MJBizMag March 2021 - 45

Growers should receive a certificate
from the nursery where they're buying
their young plants that confirms what
they're getting is clean, DeLapp said.
Growing cannabis is difficult enough,
but hemp and marijuana cultivators
have very few pest and disease controls
available in their arsenal to protect their
crops. Before using those that are labeled
for hemp or approved for marijuana
production, Propheter said, growers
should check with their contracted buyers
to ensure ingredients in the chemistry will
not compromise their crops.
" There are easy solutions to take care
of pests and diseases, but nine times
out of 10 that's going to bring your crop
out of compliance with your contract,
and then you're going to be stuck with
an unmarketable crop at the end of the
season, " Propheter said.
He recommends working with
university extension specialists or
consultants to learn about local pests
and diseases and how to treat them.
Beyond that, he said, scouting on
foot-rather than riding past the crop
in a vehicle-is crucial.
" The most important thing you can
put on that land, when you have a crop
out there, is your footprint, " Propheter
said. " You can't be a 'windshield farmer'
with this crop-you have to scout this
crop every single day and find issues
before they become major issues. "
Even then, most of the controls
registered for hemp through the
Environmental Protection Agency are
more effectively used as a preventative
than a treatment, he said.
" Particularly when you're talking
about things like corn earworm-there
are some organic solutions for that, but
you're going to get maybe 60% control
with an application, and you're going
to get better control the earlier you find
them, " Propheter said. " So, if you walk
out on that crop and you already have
big worms, it's probably a little late to be
applying any of those organic solutions. "
Hemp farmer Harold Jarboe of
Tennessee Homegrown in Nashville
uses " gangster insects " -biological
control agents (BCAs) that eat insect
pests. While other farmers wonder
about the efficacy of releasing BCAs
and beneficial insects into an outdoor
ecosystem, Jarboe says they're looking for
a " target-rich environment " and using
biological controls preventatively " made
a quantitative difference. "
MITIGATING
NATURAL
DISASTERS
There is little cannabis growers can
do to prevent natural disasters such
as wildfires, hailstorms, flooding or
hurricanes from wiping out crops-but
they can take some measures to mitigate
potential issues, according to DeLapp.
" Make sure that there is appropriate
defensible space, that the lands around
are managed to reduce fire impact, have
more water storage for fighting fires on
the property and make sure that you can
keep the ash off the crops, " she said.
Farmers in Humboldt County and
other areas of California that are prone to
wildfires are stocking up on lightweight
shade fabric or frost cloth that still allows
diffused sunlight to reach plants but
protects them from wildfire ash, she said.
Mitigating natural disasters ultimately
goes back to site selection, Propheter said.
" You should be putting this crop on
extremely well-drained land, " he said.
" It's a lot like clary sage or tobacco-it
doesn't like to have its roots sitting in
the standing water for any long periods
of time. In your natural site selection,
as you're taking that into account, there
should be some protection there against
things like flooding. "
Additionally, growers should ensure
that their operating costs are low enough
that they can make their money back
with the crop insurance that is available
to them.
Oregon-based Ray experienced a midseason
hailstorm that nearly wiped out
most of his crop in 2019, but because of
the still-high cost of insurance deductibles,
he instead works to keep operating
costs low.
" We hear people say they farm for
$8,000-$15,000 an acre, depending on
what methods they're using. We did it for
almost $2,700 an acre this year, " Ray said.
" That allows us to assess crop insurance
and see that it's not worth it-by the time
you pay your deductible, what are you
really going to get out of it? You're just
putting yourself further behind. "
Short of moving cultivation indoors
into a protected environment, outdoor
growing is risky and " you just have to roll
with it, " Ray said.
" You're battling Mother Nature every
day, and every day, you wake up and
you go out and you hope it's a good day.
That's pretty much all you can do. "
Laura Drotleff is a reporter
for Hemp Industry Daily
and Marijuana Business
Magazine. She can be
reached at laura.drotleff@
hempindustrydaily.com.
March 2021 | mjbizdaily.com 45
Agronomist Scott
Propheter farms hemp
in North Carolina.
Courtesy Photo
http://www.mjbizdaily.com

MJBizMag March 2021

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