Improve Hemp and CBD Quality with Drip Irrigation

Growing Hemp

Common Uses of Hemp and Cannabinoids (CBD)

Hemp has been harvested for industrial purposes in Canada since 1998, as an environmentally friendly alternative to plastics and other harmful materials. Its seeds and fibres have been harvested for textiles, paper, building materials, particleboard, compost, hemp oil, hemp flour and much more.

Drip irrigation keeps plant foliage completely dry, reducing disease.

More recently, Canada has opened its doors to allow cannabis – both hemp and marijuana – for medical and recreational use. This has propelled interest in growing hemp for its CBD oil found in the plants’ leaves and flowers. This interest was propelled forward after studies have shown CBD oil to ease symptoms of many health issues, including depression, heart disease, acne, anxiety, and other pain relief.

Growing Hemp for CBD Oil

Hemp is typically one of the easiest plants to grow, but the level of care is much higher for those growing to harvest CBD oil than for industrial purposes. 

Hemp is a dioecious plant; it has a female plant and a male plant. When growing industrial hemp, male and female plants can grow together and be harvested like wheat, while hemp grown for CBD oil is more labour intensive.  CBD oil is typically cultivated from the flowers of the female plant, and if female and male plants are grown together it will increase the seed production and reduce the CBD levels. As a result, CBD hemp farms are usually exclusively female plants and are grown through either specialized seeds and/or female clone transplants. Each plant is tended to individually to make sure the hemp grown is high in quality and CBD levels. 

Fertigation through drippers is 80-90% more efficient and saves at least 25% of nutrients usually lost to the surrounding soil with other methods.

The environment needed to grow high-value hemp plants is extremely important. Hemp plants have high nutrient demands and prefer moist soil with high aeration, not saturated soils. For optimal results, hemp needs loose, well-aerated loam soil with high fertility and plenty of organic matter. Growers need to be careful not to overwater or underwater their plants, so choosing the right irrigation system is essential to growing a hemp plant high in CBD.

How to Grow Better Hemp with Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation is a system of moving water through a Hemp drip irrigationflexible polyethylene tube system that has drippers welded into the wall of the tube. The drippers installed into the tubing take water at a higher pressure and allow the water to drip slowly at a controlled rate directly to the soil right near the plants’ root zone. Advanced dripline, such as Netafim’s Pioneer or Dripnet pc dripline, deliver precise and equal water applications anywhere with high uniformity in any terrain. 

The delivery of proper water and nutrients is essential when growing a successful hemp crop. No other method of irrigation can deliver
minimal amounts of water with the needed nutrients, without driving out beneficial
soil aeration, like drip irrigation can.

Benefits of Drip Irrigation for Hemp Crops

Hemp crops prefer soil that is not saturated, but still moist, and drip irrigation offers water at a slower rate minimizing saturation and maintaining proper soil aeration. This targeted application of water to the root zone also saves 30-70% of water compared to traditional systems like sprinklers or pivots, as it minimizes water lost to evaporation or runoff. 

Hemp plants grown from seeds germinate better with drip irrigation. The seeds are kept moist to help crack the seed and set the plant, providing better crop growth and yield. Clone transplants require frequent, light application of water for a good start, and drip irrigation achieves this by efficiently managing the water flow.

Growers need to minimize disease potential by reducing the number of times they wet hemp leaves. Overhead irrigation such as pivot or sprinkler systems, can lead to foliage diseases and can reduce crop performance. Drip irrigation keeps the foliage completely dry, thereby reducing disease. Mulch can also be laid down to keep the ground surface dry, lowering the humidity at the leaf level, further reducing foliage disease and eliminating weed growth. Avoiding overhead irrigation also reduces the risk of leaf scorching through watering – plant tissues can be damaged when exposed to high temperatures and UV rays in the summer months.

hemp

Drip irrigation systems have the added benefit of being able to apply nutrients directly to the roots of the plant. Other methods involve spreading the fertilizer on the surface of the soil, while fertigation through drippers is 80-90% more efficient as it allows the fertilizer to be applied directly to the root zone. Not only does this save labour costs, but it also saves a minimum of 25% of nutrients being lost to the surrounding soil while maximizing the quality and yield potential of hemp crops.

Drip systems can be easily automated by integrating digital control systems that can control crop watering, plant nutrient dosing systems, and environment control systems. Simply set the system to the desired setting perfect for the crop and let the system do the work. This control ultimately contributes to hemp growers’ bottom line by mitigating mistakes, while saving time, money and resources lost to over-application. This ultimately allows the grower more time to tend and care for each hemp plant properly.

Compared to their high-pressure, high-energy counterparts, drip irrigation can cut down energy costs by as much as 50% due to the level of pumping required.

How to Design a Drip Irrigation System

Planning your Drip Irrigation System

To reap the benefits a drip irrigation system can bring, it’s important to have your system designed by a professional irrigation designer. This ensures that the water demands of the crop are being met, and the water is applied as uniformly as possible. When planning the system, there are many different factors to consider.

Water Source

Is your water source clean, municipal water or is it from a dirty lake or canal? A water analysis needs to be conducted to understand what level of filtration and treatment is required to prevent the dripline from clogging or calcifying. In most cases, the quality of the water can be easily corrected, but even municipal water needs filtration for optimal irrigation.

Drip irrigation can cut down energy costs by as much as 50%!

Field Topography

The field’s shape and slope will determine which dripper line should be implemented. In general, an undulating or sloped field will require pressure compensating emitters, while a flat field will use non-pressure compensating emitters. You should look for a pressure compensating drip line that offers no flow variations on higher and lower areas with no compromise to quality and yields.

Soil Type 

Soil type is also a very important factor in drip irrigation design. Clay soils allow water to travel much further (upward and laterally) than sandy soils. Clay soils also hold much more water and absorb water much slower. Therefore, drip lines and emitters are generally installed closer together in sandy soils, while in clay soils these spacings are further apart, but with lower emitter flow rates due to the lower absorption rate. 

By knowing the soil type and how water behaves under the surface, the drip system can be accurately designed with the right components and watering schedule for optimal performance. As previously mentioned, hemp crops prefer loamy soil – denser than sandy soil but less than clay. Water will travel slower allowing it to spread more evenly through the soil vertically and horizontally. Mid-range drip emitters may be a good choice and the drippers can be placed further apart as the wetting pattern will be larger.

Components of a Drip System

drip irrigation system

A – Water Filtration

The correct water filter solves whichever challenges you are dealing with, from fair quality to harsh water conditions. Look for popular, high-quality filters from Netafim such as the Apollo Disc Kleen filter and the Sandstorm sand media filter. Both filters provide deep, three-dimensional filtering with automatic backflush cleaning, and offer excellent protection for all water source types.

B – Pressure and Flow Control

Pressure reducing valves regulate pressure, ensures optimal function and results in a smooth operation, and improved application uniformity. See our pressure reducing valve brochure for more details.

C – Flow Monitoring

Water meters are specifically designed to provide the most accurate and reliable flow readings. The Octave Ultrasonic Water meter from Netafim provides precise measurement of flow with double-beam ultrasonic sensors.

D – Flexnet

FlexNet™ is a high-performance, flexible, lightweight piping solution for above and belowground drip irrigation systems. It’s offered in a wide range of diameters with integral welded connectors which ensure a leak-proof connection. It’s proven to reduce the overall material and labour costs of an entire irrigation system.

E – Pipe Protection

It is important for a drip irrigation system to have air vents to control the air in the pipes – admitting and discharging air as necessary. This is because problems arise from both the presence and absence of air in the pipelines. The presence of air can cause problems such as water hammer damage to pipes and fittings, corrosion and cavitation, water flow disruption causing inaccurate water meter readings and resulting in an inadequate water supply to plants. The absence of air when and where it is needed results in vacuum enhanced problems such as the suction of dirt through drippers, the suction of seals and gaskets and inline drippers into the pipelines, and uncontrolled suction of injected chemicals or fertilizers into the system. An absence of air can also result in pipe or accessory collapse due to negative pressures. The three main types of air vents are as follows: air/vacuum relief vents, air release vents, and combination air vents.

F – Automated Digital Controllers

Grow healthier and more uniform crops, and reduce labour with automated irrigation controllers, and dosing and nutrigation solutions.

G – Dripline

Netafim provides several different driplines for many applications. The Aries drip line is perfect for flat topographies with less than ideal water conditions. The Typhoon Plus drip line is durable with superior clog resistance and more uniform yields. It’s ultra-low flow rates allow for longer lateral lengths that reduce system cost. The DripNet PC dripline is the perfect option for sloping terrain and gives you the perfect cost-performance ratio.

H – Fertigation unit

Using drip irrigation to fertilize your crop, is much more efficient and accurate than more traditional methods of fertigation. The nutrients are sent directly to the root zone of each plant in liquid form through the drippers. This method of fertigation works best with a reliable dosing system to automatically control the uniformity of the nutrients emitted, while ensuring precise EC and pH control. Adding a fertigation unit, such as Netafim’s Fertikit 3G unit, requires minimal investment while greatly reducing labour, fertilizer and energy consumption and greatly increasing the quality of your crop.

Contact one of our certified designers for more information on how we can help your hemp crop get to a higher level with drip irrigation.
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Resources:
www.cbdschool.com/how-to-grow-hemp/
highgradehempseed.com/blog/male-vs-female-hemp-plant/
www.wplawinc.com/agricultural-irrigation-blog/considerations-when-choosing-an-irrigation-system
www.irrigationtutorials.com/drip-irrigation-design-guidelines-basics-of-measurements-parts-and-more/
myfarmlife.com/home-garden/5-tips-for-planning-a-drip-irrigation-system/
www.dripdepot.com/guides/drip-irrigation-planning-and-installation-guide.pdf
www.netafimusa.com/4ae878/globalassets/hemp-production-brochure.pdf

2021-02-02T10:30:37-08:00January 25th, 2021|Hemp|