Report on Australian Hemp Trials from James Davis to Joe Hickey
Roberts Ck. Rd.
January 15, 1996
Dear Fellow Farmer,
I have been trialling fibre hemp this season and am delighted to confirm that
it is a very clean and easy crop to grow. It takes about 60 days from
seeding to harvest and should yield around three tonne of milled fibre per
hectar. We are expecting to get around $700 per tonne for the fibre. On a
commercial scale we estimate that it will cost around $260 per tonne to
produce. The crop requires fertile, well drained soils and irrigation,
although the first crop received 125mm of rainfall and we only had to apply
75mm of irrigation. That means the crop requires less water than wheat to
produce a comparable yield for a product worth twice as much.
We could expect to grow at least two crops per year and probably three making
it more profitable than even tobacco.
We cultivated the soil to a fine seed bed and sowed on the flat. The first
crop successfully smothered all weeds including dock, summer grass, wild
raddish and Datura. A corn crop planted next to the hemp did NOT survive the
In the latter stages of growth the flower heads attracted Heliothus
caterpillars but no treatment was necessary prior to harvest.
For a fast growing crop, fertiliser is essential and hemp is no exception.
We are developing a milling machine and apart from this, fibre hemp can be
cultivated and harvested with normal farm equipment.
I look forward to growing this environmentally friendly and potentially
profitable crop and hope you will join me in this exciting venture.
Fibre Hemp Grower
THE CLARKE CONSORTIUM
INDUSTRIAL HEMP FIELD DAY
ROBERTS CK. RD.
23 January, 1996
The Field Day includes a detailed inspection of the industrial hemp and
discussion on the trial of varieties, growing technique, processing and
marketing. There will be displays of hemp products and opportunities for
potential growers to talk with marketers and end users.
Jim is the agronomist and farmer who has planned and grown the trials of
industrial hemp. He has a long and successful career in research, education
and crop production and is well experienced to conduct trials into the
growing and marketing of new crops.
Sam is a research officer with Agriculture Victoria and has been instrumental
in the bringing together of research, farming and marketing interests to
achieve the trialing of industrial hemp in North and Central Victoria. He
has played a major role in the liaison with the various government
departments involved in issuing the growing permits.
Hamish is a horticultural undergraduate at Melbourne University (Burnley
Campus) and has performed all the monitoring, data collection and analysis
activities of the program. He has been conducting a number of experiments
relating to the processing requirements of hemp.
Adrian is a professional lobbyist and was responsible for bringing about the
situation that has allowed trial permits to be issued and this crop to be
grown. He has been active in developing Australian and export markets for
hemp at varying stages of processing
Cannabis sativa is day length sensitive normally requiring 12 hours of
uninterrupted darkness to initiate flowering.
Five French and four Eastern European varieties were provided for trial. The
varieties were to provide a range of maturity dates.
French varieties European varieties
Ferimon 12 Early Beniko
Fedora 19 Early Bialobrzeskie
Felina 34 Mid-Late Kompolti-TC
Fedrina 74 Late Secuini
Futura 77 Late
Seed thickly (50-80kg per ha) and grow to 1.5 to 3 m in height.
Drill seed at 2-3cm deep and in 10-18cm rows.
Sow when soil temperatures reach 18-20 degrees.
Methods of application- Flood; Sprinkle; Cannon; Trickle.
We used Cannon sprinkler.
Pests & Disease:
Caterpillars; locusts; aphids; white fly; Phytophthora; leaf diseases; birds;
rabbits; kangaroos; rodents are all pests and diseases to be considered.
Cut and windrow; leave to ret in field; bale of stock prior to storage and
delivery to factory.
4-7 weeks of cutting and windrowing; 3-4 weeks of baling.
5 to 20 tonnes. Average U.K. trials 10 tonne/ha.
Commercial crops average 6 tonne/ha.
Achievements at "The Aspens", Porepunkah.
The French varieties were sown on October 28, 1995 at 80kg per ha in a split
plot randomized trial with six replicates. The second part of the trial was
sown on November 28, 1995. The four eastern European varieties were sown in
a supplementary randomised trial with three replicates.
The ground was ripped rotary hoed and cultivated three weeks prior to sowing.
Two tonne/ha of lime was incorporated with 100kg of Nitrogen 40kg of
Phosphorus and 40kg of potassium as a blend of Pivot, DAP, Ammonium Nitrate
and Muriate of Potash.
No herbicides were used.
The crop was sown with a cone seeder (specially developed for trials by
Agriculture Victoria). Soil temperature was 14 degrees. There was good
sub-soil moisture following excellent spring rains. Fifteen mm of irrigation
was applied after seeding and germination occurred in five days.
125 mm of rain fell on the crop and a further 60 mm of irrigation was applied
The crop grew rapidly, achieving 5 cm per day after thirty days, to a
harvestable height of 1.8m. All weeds were suppressed by the crop.
The time of harvest was determined by flowering (a requirement of the permit
was to harvest before seedset).
Ag Vic. sampled the crop at flowering for forensic analysis, the subsequent
results of which showed less than 0.3% THC.
Harvesting was carried out on December 28, 1995. Because of the plot size
and split nature of the trial, brush cutters were used to fell the crop. The
produce from each plot was picked up by hand and weighed.
Samples were taken for dry matter analysis and the results from this activity
used to calculate the production per hectare.
There was very little difference between all of the French varieties with
some favour being attributed to Felina.
Average yields were around 11 tonnes per ha of dry matter translating to
marketable commodity of seven (7) tones/ha.
No significant pests or diseases were observed. Heliothus caterpillars
appeared on the flowering heads just before harvest but did not require any
Economics per tonne per ha
Grow, harvest, manage and secure $190 $1,330
Harvesting & Storage Cost $ 50 $ 350
Total cost/ha based on 7 tonne yield $240 $1,680
Farm gate price required for whole stalk $450 $3,160
CULTIVATION OF FIBRE HEMP
TRIALS AND TRIBULATION FOR THE CLARKE HEMP CONSORTIUM
Industrial Hemp is produced from annual plant (Cannabis Sativa) and can be
processed into a number of products ranging from textiles, paper and
construction materials from the outer bark (fibre) to furniture, paints and
plastics from the hurd or core and lubricants, food and medicines from the
Combinations of the whole plant can be manufactured into a mulch mat with
wide spread uses in the landscape gardening, land reclamation and pet care
Although hemp has been cultivated around the world for millennia, modern day
attention to the crop has been limited to Asian and Eastern European
Currently the growing of Cannabis sativa is illegal in Australia and most
other western nations with the notable exceptions of France, Holland, England
In late 1995 the Victorian Government issued a number of permits to various
commercial and regional groups to conduct trials on the growing of industrial
hemp. Sites were chosen for their security and suitability to hemp growing.
The judgement on suitability was based on growing conditions known to be
successful overseas and in Tasmania where trials have been going on for three
The North East region of Victoria fits the prescribe growing conditions so we
proceeded to incorporate the crop into a summer cropping. Following are the
agronomic requirements specified for industrial hemp and our results.
Agronomic Specification for Industrial Hemp
Climate & Environment:
Frost susceptible, high humidity increases fungal attack. Wind and heavy
rain damages crops but need moderated wind to enhance fibre strength.
Deep rooted crop-providing a good disease break and improving soil structure.
120 day crop with critical harvest period.
Rabbits and insects attack Hemp.
Retting required before harvest.
Soils & Seedbed Preparation
Well drained alluvial sandy loam - pH 6.5-7
High organic matter
High Nitrogen demand (120 kg/ha)
High Phosphorus demand in early stages (120 kg/ha)
Moderate Potassium (160 kg/ha)
Cultivate to a fine tilth and pre-drill fertiliser. Herbicide usage - pre