Three-way blend ground cover for hemp crops: Less plastic, more hay – The Leaf Online

three-way-blend-ground-cover-for-hemp-crops:-less-plastic,-more-hay-–-the-leaf-online

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If you are like us, you probably find it maddening to drive past fields of hemp only to see acres of plastic ground wrap lining the rows. Yes, plastic does control weeds and hold in soil moisture. But it’s still acres and acres of plastic sheeting that is strewn across our farms, our landscapes and into our waste stream.

Plastic? Really? Isn’t hemp supposed to be about a sustainable crop with tens of thousands of uses, supplanting the use of deforestation products, fossil fuels and toxic compounds? Hemp to save the earth, remember that slogan?

It’s bad enough that every piece of organic produce at the grocery store and every bud of marijuana from a dispensary – products that will last the consumer about a day – now comes packaged in plastic with a half-life of thousands of years and pollutes our streets and water supply? C’mon, Jack!

Ground cover blend to the rescue

This is why theLeafOnline wants to let our readers know about a new approach to hemp cultivation: Natural ground cover to help the soil chemistry, control weeds and manage moisture loss. The fact is, this is precisely how farmers grew their crops for millennia before plastic sheeting was marketed.

Fortunately, High Mowing Seeds recently devised a three-way ground cover blend for under-sowing hemp crops. Annual Rye, Medium Red Clover and Dwarf White Clover are blended to create a dense groundcover that can be mowed or trimmed throughout the growing season. Decreasing weeds and improving soil health, this mix is perfect for season long performance.

Clovers will overwinter to provide spring erosion control and fix nitrogen for next year’s crop. Sow at 20 lbs/acre at time of Hemp planting or immediately after.

Sow at time of planting of Hemp crop or immediately after$60 for five pounds, bulk discounted at $164 for 20 pounds, more than 30 percent savings

Instead of weeding, mowing between rows of the crop is a clean and efficient way to keep fields clear from weeds. Granted, that costs more than sheets of plastic in up front costs, but in terms of planetary health and bragging rights, it’s a sound investment. And both the hemp and the ground cover are valuable as farm products.

Farmers can effectively double crop the land by letting the the ground cover grow to a taller height and harvesting as hay to feed their crops, thereby saving money.

Works for seed, cannabinoid or marijuana cultivation and production

Traditional hemp farming for fiber is set in rows four inches apart or so and seeded about a quarter of an inch deep. This dense planting pattern encourages stalk development for use in cordage, textiles, paper, hempcrete, 3-D printing devices and other fiber products. Unfortunately, the US infrastructure to produce most of those products from hemp was largely dismantled between WWII and the turn of the century.

Growing for hempseed, cannabinoids or marijuana cultivation and production uses a different spacing process. Plants are often spaced about a yard / meter apart, sometimes significantly more, and grow outward into the space during the summer. Extra space can be left for rows for equipment to navigate or the area between plants can be mowed until the canopy shades out new growth of the ground cover.

Traditional approach helps feed livestock, too

So think about that next time you see a hemp field with plastic – or, better yet, remember it when you see a field with ground cover growing between plants. And remember that over the season the ground cover can be continuously mowed for height or left to grow to a height that can be mowed and baled like hay.

Cattle love hay and clover. You can’t do that with sheets of plastic.

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