completing a visual assessment. Some things to keep an eye on if growing for CBD and flower:

  • The buds will are green but some of the leaves begin to turn brown. S
  • Some leaves on the flower turn purple.
  • Trichomes on the buds are milky white in color

Things to look out for if growing for fiber:

  • The plant is done producing pollen and seeds start to develop
  • The seeds' hulls are firm and brownish in color
  • Stem fibers shed the majority of their leaves

Weather Considerations

Depending on the farm's geographic location, certain weather elements may become an issue. For example, areas where hurricane season begins to threaten during the early fall, farmers may need to consider harvesting early. 

For CBD hemp farmers, this becomes a bit of a gamble. On hand, they want to grow as long as they can (without going over the legal THC limit) because CBD percentage will continue to rise as time goes on. And the more CBD in crop, the more money you'll earn on a per pound basis when time of sale. 

On the other hand, if waiting too close to hurricane season or early Fall storms could result in crops sitting in the field wet. This results in moldy crops that end up being worth nothing. This is also why it is so important to get hemp that's already been cut indoors for drying within two hours (unless the weather report says no rain and the plants can be properly field dried).

Ensure that you check the weather forecast of the following days to make sure that there will be no precipitation. This will allow for the hemp to properly dry out before it’s packed into bales. You should ideally harvest your hemp on days where there’s no precipitation in the forecast. 

Labor Considerations

The size of your yield should be directly related to the size of your harvesting equipment and team. If the crop is too large for your harvest team to cut and transport, you will not only be wasting man power but also dramatically increasing the risk of losing the quality of your crop. As previously discussed, failure to move harvest to a drying facility (or prepping the field properly for drying) can result in crop that could rot with mold from rain or a crop that could test too high for THC if left in the ground too long. 

Some experienced farmers plan to have 2-3 people per acre during the harvest phase. The cost of that labor force can really add up, let alone finding capable help that is willing to spend entire days in the field cutting and hauling crops.

For the sake of timing considerations, it is important have this labor set up well in advance and that there is some flexibility to their schedule. That way, if the the harvest date needs to be moved up by a few weeks, they are ready work. 

Frequent Testing

For CBD hemp farmers, testing the crop for THC levels on a regular basis is imperative. If the crop tests above Total THC levels of 0.3%, the crop is considered "hot." Depending on how high of a THC level, there is also the risk that the entire crop must be destroyed. 

For these reasons, frequent testing from a reputable third party hemp testing lab is recommended. This allows the farmer to get a better understanding of the optimal date to harvest where the highest level of CBD without going over the legal THC limit can be achieved. 

Harvests Per Year

Most farms are in geographic regions where there is only one harvest per year, starting in May/June and ending in September/October. However, there are some areas of the world (South America, Puerto Rico) that are reported to have climates that can grow hemp up to 3 times per year. Farmers living in these regions should considering consulting other farmers in their community to discuss timing and periods of the year to harvest hemp.  

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