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Extension News: Answers for Alabama farmers about growing hemp in 2023

The cultivation of industrial hemp in Alabama is regulated by a state-run application system. Between October and November, applications for hemp open to current and aspiring hemp growers. An Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialist shares the basics for growing industrial hemp in 2023.

What is Hemp?

Hemp, or Cannabis sativa, is a large herbaceous plant that is grown industrially for seed, fiber and flower. All commercially grown hemp must contain less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content.

Any production or cultivation of hemp without a grower’s permit acquired from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) is deemed illegal. Permits for the 2023 season open Oct. 11 through November 30, 2022. Alabama Extension Entomology and Plant Pathology Specialist Katelyn Kesheimer says there are some aspects of growing industrial hemp that Alabamians should know.

Growing Hemp

Before deciding to grow hemp as a crop, growers must understand the risks and expenses involved.

“Growers should be aware of the time and money that it takes to grow hemp,” Kesheimer said. “Seeds and transplants are more expensive than typical row crop seeds, and labor is one input growers don’t budget enough for. Also, there are not many automated techniques for planting, maintenance or harvest.”

Kesheimer adds that aspiring hemp growers should be ready to perform a good amount of manual labor and monitoring. The ongoing battle of hemp pests (i.e., insects, weeds and diseases) can be draining. There are approved products to combat pests that may be found on a hemp crop.

Collaboratively Helping Alabama Hemp Growers Alabama Extension produces many hemp resources in collaboration with ADAI. Free resources—including grower meetings—are available from Extension and ADAI each winter.

The 2023 hemp grower meetings will begin in January and contain a total of six events across the state. Refer to the Alabama Extension calendar to see when and where the events will take place.

More Information

For more information on growing hemp in Alabama, search for hemp on the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu. Growers may also contact Kesheimer with questions about Alabama hemp.