The 2019 hemp harvest has taught the industry a great deal. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take some time to look at, listen to, and understand a few of those things the industry has taught us this year. If there’s one thing this year has proven it’s likely that a great deal of additional education is required for everyone in the space. That goes for farmers, growers, and processors alike.
Male vs Female: Why It Matters
One of the common frustrations we’ve heard this year, particularly from those who are just entering the space or exploring the idea of growing hemp, is the lack of information around male vs female plants. When working with cannabis, growers may prefer to work with one of the specific genders. The presence of male plants typically reduces the size and yield of the buds on the female plant. This happens because limited effort is required on the part of the female to source pollen from the male and become fertilized.
When no males are present, a female hemp plant will spend a great deal of energy into producing resin intended to capture pollen. It’s in the resin, produced by the trichomes, where a great deal of valuable cannabinoids reside. If you want to think of it like humans. Picture a room full of sexually frustrated women competing to be the most attractive and capture the attention of the rare male when and where he arrives. (Pollan – Botany of Desire)
When fertilized, female plants will begin producing seeds. Something that is critical for those growing the plants for grain production, but something those intending to produce plants with high cannabinoid values hope to avoid.
Sexing Your Plants: How to Tell the Difference
So how can we tell the difference? A great seed supplier should have little trouble ensuring the seed they’re providing is feminized, or blended if you prefer. If you’re unsure and hoping to determine for yourself what the sex of your plant is, there’s a quick way we can visually inspect them and determine the gender.
The simplest and most common way to determine a plant’s gender is to check for the presence of pistils or pollen sacs. A female will have tiny hair-like or thread-like pistils at her nodes, the point where the branch shoots off the stem. Contrary to females, males will produce ball-like pollen sacs. These sacs typically hang downward from the internodes opposite of the upward-facing pistils of the females.
The presence of these reproductive organs becomes more and more pronounced as time goes on and the plants mature; however, they can be noticeable as soon as 10-15 days into the flowering period. Maturity is often reached around two months after germination occurs.
As the first in our series of lessons learned from the 2019 harvest, our takeaway here is to ensure you have as good of an idea of the specific intent of your plants post-harvest as possible before putting seeds in the ground. Working with a reputable seed supplier when sourcing your seeds is a great first step. Follow that up by understanding what you’re looking for in your plants and have a plan to deal with any hiccups along the way.
READ NEXT: A Summary of the USDA Hemp Rules