Ask Our Experts: Hemp Tri-Cropping
Q: As a means to maximize profit in harvesting hemp, is tri-cropping a viable strategy?
By Trevor Yahn-Grode, Data Analyst, New Frontier Data
A: Tri-cropping has been called “the holy grail” for hemp farmers. As the hemp plant is made up of three constituent component – fiber, seed, and flowers – tri-cropping refers to successfully harvesting all three simultaneously, and for a profit. While tri-cropping is great for marketing hemp as a “waste-free” crop, the truth is that current genetics technology remains a long way off from making tri-cropping a viable reality. A hemp seed contains a finite amount of energy, and that energy is distributed among the component parts. Whenever a given cultivar is bred to maximize one of those components, there are attendant tradeoffs. For example, a cultivar that has been bred to maximize CBD percentage is prone to substandard fiber strength, whereas cultivars bred to maximize fiber length must be harvested before the plant goes to seed.
Though it may not be viable yet, what the future holds remains an open guess. Because of hemp’s outlaw status, there was virtually no serious academic research about it for almost the entire 20th century, a period otherwise graced by immense progress made in the fields of genetics and crop science. The application of modern agricultural science for hemp may yet yield amazing results. The multitude of technological and scientific problems that have been understood and overcome by modern agricultural science should be a source of optimism for the hemp industry, and those invested should pay close attention over the next few years as quantum leaps in research and innovations finally overcome the bounds from 80 years of prohibition.