Rising Fertilizer Costs Are Causing Issues for Hemp Farmers

Farming

Like most things around the country, fertilizer costs have gone way up recently. Since hemp farmers need this fertilizer to grow they are faced with difficult decisions. These rising costs are also causing hemp farmers to think outside the box and look at alternative, more sustainable farming methods. 

In a normal growing season, the American Farm Bureau Federation estimates that fertilizer makes up approximately 15% of costs for farmers. But in recent years things are different. In the past two years, farmers have seen things like nitrogen double or triple in price. Hemp farmers, especially on smaller farms, already had tight profit margins. A price increase like that is threatening their livelihoods. 

 This has hemp farmers across the country looking for affordable alternatives. There are more sustainable options such as animal manure and compost teas. But even these are difficult to come by because farmers across the board are facing the same issues. It’s not just hemp farmers who are in need of fertilizers. 

Could Hemp Farmers Use Less Fertilizer?

A logical question and the cheapest option for hemp farmers. Could they simply use less fertilizer? This would save on cost but it would also reduce the supply shortage and make their farming methods more environmentally friendly at the same time.

Some experts would say that cannabis farmers could definitely use less fertilizer on their crops. Bruce Bugbee is a professor of environmental plant physiology at Utah State University. According to Prof. Bugbee “cannabis growers are famous for overfertilizing with phosphorus”. 

This means that these farmers are actually applying more fertilizer than a plant can actually use in an efficient manner. Not only does this cost the farmer more money, but it also adds to the supply shortage as well as causes more pollution in the runoff.

While this sounds good on the surface it doesn’t always translate exactly according to plan in the real world. It certainly helps if cannabis growers can better understand how the crop metabolizes and utilizes fertilizer. But when it comes down to it the farmers need to see results. If their experience tells them that using more fertilizer produces a more vibrant crop then that is the direction they will go.

Other Fertilization Options

Biochar is a fixed carbon. It can be added into the soil and in some cases reduce the amount of fertilizer required by up to 50%. The biochar binds nutrients to the roots and then releases those nutrients to the plant. A big benefit of biochar is that it can six times its own weight in water. This allows the biochar to hold on to the nutrients without them being washed away and wasted.

There is still a need for more biochar and producers are working to keep up with the demand. But there is an alternative that some farmers are looking into. Growers can actually make their own biochar. The catch is that they have to utilize their own hemp crop to make the biochar. All they need is hemp and a kiln.

This forces the farmers to make an important decision. They have to determine if it is more cost-effective to utilize their own crop to make biochar as a fertilizer or pay inflated pricing to buy fertilizer. On the surface, it seems counterintuitive to use your money crop to make fertilizer. But given the difficult situation farmers are finding themselves in at the moment it may actually make more sense.

Conclusion

When it comes right down to it the most innovative growers will likely end up in the best positions in the years to come. Fertilizer prices over the past few years have been increasing and we are now starting to see widespread inflation across the board. It does not appear that this price pressure will be going away anytime soon.

Not to mention any other costs that farmers incur such as diesel fuel to run their equipment. Energy prices are beginning to rise to astronomical levels that will also erode at any profit margin for growers.

These are difficult times for a lot of people and hemp farmers are feeling the pinch. Finding alternative and cheaper methods of fertilizing and cultivating their crops is going to be a necessity if they plan to stay in business in the long run.

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