Archive for June 2019 | Monthly archive page
From food to flooring, bamboo has thousands of practical uses. But when’s the last time someone brought you a bouquet of bamboo flowers? When was the last time you even saw a bamboo flower, for that matter?
Perhaps never, because bamboo flowers are both infrequent and inconspicuous. Or you may have seen a blossoming bamboo and not even realized it. No, they aren’t so exciting to look at, but bamboo flowers can be a fascinating thing to study.How often does bamboo flower?
Like most characteristics of bamboo, the answer to this question varies greatly between species. There are, after all, more than 1,200 varieties of this noble grass.
The short answer is: rarely. Bamboo flowering cycles are generally very long, often between 40 to 60 years. In some cases, more than 120 years will pass between blooms. And because the period is so long, most gardeners will only see an individual specimen flower once in their lifetime, if they’re lucky.
As a result, the flowering cycles of bamboo are not entirely well understand, and remain something of a mystery. But we do know a few things.Flowering terminology
To better understand the nature of bamboo flowers, it will be helpful to review some botanical terms and concepts.Monocarpic: This describes a plant that will only flower once and then die. This is not to be confused with an annual plant, including most grains and vegetables, who go through their whole life cycle in a single growing season. Many varieties of bamboo are monocarpic, but not all of them. Bromeliads are another example of a monocarpic plant. It may take some years for the plant to flower, and afterwards the plant dies. Polycarpic: Flowering multiple times before dying. This is the opposite of monocarpic. Gregarious flowering: Also called mass flowering or synchronous blooming, this refers to plants of a given species that all bloom at the same time, regardless of their location. This is one of the most fascinating characteristics observed in a several species of bamboo. Species that exhibit this unusual behavior are typically monocarpic. Sporadic flowering: Each specimen flowers on its own schedule, and not on a mass scale. Most bamboos flower sporadically, and most of them are polycarpic. Gregarious bamboo flowering
This exotic behavior remains one of bamboo’s greatest mysteries. As if there is some kind of alarm clock in the cells of certain bamboo species, every individual member of that species will flower at the same time. This is especially bizarre because the flowering periods are so long and irregular.
Phyllostachys bambusoides, also known as Japanese timber bamboo, is one such example. Sometimes it has a flowering interval of 130 years. Then every specimen of P. bambusoides—regardless of its location around the world—will blossom, go to seed and die.Mautam: Mass flowering crisis
Probably the most exceptional case of flowering in bamboo, or perhaps any plant species, occurs with Melocanna baccifera. In an event called Mautum, meaning “bamboo death”, every member of this bamboo species flowers and leads to a famine in the region.
In northeastern India and parts of Myanmar, this variety of bamboo covers vast areas of forest. Every 48-50 years or so, all the M. baccifera blooms, goes to seed, and sparks an unexpected environmental cataclysm. The last time it happened was in 2006.
The unfortunate series of events runs something like this. After about half a century of ordinary vegetative growth, all the bamboo across the region flowers and turns to seed. Because of the general size, shape and geographic location, the seeds of bamboo are often called bamboo rice.
Although it has little or no culinary value for humans, the sudden proliferation of bamboo rice in rural, northeast India is a great boon for the local rodent population. Rats flock to the fields to participate in this once in a lifetime feast. And as they do so, their population skyrockets.
This is all wonderful for the rats and their burgeoning families. And it’s of little consequence to the people in the area, so long as the rats are well fed. But once the bamboo rice runs out, chaos and panic ensue. Enormous numbers of hungry rats now raid the surrounding villages, decimating storehouses of grain, leading to a widespread famine.
In 1966, the Mautam occurred, and warnings from village elders were dismissed as ignorant superstition. Subsequently, crops were destroyed, many starved, and a major political uprising took place. The obvious lesson here: listen to your elders.
When the cycle returned in 2006, local officials were far better prepared. Indian army and local militia had been anticipating the Mautam for two years. Local villagers had been growing other crops, as well as fragrant plants like ginger and turmeric to help ward off the invasive rodents. Their preparations paid off, and famine was averted.Further reading
For more fun facts about bamboo, check out some of our other articles.What’s so great about bamboo? 20 Best bamboo gardens in the world 12 Common questions about bamboo
PHOTO CREDIT: Bamboo blossom (Wikipedia)
Bamboo has many amazing characteristics. And the woody grass has a reputation for being the fastest growing plant on earth. That reputation is well-deserved, because some varieties of bamboo can grow more than a meter a day, under ideal circumstances.How fast does bamboo grow, and how big does it get?
As there are more than 1000 distinct varieties of bamboo, these are difficult questions to answer. Some dwarf bamboos only get a few inches tall, and some giant timber bamboos can reach more than 100 feet in height. Of course, the timber bamboo grows much faster, but there are a number factors than come into play.Bamboo’s growth rate
According to the Guinness Book of World’s Records, bamboo is actually the fastest growing plant on earth. Although Guinness does not identify a particular species, they report a growth rate of 35 inches a day. Other sources claim that bamboo can grow more than a meter in a day.
At 35 to 40 inches a day, bamboo is indeed the fastest growing plant on earth. But there are a few things you need to understand about bamboos and their growth habit.
First of all, this rate of growth is only possible with certain varieties of bamboo. Phyllostachys, a genus of running bamboo from Southern China, includes some of the fasting-growing species. Moso Bamboo (Phyllostachys edulis) is considered one of the largest and most vigorous varieties. Phyllostachys vivax is another impressive timber bamboo.
Guadua is a tropical genus from Central and South America, often called the world’s strongest bamboo. It grows incredibly fast, often getting up to 5 or 6 inches in diameter. Then there’s Dendrocalamus, from India and Southeast Asia, which is also incredibly large, strong and fast growing.
Moreover, bamboo does not grow this fast on a regular, consistent basis. During the growing season, which is generally in the spring—although some tropical climates get two growth seasons a year—the bamboo puts out fresh shoots.Bamboo’s growth habit
If the bamboo is fully mature, at least four or five years old, it will put up maximum-sized shoots. For a month or two, these monstrous culms will skyrocket upwards until they reach their full height. The culm diameter will not get any larger after this. During the rest of the year, the bamboo may continue to bush out with more leaves and branches. But the individual bamboo culms will achieve their maximum height and girth within the short growing season.
Finally, the growing conditions are critical. Moso Bamboo, for example, is considered the fastest-growing species of temperate bamboo. Although it’s native to the subtropical areas of Southern China, Moso can grow very well in temperate climates. But in those cooler regions, it will never grow as fast and tall as it does in the heat of the subtropics.
Tropical, clumping bamboo, like Guadua and Dendrocalamus, will have a much harder time in temperate climate zone. In fact, they will be lucky to survive, let alone reach their full potential.
Temperate, running bamboos like Phyllostachys are also noteworthy for their aggressive, monopodial rhizome roots. Thankfully, they won’t spread at a rate of 2-3 feet a day, but their growth rate is formidable and something to aware of. Check out our article on running bamboos to learn more.Bamboo height
With more than a thousand varieties, it’s impossible to make a generalization about how tall bamboo will get. Moso Bamboo, again, is one of the biggest, easily exceeding 100 feet in height.
Another remarkable species is Guadua giganteus, native to Colombia and Central America, one of several varieties referred to as Giant Bamboo. This New World specimen will commonly grow 25-35 meters high, or 80-115 feet.
But according to Guinness, the prize for the world’s tallest bamboo goes to Dendrocalamus giganteus, also called Dragon Bamboo and Giant Bamboo, from Southeast Asia. Living up to its name, this enormous species has been known to get more than 50 meters high, or 164 feet.
That’s still a far cry from the Hyperion, a 380-foot tall Coastal Redwood in Northern California, but pretty astonishing for a stalk of grass. Keep in mind, a maple tree, for example, will rarely grow taller than 150 feet.Conclusions
There’s no doubt about it. The size and growth rate of certain bamboo species make them some of the most remarkable plants on earth. Growing more than a meter a day, you can actually sit and watch it grow. Grab a cold beverage (maybe with an umbrella in it), pull up a cozy rattan chair, and in 40 minutes you can see a tropical bamboo grow about an inch.
Indeed, this makes bamboo the fastest growing plant, or organism of any kind, on earth. Apart from these especially vigorous varieties of timber bamboo, the next fastest-growing plant is probably giant kelp. Macrocystis pyrifera grows a little more than two feet a day, reaching a maximum length of around 150 feet over the course of a long growing season.
Just don’t expect to see bamboo growing like this in your own garden. Not that you would want to. But unless you live in Costa Rica or Indonesia, it’s probably not going to happen. Within the U.S., you might see comparable growth rates in Hawaii or Florida. But you’re still not going to set a new world record.Further reading
To learn more about the incredible properties of bamboo, check out some of these other interesting articles.What’s so great about bamboo? Moso Bamboo: The king of grasses Growing Bamboo: A complete how-to guide
Moso Bamboo, also known as Phyllostachys edulis, is nothing new, but in recent years it has sparked a revolution in agriculture, textiles and construction.
Of the roughly 1,500 varieties of bamboo that populate the earth, it’s easy to argue that Moso Bamboo is the most important one of all. When you hear about bamboo clothing and bamboo flooring, these are products of Moso. When you see bamboo scaffolding on skyscrapers in Hong Kong and China, it’s very likely Moso. And when people speak of bamboo growing a foot or two a day, Moso is one the varieties that can actually do that.Cultivating Moso Bamboo
Native to Southern China and Taiwan, Phyllostachys edulis thrives in the warmer, subtropical climates. In these regions the plant can reach its full potential, with towering culms of 90 feet or more, and growing a couple feet a day in the growing season. But like most Phyllostachys, it can also tolerate more temperate zones. Just don’t expect it to grow to such an impressive size.
Members of the genus Phyllostachys are running bamboos, meaning that they spread and propagate by way of sprawling rhizome roots. From this complex underground root system, new culms shoot out of the ground in the growing season and quickly grow to their full height. A mature grove of Moso Bamboo will put out shoots with a 4-5 inch diameter.
Check out our in-depth article on Running Bamboo to learn more.
Once every 50 years or so, a Moso Bamboo plant will flower and produce seeds. In some varieties of bamboo, every member of a given species will flower at the same anywhere in the world. This phenomenon, known as synchronous blooming or gregarious blooming, does NOT occur with Moso. Instead, it exhibits sporadic flowering.
In many varieties of bamboo, the plant will die after it flowers and goes to seed. This is called monocarpic. This is NOT the case with Moso. A healthy stand of Moso can produce thousands of seeds and most of them will germinate, while the mother plant survives. Rats and rodents, however, will generally eat a significant portion of these tender seedlings, which tend to be only 2 mm in diameter.Can I cultivate and farm Moso Bamboo in the U.S.?
The preponderance of commercial Moso farming takes place in China, where the species is indigenous. It’s much happier in that subtropical climate. Within the U.S., the deep South probably has the best growing conditions for Moso Bamboo.
It also does particularly well in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. A company called Only Moso launched a commercial bamboo farm in Gainesville. Florida, in 2011. Some farmers grow Moso in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, where it does reasonably well. But without the extra hot summers, it does not reach its maximum height and girth.The Many Uses of Moso
The magnificent size and vigorous growth habit of Moso Bamboo makes it the perfect candidate for a wide range of practical and industrial applications. Moso from China has become especially important for the production of bamboo flooring and bamboo clothing.Bamboo Flooring
Bamboo flooring took the building industry by storm about 20 years ago, quickly becoming available from hardware stores and flooring specialists everywhere. Unlike traditional hardwoods, bamboo reaches maturity within 4-5 years, while the trees could take 20-100 years to mature. Bamboo, with its high metabolism, can also sequester about 50% more carbon than a typical forest.
In addition to the ecological benefits of bamboo, Moso also produces a very hard wood, making it an ideal material for things like flooring and cutting boards. According to the Contractor’s Guide for Green Building Materials, standard bamboo flooring has a Janka hardness rating of 1180 to 1380. This is comparable to most oak varieties, rated around 1300 to 1400. More innovative types of bamboo flooring, using a woven strand technique, have scored from 3000 all the way up to 5000.
As much as we like to advocate the use of bamboo as the environmental silver bullet, it is important to be aware of certain ecological concerns. As a laminated wood, bamboo flooring does require a urea-formaldehyde (UF) adhesive to bond together. These adhesives can off-gas and pose other environmental problems. Still, bamboo uses far less formaldehyde than other materials like particle board. And formaldehyde-free bamboo is also available now.
Another issue, when bamboo flooring exploded in popularity, was the removal of native forests in China for the purpose of cultivating commercial bamboo. This sort of deforestation has led to the destruction of natural wildlife habitat and soil erosion, and could easily outweigh any environmental benefits of bamboo. It’s important, therefore, to learn as much you as you can about your bamboo supplier, and see that they meet all the highest standards of certification.Bamboo Clothing
Remarkably hard on the one hand, bamboo can also produce a rayon fabric that is incredibly soft on the other. Shortly after the appearance of bamboo flooring, we began seeing socks, t-shirts and towels made from bamboo.
Along with the well-reported ecological benefits of bamboo—fast-growing and readily renewable without the need for pesticides and herbicides—bamboo fabric also boasts a number of advantages in performance. Most obvious is bamboo’s softness. Like cotton or any other conventional textile, bamboo can be woven into any kind of fabric. But the result is always uniquely soft, with an uncommon mix of cool silkiness and warm fuzziness.
Additionally, bamboo material is naturally anti-microbial, hypo-allergenic, odor-resistant and temperature regulating. It may sound too good to be true, but the properties of bamboo are plainly evident if you sleep on a set of bamboo sheets or wear a pair of bamboo socks two days in a row. We’ve also heard from many customers with sensitive skin disorders and serious allergy issues that bamboo is one of the only materials they can wear.
Bamboo’s very high absorbency also makes for some exceptionally nice towels. But be advised, bamboo socks and t-shirts will take a bit longer to dry for this same reason. Generally this is not a problem. If you’re keeping your carbon footprint down and using a drying rack instead of an electric dryer, just leave the clothes on the rack a little longer. If you’re traveling however, and trying to dry your clothes on a line in your hotel room overnight, bamboo might not be your best choice.
Some have expressed concern over the pulping process that goes into make viscose fabric from bamboo. In fact, caustic soda (or lye) is used to extrude the cellulose from the stalks and leaves of the bamboo before it can be spun into thread and woven into fabric.
The primary concern here is how the manufacturer disposes of this bi-product after pulping. It is possible to reuse and recycle the lye, and certain manufacturers are bound to be more conscientious than others. We have always been committed to working with the most ecologically responsible producers as possible.
Most of us who work in the bamboo industry are determined to see it being used in the most ecological way possible. It’s good to know that many have been improving the standards of cultivating and processing bamboo over the years.
Cotton, by comparison, is extremely pesticide intensive to grow, as it is very vulnerable to insects and other pests. It also requires a great amount of irrigation, because it is typically cultivated in hot, dry climates. And even organic cotton must go through a processing stage before it’s spun and woven into fabric.Phyllostachys edulis is edible
Finally, we need to talk out how Phyllostachys edulis got its name. Long before the advent of bamboo floors and bamboo underwear, Chinese foodies were making use of Moso Bamboo’s tender young shoots.
So Moso earned its botanical name from this characteristic. Actually, many varieties of bamboo have fresh culms that are edible. This species just happens to be one of the most majestic, widespread and recognizable in China. Not only that, but given the plant’s size, you can practically make a whole meal out of one shoot!
Take a look at our article on Edible Bamboo Shoots to learn more.Guadua Bamboo
If you’re looking for other varieties of bamboo that are especially useful and fast growing, Guadua angustifolia is one to watch out for. Native to Central and South America, Guadua is a clumping genus of mostly timber bamboos. They make an excellent building material, and have been used widely throughout the continent to create some very impressive structures.
For more details, have a look at our in-depth article on The best bamboos for building and construction.Further Reading
To learn more about the ecology and versatility of Moso and other species of bamboo, check out some of our other articles.What’s so great about bamboo? 10 Best varieties of Bamboo for your garden Buddha Belly: Bamboo of the highest calling Hemp vs. Bamboo: The ultimate comparison
PHOTO CREDIT: Wikipedia
Bamboo has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the fastest growing plants on earth. Indeed, some tropical varieties can grow more than a meter day in the growing season. Pull up a cozy chair and you can actually watch it grow.
Running bamboo has earned a particularly nasty reputation for its growth habits. That’s because those rhizome roots spread like crazy. Although in this case, you can’t actually watch them grow. But it’s led many gardeners to wonder whether planting bamboo might not be a good idea at all.
DISCLOSURE: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission if you click through those links and make a purchase. This helps us meet the cost of maintaining our website and producing great articles.What is a running bamboo?
Among the 90 genera and roughly 1,500 species of bamboo, we like to divide them into two simple categories. Basically, we have runners and clumpers. The most widespread genera of runners are the Phyllostachys and Pleioblastus. Runners generally perform better in temperate climates.
The distinctive characteristic of running bamboo is the vigorous rhizome root system. The monopodial rhizomes tend to grow horizontally, spreading outward and overtaking an area. Sometimes, but not always, these monopodial bamboos can spread very aggressively. They can definitely be invasive. They can tear up your lawn, crawl under fences, and become very difficult to remove.
Clumping bamboos, by contrast, are happier in the tropical and subtropical climes. Bambusa is the primary genus of clumping bamboo. Like all bamboo, clumpers also have rhizome roots, but they are what’s called sympodial. These sympodial rhizomes mostly grow close together, branching out often, to create a tight cluster of culms. It’s unlikely for a clumping bamboo to become invasive.Why would you want to plant running bamboo?
With so much potential to be invasive and disruptive, why would anyone want to plant a running bamboo? That’s a very good question. But as it turns out, there are a few good reasons to plant a runner instead of a clumper.
Definitely check out our article on the 10 Best Bamboos for your Garden.Climate
When selecting anything to plant in your garden, one of the chief factors will always be the climate. And when you think of bamboo, you probably think of places like Hawaii, Southeast Asia and Central America. In other words, the tropics. Indeed, bamboo thrives in these regions, especially the clumping varieties of bamboo.
But most of us don’t live in the tropics. And for those of us who do, there’s usually already plenty of bamboo around. But for the rest of us, we need something more adaptable. No problem. There are many varieties of bamboo indigenous to the more temperate zones of Asia, including China, Korea and Japan. And as it happens, these temperate bamboos usually belong in the running category.
The largest genus of these more temperate Chinese bamboos is Phyllostachys. They do very well in a range of climates, and they are definitely runners. Nurseries throughout most U.S. states and Europe can sell Phyllostachys and other temperate runners and feel good knowing they will probably thrive.
So planting a running bamboo actually makes a lot of sense if you live in a more temperate zone. But these runners aren’t the only varieties that can grow in a cool climate. If you’re living outside the tropics and trying to avoid planting a runner, keep an eye out for varieties of Bambusa like Oldhammi, and most any bamboo from the genus Fargesia.
You might also have a look at our article on Cold Hardy Bamboos.
NOTE: Phyllostachys is also one of the easier bamboo varieties to identify. Look for the distinctive grooves that grow along the length of the internodes, alternating from one side to the other.Fast Growing
As we have seen, bamboo’s vigorous growth habit can be a double-edged sword. But many growers are looking for something that will really display its vegetative might. Some gardeners just have a lot of respect for the great vitality and tenacity of bamboo and want to see it grow in full force. But usually they have more practical intentions, like trying to fill a large area quickly.
Bamboo makes for an excellent privacy screen, and many people are in a hurry to establish their privacy. If you want a tall hedge to grow along your fence line, bamboo is an attractive option. And if you want it to cover the property line and fill in quickly, an aggressive runner can be even more appealing.Phyllostachys nigra, a popular species of running bamboo. Note the characteristic grooves on the internodes. Aesthetic Features
In many cases, gardeners will plant bamboo for specific aesthetic features. Whether to beautify the garden or to harvest the attractive poles, striped bamboo and black bamboo are very desirable. Phyllostachys nigra, better known simply as black bamboo, is one of the most popular species of all, due to its rich, dark color. The dried poles are especially attractive for crafts and light construction.
Certain other varieties of running bamboo also have very attractive features, like long and elegant poles. And for those who enjoy combining a medley of different bamboo species, they will have a hard time completing their landscape without at least one or two runners in the mix.How can I maintain a running bamboo?
So you’ve decided to plant some running bamboo in your yard. Must you concede defeat and consign yourself to be overrun with woody grasses? Absolutely not! It’s not as easy as plucking daisies, but there are ways to contain running bamboos and keep them in check.Containers
There are numerous types of containers you can use to prevent a running bamboo from taking over your garden. Planting bamboo in a pot is certainly one option, but be aware that a running bamboo will get root bound very quickly, even in a good sized pot.
I like to use half wine barrels (or whiskey barrels, depending what part of the country you’re in.) They have a more natural look in the garden, compared to your big black plastic pots from the nursery. And they’re spacious. Even so, I find myself un-potting the bamboo almost every year to split the rootball into three or four pieces. (Another advantage of running bamboo is that it’s pretty easy to propagate.)
Keep in mind, if you place your pot directly on top of soil, the roots will quickly find their way through the drain hole and into the earth. Be sure to place a stepping stone or something under the pot, or set it on a patio. Also avoid ceramic pots, as they are liable to burst from the expanding roots. And never use a pot that gets narrower at the top; you’ll never get your bamboo out without breaking it.Root barriers
Your best bet is probably a high grade root barrier. You can order heavy duty plastic barrier and bury it around the perimeter of your bamboo area. This can be a very reliable system, but it’s not fool proof. Be sure to get the barrier at least two feet underground (unless you’re planting a dwarf variety).
Our best recommendation is the DeepRoot Bamboo Barrier, 30″ deep by 100 ft roll., which is available at Amazon.
And keep an eye on it. When they feel the urge to spread out, those monopodial rhizomes can be relentless. If there’s even the tiniest gap in your root barrier, they’ll burrow into it. And if there’s a thick layer of mulch concealing the top of the root barrier, the roots might easily crawl over it.
A lot of times, people move into a house and inherit someone else’s poorly planned bamboo garden. This could require some serious work to remove masses of roots. You can do some very heavy root pruning in this case, and then try to install a root barrier. But sometimes you just have to go Rambo: Dig a trench and fill it with concrete.Root pruning
One of the most important things you can do to keep a running bamboo under control is simply monitor it closely. Dig around the base of the plant a couple times a year and see what’s happening. You can’t always tell just by watching what the bamboo is doing above ground.
When you find bamboo rhizomes racing away from the main grove, cut them back. If you’re dealing with a mature and well established bamboo plant, this could be a serious chore. Make sure you have the right tools, including a good spade, some sharp clippers, and a compact hand saw.
You might even need a Sawsall or other reciprocating saw, to really get in there. We recommend Makita’s Cordless Recipro Saw Kit, sold complete with saw blades and an extra battery, and available for quick delivery from Amazon.Further Reading
To learn more about the wonders of bamboo in your garden and around the world, be sure to take a look at some of these other articles.What’s so great about bamboo? How to Grow Bamboo: The Ultimate Guide 20 Best Bamboo Gardens in the World Bamboo Symbols in Mythology and Folklore
PHOTO CREDIT: Purely Pacha
After nearly a century prohibition, new hemp laws are finally sweeping across the nation. In 1937, the federal government passed the Marihuana Tax Act, effectively banning the cultivation and use of both industrial hemp and marijuana.
Highly regulated hemp farming continued on a small scale through World War II, but after the 1950s, American hemp farming disappeared completely. The last hemp cultivation had taken place in the state of Wisconsin.
The first signs of hope came when President Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill. This piece of legislation acknowledged the potential of industrial hemp as a commercial crop and created a framework for legal cultivation. Following its passage, many states set up pilot programs allowing farmers to grow hemp on a limited, experimental scale.
But things really changed when President Trump signed the Hemp Farming Act in 2018.What is the Hemp Farming Act?
The federal government passed the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, as part of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill. The new legislation finally removed industrial hemp from the Schedule 1 controlled substances. By definition, Schedule 1 drugs—including heroin and cocaine—are dangerous, addictive and without medicinal value.
At last, American farmers can grow hemp, or cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, like any other agricultural crop. After more than 80 years, the feds have finally acknowledged what many of us already knew, that hemp is not a drug at all.
See our in-depth article on the Difference between Hemp and Marijuana.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel introduced the legislation in spring 2018. His home state of Kentucky had already adopted similar rules for hemp, becoming one of the first states to do so.
Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act, most U.S. states have gone ahead and adopted their own rules concerning the previously controversial crop. A staple of American agriculture is coming back into the fold. And the possibilities for textiles, building materials, biomass and petroleum-free plastics are enormous.
Non-psychoactive hemp is also being recognized for its medicinal benefits. While low in THC, some varieties of hemp produce significant levels of something else called CBD. Although CBD won’t get you high, it is being used widely to treat pain and anxiety and help with sleeping disorders. And with demand for CBD extracts skyrocketing, the interest in hemp cultivation has never been greater.Where are the best and worst states to grow hemp?
As far as climate and terrain, two of the best states for hemp farming are South Dakota and Nebraska. But unfortunately, lawmakers in those states are moving at a glacial pace to open up this cash crop to their local farmers. Idaho and New Hampshire have also bucked the trend and kept hemp illegal, despite federal law.
Without a doubt, Kentucky leads the nation in hemp farming, research and legislation. Montana and Colorado are also seizing the moment and planting vast acres of hemp on their open plains. Colorado also has some of the most liberal laws on the cultivation and possession of recreational marijuana.What do the new hemp regulations look like in your state? Hemp in Alabama
In early 2019, Alabama approved 180 applications from farmers wanting to grow hemp in the state. More than 150 of them went ahead and paid the $1000 permit fee to obtain the state license.
Alabama farmers planted their first hemp crop of the century this spring. They are hopeful that the high demand for (non-psychoactive) CBD oil will make hemp a far more profitable crop that anything else that grows in the region. State regulators will test crops for THC levels and eradicate any cannabis plants that do not comply.Hemp in Alaska
Alaska passed a pilot program for hemp farming in April 2018. Currently, however, farmers need special permission from the state to plant a field of hemp. In fact, under state law, it’s easier for Alaskans to grow recreational marijuana than industrial hemp. But with the tremendous interest in hemp farming, authorities are working quickly to adopt policies for the commercial crop.Hemp in Arizona
As of June 1, 2019, farmers in Arizona can legally plant a field of hemp. The Arizona Hemp Program is issuing licenses to about 200 state residents who intend to cultivate the closely regulated crop.
A background check is required, and licenses are good for one year. The Arizona Department of Agriculture has complete details and application forms on its website.Hemp in Arkansas
The Arkansas State Plant Board has given licenses to four large agricultural companies to cultivate industrial hemp in the state. Policy makers are still trying to iron out the details with federal regulators, while farmers are working closely with companies in Kentucky to obtain seeds for high-quality, low-THC (less than 0.3%) hemp. Additional hemp growers are hoping to obtain licenses as well, pending state approval.Hemp in California
As of April 2019, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is now issuing applications from farmers wanting a state license to cultivate industrial hemp. However, it will be up to local county officials to review and approve the applications. Several counties continue to restrict or prohibit hemp farming, so it’s not yet clear how it will play out.
NOTE: Looking at which California counties maintain restrictions on hemp cultivation, I have my own theories. Some of the those counties include the state’s best-known marijuana producers, Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity to name a few. Industrial hemp cultivation could be very disruptive to producing high-grade marijuana, because one strain of cannabis sativa can easily pollenate the other. So perhaps there is an effort to protect marijuana producers from contamination by hemp pollen.Hemp in Colorado
The Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Industrial Hemp Program regulates the cultivation of industrial hemp. Recreational marijuana, cannabis with more than 0.3% THC, is also legal in the state but separately regulated.
Colorado got a head start when they launched a pilot hemp farming program in 2014 and planted about 1,800 acres of hemp. Today there are more than 30,000 acres of hemp agriculture in the state. And following the U.S. Farm Bill, the numbers are rising quickly.
Most of these hemp farmers are hoping to cash in on the rush for CBD oil. Meanwhile, many small farmers are concerned that industrial scale hemp farming will drive them out of business.Hemp in Connecticut
This spring, the state approved a pilot program to allow Connecticut farmers to begin growing hemp. About 200 farmers in the state have expressed an interest. The state is still clarifying the regulations for the production and sale of hemp products with the federal government. They expect to be growing hemp by this summer.Hemp in Delaware
Delaware launched a pilot program for hemp farmers in 2018, allowing hemp cultivation for research purposes. Delaware currently classifies hemp like a grain. State officials are seeking approval for the USDA to begin farming hemp commercially.Hemp in Florida
Florida has a pilot program that allows hemp farming for research through two of the state’s public universities, UF and Florida A&M. New legislation passed in May will go into effect in July and allow commercial hemp farming in the state for the first time. Farmers will have to apply to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for a license to cultivate.Hemp in Georgia
Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill in May to allow hemp cultivation in Georgia. Kemp had earlier signed a bill allowing for medical marijuana in the state. Hemp farmers will be required to obtain a permit through the state and pay a $50 per acre fee to farm the industrial wonder crop.Hemp in Hawaii
Hawaii launched a pilot program for hemp farming in the Rainbow State last year. Currently, the only legal way to cultivate hemp in Hawaii is under a license from the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture. Licensed growers can obtain seeds from outside the state, pending approval from the HDOA. The state places no restrictions on the processing, manufacturing and sale of industrial hemp products.Hemp in Idaho
Hemp is still illegal in Idaho, in spite of federal law. A bill that appeared to enjoy unanimous support promised to revise the law, but then died in session. State lawmakers have expressed an intent to get hemp legalized in time for the 2020 growing season.Hemp in Illinois
Illinois passed its own Industrial Hemp Act last year, and as of spring 2019, farmers can now obtain a state license for cultivation. Just in time for this year’s planting season.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture charges a $100 application fee for each farm. Upon approval, there is an additional license fee of $1,000 for a three-year license, $700 for a two-year license, or $375 for a one-year license.Hemp in Indiana
Governor Eric Holcomb has just signed a new law into effect which makes commercial hemp farming legal in Indiana. The law, which had unanimous support in the legislature, will go into effect in July. Most plans for hemp cultivation are still for research at this point. Farmers will need to obtain a license from the state in order to complywith the law.Hemp in Iowa
Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill in May to make hemp farming legal in Iowa. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship are continuing to work with the USDA to draft regulations. Farmers hope to be planting hemp in the state next spring.Hemp in Kansas
This year, the Kansas State Research and Extension began growing industrial hemp as part of an experimental pilot program. Farmers can also apply for a research growing license from the Kansas Department of Agriculture. With more research on the best hemp varieties for Kansas’s growing conditions, new regulations and guidelines will be drafted.Hemp in Kentucky
Historically the greatest hemp producing state in the country, Kentucky has led the way in revising national hemp policies. According to the State Agriculture Commissioner, the Kentucky has issued more than 1000 permits to farmers cultivating over 42,000 acres of hemp in 2019. This is nearly a threefold increase in acreage since 2018.
Growers must have a license from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) to farm hemp. The KDA carefully screens all applicants and regularly inspects farms and processing facilities. It is illegal to possess live or unprocessed hemp without a license from the KDA.Hemp in Louisiana
The Louisiana Senate approved legislation in June 2019 to legalize hemp production and create regulations for businesses selling CBD products around the state. Specific regulations will be drafted and submitted to the USDA by November 1. State lawmakers describe Louisiana’s hemp program as one of the strictest in the country.Hemp in Maine
Maine’s Department of Agriculture is currently reviewing applications to grow industrial hemp for the 2019 growing season. A new law, passed earlier this year, recognizes CBD oil as a food product rather than a medicine. Maine farmers who receive a state license will be allowed to cultivate hemp for CBD oil and industrial uses.Hemp in Maryland
A pilot program through the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) allows farmers in the state to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes. The MDA will screen all applicants carefully and inspect the growing facilities for compliance.
The state will be updating its hemp regulations this year to comply with new federal laws and expand hemp farming activities.Hemp in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Hemp Program issues licenses and oversees all industrial hemp production in the state as part of a pilot program. The state issued 13 such licenses in 2018.
Currently, state laws regarding the definition of “agricultural” land do not allow the cultivation of hemp. This means hemp can only be grown on non-agricultural land, which is subject to higher tax rates. Until these laws are amended, commercial hemp farming will not really be economically viable in Massachusetts.Hemp in Michigan
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has a pilot program allowing eligible farmers to cultivate hemp in the state. Voters approved the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act in November 2018. Michigan lawmakers are working on legislation to expand hemp farming in compliance with the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, which passed one month after the state ballot measure.
Currently, farmers must register with the state and obtain a license. The grower registration fee is $100. An additional license to process and handle hemp costs $1,350.Hemp in Minnesota
Minnesota currently has a pilot program for hemp farmers. Interested growers can apply to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) for a permit that is good for one year. State lawmakers are in the process of developing legislation for permanent hemp farming. But until the USDA can review and approve the state proposal, hemp farmers will need a permit through the pilot program.Hemp in Mississippi
Mississippi voted earlier this year to remove industrial hemp from the state’s list of controlled substances. At this time the state has no policies in place to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp. State legislators are waiting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to announce specific regulations for hemp production.Hemp in Missouri
The Missouri Department of Agriculture has issued only two licenses to cultivate and process industrial hemp. Currently hemp growers are permitted to cultivate up to 40 acres.
Farmers and the general public are now pushing to make hemp growing easier in the state where hemp was once a major staple. The new law, SB 482, has widespread support and would ease restrictions, remove acreage limits, and make it easier for universities to conduct research.Hemp in Montana
Montana has been one of the most progressive states in terms of industrial hemp legislation. The state recognizes hemp, with less than 0.3% THC, as a commercial crop that any farmer can grow. Last year they cultivated more than 20,000 acres of hemp.
Farmers must apply to the Montana Department of Agriculture for a hemp growing permit. A Conditional Grower license permits farmers to purchase seed and plant it in the ground. Following further review, a Production license allows the farmer to grow, transport and sell hemp.Non-psychoactive hemp is an excellent source of fiber and oil. Hemp in Nebraska
The Nebraska Hemp Act is currently under discussion in a state that has the ideal growing conditions for industrial hemp. Anywhere that grows corn is great for hemp. But currently, hemp cultivation is illegal in Nebraska, despite passage of the Federal Hemp Farming Act last year.Hemp in Nevada
The Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) has implemented an Industrial Hemp Program open to eligible farmers in the state. The NDA is currently issuing permits to growers and regulating production and sale of hemp seed, oil and other products. The NDA has not placed a limit on the size of hemp farming areas.Hemp in New Hampshire
A bill now moving through the New Hampshire State Legislature proposes to legalize industrial hemp, and appears to have broad support. If passed, the new new law would effectively put the state policy in line with new federal policy based on the 2018 Farm Bill signed by Donald Trump in December.
As for now, industrial hemp remains illegal in New Hampshire. Governor Sununu has spoken out strongly against marijuana, but has said little on the subject of its fibrous cousin.Hemp in New Jersey
The so-called Garden State passed a hemp bill last November, one month before the passage of the 2018 US Farm Bill. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) recognizes the legality of hemp as a commercial, industrial crop, but is awaiting more specific guidelines from the USDA. According to its website, the NJDA is giving the issue the “highest priority”.Hemp in New Mexico
In April, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a new bill that makes hemp production legal in the state of New Mexico. While the Department of Health has been overseeing the production of medical marijuana, the Department of Agriculture is regulating industrial hemp.
So far most hemp farming has been experimental, but the new legislation should widen the playing field. Native American communities will also develop their own regulations and licensing procedures.Hemp in New York
Following the passage of the Farm Bill last year, the state of New York is expanding its Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program. The NY Department of Agriculture and Markets is encouraging agricultural cooperatives to submit letters of interest to participate in the research pilot program.
Farmers can also apply to grow hemp for seed, fiber and CBD oil. Application forms are available online.Hemp in North Carolina
North Carolina continues to operate under the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program authorized in 2014. State lawmakers are eagerly awaiting more coherent hemp growing guidelines pursuant to the 2018 Farm Bill.
In the meantime, farmers can apply through the NC Dept. of Agriculture. The initial fee for all license holders is $250. The annual fees are $250 for 49 acres or less, and $500 for 50 acres or more. All license holders are required to pay an additional fee of $2/acre or $2/square foot of greenhouse, whichever is applicable. Licensed growers are subject to inspection and THC testing, which they will also have to pay for.Hemp in North Dakota
Still waiting for more specific guidelines from the USDA, the state of North Dakota continues to operate its industrial hemp pilot program based on the 2014 rules.
Farmers interested in growing hemp can apply for a permit through the state. Applicants must undergo a background check and be part of an agricultural or academic research program.Hemp in Ohio
In March the Ohio Senate voted unanimously to legalize the cultivation and production of industrial hemp in the Buckeye State. Ohio law now follows federal law, removing hemp products from the list of controlled substances.
The next step will be to create a licensing program to be regulated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Ohio farmers hope to see a program in place by the 2020 planting season.Hemp in Oklahoma
In April, Governor Kevin Stitt signed legislation establishing guidelines for commercial hemp production in the state of Oklahoma. A pilot program will remain in effect for the remainder of this year.
The department of agriculture expects to see roughly 1,300 acres of hemp planted in 2019, about three times what was planted in 2018. Beginning in 2020, farmers in Oklahoma will move towards full-scale commercial production.Hemp in Oregon
The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is developing a program to monitor and regulate industrial hemp production in the state. The ODA issues growing licenses on an annual basis, and interested farmers can visit the website to fill out an application.
Until further notice, the state of Oregon is following the tentative guidelines of the 2018 Farm Bill.Hemp in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has followed the federal government’s move to legalize industrial hemp in 2018. The PA Department of Agriculture has formulated a growing program which includes mandatory permitting and monitoring.
The new program removes much of the cumbersome framework which growers, processors and marketers needed to navigate. Farmers interested in Pennsylvania’s program and the permitting application can visit the PDA website.Hemp in Rhode Island
No one expects Rhode Island to become the nation’s number one producer of industrial hemp. But the state implemented a pilot program last fall and now has one licensed hemp farmer. A second company has applied for a license to process CBD, so the two could soon find themselves working together. It’s a small world when you’re living in Rhode Island.Hemp in South Carolina
Prior to the 2018 Farm Bill, South Carolina had a pilot program that licensed only about 40 farmers to grow hemp in the state. In February, the state senate passed a new bill that will lift those tight restrictions and greatly expand hemp farming.
The Dept. of Agriculture will continue to review applications for hemp farmers and put a limit on the acreage of hemp they can plant. But anyone who passes the background check should be able to obtain a hemp growing license in the state.Hemp in South Dakota
South Dakota legislators passed a bill to legalize industrial hemp earlier this year, but Governor Kristi Noem vetoed the bill and the state Senate was unable to override the veto. Most lawmakers who opposed the legislation expressed concern over not being able to distinguish hemp from marijuana. So South Dakota remains one of a handful of states that have not approved the commercial crop.Hemp in Tennessee
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture continues to issue licenses through its industrial hemp pilot program. But since the passage of the 2018 US Farm Bill, the state has greatly expanded its hemp cultivation. More than 2,600 Tennessee farmers have licenses to grow hemp this year.
Interested famers can apply for a license from the state. All growers are required to have a license, but hemp processors are not.Hemp in Texas
House Bill 1325 proposes to make industrial hemp and hemp-derived extracts legal in the Lone Star State. The bill appears to have broad support in both chambers of government, but the Texas lawmakers seem to be dragging their feet on the issue. Currently there is no pilot program for hemp farming of any kind in the state.Hemp in Utah
In December 2018, Utah legalized industrial hemp and possession of the hemp extract CBD. Utah residents no longer need a registration card from the department of health to possess CBD oil. But those interested in cultivating hemp will need a license from the department of agriculture.
Applications for hemp growing licenses are available at the Utah Dept. of Agriculture website. Utah State University is currently conducting extensive research to determine the optimal strain of cannabis with the highest levels of CBD but less than 0.3% THC.Hemp in Vermont
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (AAFM) recognizes hemp with less than 0.3% THC as an agricultural product. The agency is currently establishing guidelines to regulate the cultivation, production and sale of hemp and hemp related products in the state. These rules will also address standards and expectations for record keeping, reporting, testing, and labeling, and include enforcement provisions as outlined by both state and federal law.Hemp in Virginia
As of March 2019, changes to the Virginia Industrial Hemp Law have removed the restriction that hemp only be grown for research purposes. Registered growers can now cultivate hemp commercially in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Applications and complete details concerning the Industrial Hemp Grower Registration are available on Virginia’s government website. There is an application fee of $50.Hemp in Washington
Prior to 2018, Washington State had a pilot program for hemp farmers, consistent with the 2014 Farm Bill. With the passage of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, that state now accepts hemp as a legal, commercial crop.
The Washington Department of Agriculture (WSDA) will continue to issue permits to hemp growers. But there will no longer be a research element requirement. The WSDA is in the process of establishing new guidelines that will comply with the latest federal statutes.Hemp in West Virginia
West Virginia’s Industrial Hemp Development Act authorizes hemp as a commercial, agricultural product, while recognizing the need to strictly regulate marijuana with more than 0.3% THC.
Individuals can apply to the state for a commercial hemp growing license. Applicants must submit to a background check and clearly describe the area they intend to cultivate. Universities and institutes of higher learning can also obtain hemp growing licenses for research purposes.Hemp in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) continues to run a hemp farming pilot program based on 2014 federal law.
Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, interest in the program has blossomed. More than 2000 individuals and businesses applied for hemp growing and processing permits for 2019. In 2018, the DATCP issued a total of 247 grower licenses and 100 processor licenses.Hemp in Wyoming
At the bottom of the list, alphabetically if not politically, Wyoming remains one of the last states to lift its prohibition against hemp farming. Situated between Colorado and Montana, two of America’s largest hemp producers, Wyoming is in a perfect position to launch a competitive hemp program.
With the passage of HB171 in March, Wyoming lawmakers are now establishing new policies to get the hemp industry off the ground. The state plans to start issuing hemp farming permits in accordance with USDA regulations, but not in time for the 2019 planting season.Further Reading What’s the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana Hemp vs. Bamboo: The Ultimate Comparison