The cultivation of hemp is certainly the most discussed crop in the world, and thanks to its many uses as well as its high profitability, it is booming.
Commercial production of hemp began in the 18th century, mainly for the manufacture of strong fabrics and ropes for maritime use. Hemp is common in the Mediterranean and central European area, in sandy and marshy soils where it is difficult to cultivate anything else.
Many local governments, both in Europe and worldwide, have recently recognised hemp as a plant of pharmaceutical, textile and food interest, thus defining its legalisation for cultivation and production mainly as an agricultural product.
Different types of hemp: which are their applications?
Several varieties of cannabis are available on the market: usually those cultivated in the open field are used in bio-construction, paper and textile production and their commercial value is usually low: a few tens of euros per quintal. Moreover, the cultivation periods follow the normal seasonal cycles, from March to September, and offer us only one harvest per year. Indoor hemp, on the other hand, is particularly suitable for medical and food uses, with a much higher profitability than outdoor hemp, reaching up to 1500€/kg.
Hemp can therefore be grown both indoors and outdoors, but what are the main differences?
Let’s find out:
OUTDOOR CULTIVATION: Why choose it?
Outdoor cultivation refers to the classic open-field cultivation. Large spaces are needed to ensure that the plant grows as naturally as possible. This is the most cost-effective solution for large-scale production (but also the riskiest because of the weather events that could ruin the crop).
The advantages of OUTDOOR cultivation:
- Easy to cultivate, the Italian climate is considered one of the best for its growth and development.
- Cost-effectiveness crop. There is no need for ventilation systems or lamps, which in indoor cultivation have to recreate an environment of humidity, light and nutrients that are present in the natural environment.
The disadvantages of OUTDOOR cultivation:
- Harvest uncertainty due to:
- weather conditions such as rain, wind, snow and hail expose the grower to the risk of losing the crop;
- Moulds and parasites that could attack the crop and its quality, affecting its final value;
- Pollination: the cannabis inflorescence is the most valuable part of the plant. Being pollinated reduces the quality and quantity of the crop and thus its marketing value.
- A lot of manpower is needed as many specific operations are required during a season and these have to be carried out exclusively by hand, plant by plant.
INDOOR CULTIVATION: advantages and disadvantages
Indoor cultivation, on the other hand, allows us to have total control over the cultivation environment, with an almost zero reduction in diseases and risks of crop loss due to external, uncontrollable agents, as well as rapid, cyclical growth thanks to climate control and a reduction in cultivation time from 7 to around 3 months.
The disadvantages of INDOOR cultivation:
- High production costs for the management and maintenance of the whole plant and therefore higher time commitments resulting from the need to pay more attention than with outdoor cultivation.
Benefits of drip irrigation on open field hemp production
Considering the pros and cons of the two cultivation methods, and considering outdoor cultivation as the most widespread, we can state that it is not only water and sunshine that are needed to obtain excellent results in cannabis cultivation. One of the key elements is certainly a correct and well-structured irrigation system so that the cultivation develops regularly and uniformly, but also to maximise production itself. But which irrigation system should be chosen?
With drip irrigation, plants will receive small, frequent amounts of water directly on the root, providing the moisture needed for germination, growth and development while minimising waste and inefficiency.
Here the main advantages of drip irrigation on hemp production:
- Improved germination, growth and crop yield due to constant humidity;
- Effective and efficient management of our irrigation resources;
- Localised irrigation allows watering where it is necessary for good plant growth;
- Fertigation: the nutrients needed by the cannabis can be injected directly onto the roots, maximising effectiveness and saving time and costs;
- Reduction of unwanted weed growth.
The drip hose should be laid out on the field immediately after sowing. In this way short irrigation cycles can be applied to the seeds immediately, ensuring soft soil that promotes germination.
Studies in the past have shown that if this practice was not carried out, 50% of new seedlings would not germinate. Irrigation should then be structured in cycles until harvesting process. In fact, irrigation should be stopped just about 10 days before harvesting to adequately reduce the moisture content for the drying process.
Localised irrigation proves therefore to be the best irrigation technique for hemp cultivation, with excellent productivity and efficiency even with water that is not properly filtered.
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