Blazing wildfires sweeping through California, Washington and Oregon took a toll on crops for the 2020 grow season. Millions of acres burned throughout the western states, and countless farmers faced crisis from flame retardants being sprayed across their fields, wildfires forcing evacuation, ash blocking much needed sun for finishing weeks, and an inhospitable smoky climate.
Impact on Hemp Wildfires
Wild weather hardly poses a new threat to the agricultural sector, but there’s no denying the unprecedented impact of the record wildfires that hit the West Coast this year. Flames wicked across towns decimating hemp business as they burned to the ground.
While many crops burn directly, many more experience the damaging effects of a shorter growth cycle. Smoke and ash block out essential sunlight and stunt the growth of outdoor hemp plants. Many farmers notice a subordinate yield and smaller flowers in return. As smoke covered the sun throughout September, the lack of sunlight signaled outdoor hemp plants to finish their growth cycle at least two weeks early. Flowers began to harden instead of continuing to grow to full maturity. This left farms with two options- to harvest young plants with lower yields in early October, or wait for the crops to reach maturity but risk the dangers of frost and snow.
Wildfires’ effect on hemp exceeds the agricultural realm and blazes its path into the hemp market just as unprecedentedly.
With a shortage of outdoor flowers, sun-grown hemp has become a hot commodity ( no pun intended!). But because indoor-grown cannabis will keep the market supplied for some time, the shortage of sun-grown hemp won’t have an impact on the market until March-May of next year. In return, it is likely that we will see an increase in the cost of outdoor hemp in 2021. But, the market will have to wait to better understand the full impact of hemp wildfires on the hemp industry at large.
And the flowers that do make it to the shelves? Well, those might just become the newest smokey-tasting “campfire strain”…
We suggest taking these preventative steps
What Hemp Farmers Need to Know
Because cannabis growers don’t have the same protection and disaster relief as other agricultural crops, hemp farmers should take precautions to ensure the safety of their hemp. We suggest taking these preventative steps:
- Firefighters suggest cutting fire lines around the perimeter of your grow. Farmers should cut them down to raw dirt and 40 feet wide to help stop incoming flames.
- Clear away straw mulch, prune trees, and remove any vegetation that could spread the flames.
- Farms should train employees in fire management of small fires and have some tools and tanks of water handy in case of emergency.
- Instead of a drip system for irrigation, consider using a sprinkler system. Turn the sprinkler system to face outward and maybe even put sprinklers on roofs to keep shingles wet.
- Power lines often start fires. Using a backup generator to keep sprinklers and automated systems working will come in handy if the power goes out.
- Allow firefighters access to the facility via a secure lockbox.
Will the outdoor hemp on the shelves taste a tad smokey? Will climate change be another reason for increasing indoor hemp operations?
In true 2020 fashion, we will just have to wait and see.