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Trimmed hemp flower held by a hand in a white glove.

Why Gamble on Last Year’s Genetics Running Hot for Smokables When a Better Option is Available

If you plan on growing last year’s genetics for smokable flower this season, then you may want to go back to the drawing board and rethink your plan. T1 was the choice industrial hemp variety to grow for smokable flower in past seasons. It was chosen for its dense terminal colas and high yield.  Like T1, many of the varieties grown last year may be less profitable and higher risk this season. Why gamble and take that risk when you don’t have to?

Results from 2019 nationwide university hemp CBD variety trials, show that many commonly grown cultivars are not compliant (total THC < 0.3%) at harvest. Additionally many “cultivars” are not genetically uniform and present drastically different phenotypes in the field and the lab. This includes large variation in yield and observed CBD and THC concentration. As hemp continues to be a volatile industry it is critical for farmers to use quality genetics that are uniform and proven. -Dr. Shelby Ellison, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Smokable Flower: Why You Should Grow It.

Smokable flower is set to make a big entrance for the 2020 season. The 2019 season saw many growers left with excess biomass that was difficult to sell.  This resulted in a surplus of CBD biomass and caused the price of biomass to decrease, which is why there is a lot of interest in smokable flower.  Biomass has to be refined and requires large extraction facilities with specialized equipment, which limits the potential avenues for sale.  Smokable flower only requires trimming before it is ready for sale and has a significantly larger consumer based market.  Since smokeable flower only requires the best top flowers, a majority of the crop is still available for extraction of biomass. So if the biomass market picks up again you are still in the game.  According to the Brightfield Group, a leader in data analysis of the cannabis market, the smokable hemp flower market in 2019 was worth $70.6 million dollars, up from $11.7 million in 2018.

Things to Consider

The push toward smokable flower this season will require a variety that can produce dense terminal colas and a high yield, while still remaining compliant. You won’t find that variety in last year’s genetics. With the new USDA regulations in place for the 2020 season, samples will be taken much closer to harvest than previous seasons; within 15 days from harvest. This will mean that that the sought after, “compliant” varieties of last year will need to harvested prior to reaching full maturity in order to avoid testing “hot” or above the mandated 0.3% Total THC limit.

If you are unfamiliar with how the testing process works, the USDA requires a sample from the top 1/3 of the plant where the flowers form.  This sample includes flower, stem, and leaf material.  If you are growing for biomass, your test results may very well be compliant and will be representative of your final product.  If you are looking to sell trimmed flower with the stem and leaf material removed, however, you will have to look at varieties with lower total THC.  Most of the cannabinoids, including THC, are concentrated in the flower, but when testing for biomass, the leaves, and chaff dilute the cannabinoid content of the sample, producing a compliant test. When you remove the leaves and chaff, as is done for smokable flower, you now have a more concentrated sample with higher levels of cannabinoids, including THC.  This can make your flower non-compliant and potentially unsellable.

The smokable hemp flower market follows different dynamics than the extraction market. Novelty is key, and novelty in the hemp flower market is defined by consumer preferences. Both the appearance of the flower and rich, unique flavor profiles are what makes the difference.  CBD varieties with lower total THC come with the advantage that the trimmed flowers can mature for longer in the field or greenhouse before running hot, resulting in higher quality smokeables.  Terpenes, the compounds that create the flavor bouquet, often differ in new varieties, which increases the demand for this particular smokable flower

Why You Shouldn't Grow Last Year’s Genetics.

With new federal regulations, Total THC is used as the indicator of compliance in state testing instead of delta-9 THC.  Total-THC content is the sum of delta-9 THC and THCA (corrected for its molecular weight) . Note: A test with a total THC value greater than 0.3% indicates the variety is considered “hot” and illegal.  Total CBD is a measure of cannabidiol levels within a variety. Generally Total CBD increases as Total THC increases.

Last year, North Carolina State University trialed multiple common US varieties and found that only 2 of 22 of the tested varieties had less than 0.3% Total THC content in the apical flower at harvest.

Hemp variety growing data in a spreadsheet.
Hemp variety growing data in a spreadsheet.

North Carolina State University- 2019 North Carolina Hemp Strain Testing Results – Statewide
Authors: Angela Post, Jeanine Davis, Margaret Bloomquist, Katherine Learn, Ryan Heiniger

*Note: All samples from this study were taken from biomass and collected at harvest to test for major cannabinoids (THC, CBD) and yield. Updated regulations for the 2020 season require samples to be collected within 15 days of harvest.

Almost all of the varieties trialed last season in all locations tested “hot” at full maturity. These samples that were collected were of biomass, not trimmed flower. Trimming the flower concentrates cannabinoids further. If you were to grow one of the above varieties for trimmed flower, the risk of exceeding the 0.3% total THC threshold is increased. Moreover, because the new sampling date is only 15 days before harvest even biomass tests on these varieties could run hot this year.

US Nursery and Puregene Present: Pure CBD Lite

When deciding on a variety to grow for smokable flower, you want one that remains compliant after the flower is trimmed while also producing a high yield of dried flower mass.

If you were planning on growing last year’s genetics for smokable flower, or want to maintain this profitable option, then we have a new variety that is a better alternative and will stay compliant even after the flower is trimmed. Pure CBD Lite is a fully feminized seed variety bred by Puregene AG, the global leader in cannabis research. Pure CBD Lite comes from the elite line of Pure genetics and accumulates THC slower over time, while still maintaining a nearly 25:1 CBD to THC ratio. This variety grows beautifully to consist of dense colas, perfect for smokable flower, while also producing high yields.

The following report is of Pure CBD Lite, analyzed from a sample of trimmed flower taken at the time of harvest, at which point the crop had reached full maturity.

Analytical report for Pure CBD Lite

*Note that the sample of trimmed flower remains compliant, below the mandated 0.3% Total THC threshold.

It is a proven winner in Europe where it has been certified by Agroscope and tested to the highest degree to ensure that the trimmed flower remains compliant with European regulations, which are more strict than US regulations.  Agroscope is the Swiss centre of excellence for agricultural research, and is affiliated with the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG).

Don’t gamble on last year’s varieties. Instead, you can reduce your risks, sell to additional markets and enjoy a more profitable crop. Get your order in for Pure CBD Lite to ensure you stay compliant growing smokable flower this season.