Varieties and uses of industrial hemp


Before launching ourselves to an agricultural project for the production of hemp, the first thing that we will have to think is the purpose of this hemp. Which is the destiny that we are going to give him? Which is the main product that we want to obtain?

The hemp plant offers multiple possibilities to us of use as it has been commented in previous posts: grain for feeding, fiber for textile industry, industry of the automobile, construction, biomass to produce energy and a long etcetera of uses. Nevertheless, from the point of view of the agriculturist they are 4 the main raw materials that can be obtained with the hemp:

  1. Grain/Seed
  2. Fiber
  3. Flower
  4. Remaining biomass

At the moment, in Spain, the great majority of the hemp producers make profitable their operations thanks to the diversification of products that obtain of this one. One is small operations where the sale of the flower represents, apparently, the greater percentage of income, being in a second plane the seed and the fiber. Why does this happen? Because the industrial hemp requires an important scale to be able to enter the market of the grain and the fiber, not happening the same thing with the flower (at least at this moment), that is sold and is bought by kilos instead of by tons.

Registered varieties

Hemp cultivation is subject to the cultivation of varieties registered in the EU. You can find the catalog here. In the link you will find both the approved varieties and those that have been removed from the register. It is noteworthy that two of the best known varieties (CS and Carmagnola) have been removed from the catalog, allowing them to be marketed until 30/06/2020. Apparently, the main reason is the high level of THC that it can reach. In 2013 Germany banned their cultivation for this reason (we regret that the document is only in German).

This may seem specific to hemp, but it is the case for all other agricultural species. If we want to market our production, we are obliged to use certified/registered seed.
Of the total of certified varieties, only 2 of them appear in the National Catalogue of Commercial and Protected Varieties. This means that they are the only ones that have been «designed» in Spain.

We are aware that most of our readers are thinking about the flower and we do not have good news for them. Unfortunately, the limits imposed by the European Union on THC concentration make it practically impossible to achieve stable genetics with high CBD content. There is a correlation between %THC and %CBD and until today, nobody has been able to stabilize a variety with less than 0,2% of THC which gives us a concentration of CBD above 10 %. We recommend you the reading of this article to understand the position of Europe as far as seeds are concerned.

In any case, the flower in Europe, even if it is of bad quality compared to the one which can be cultivated in Switzerland, in the United States, in Canada or in Latin America, has its market and at this moment it still maintains good prices.

We have contacted a number of important seed producers/distributors to obtain as much information as possible about the seeds in the catalog. However, we do not have information on all of them, leaving out of reach of this study a significant number of varieties that we will gradually incorporate.

Within the characterized varieties, we are going to talk about the main use. The classification has been made considering the following uses:

  • Mainly fiber: varieties with a long vegetative cycle and logically high fiber content should be chosen (Berenji et al., 2013). We will talk about the quality of the fiber in another post. As a curiosity, in dioecious cultivars (male plants and female plants), the males were pulled out because they provided the best quality fiber (Bócsa & Karus, 1998). Nevertheless, it will be necessary to consider that too long vegetative cycles will give rise to a late flowering, which can cause that the seed does not finish maturing before the temperatures lowering the yield in seed (when the two products, fiber and seed, are looked for). In addition, it should be considered that a delay in the harvest can limit a possible rotation with another crop and that the drying and retting process will be negatively affected by the drop in temperatures and the arrival of autumn rains.
  • Mainly grain (oil/flour): varieties with a shorter vegetative cycle should be chosen since the biomass is not our main objective and, furthermore, according to Faux et al. (2013) the yield is improved when early sowing is done (sowing within the frost-free period) using monoecious feminized varieties. As it happens with the fiber, the quality of the seed is determinant for the commercialization (content in fatty acids mainly). However, there are practically no publications on this subject (Kriese et al. 2004)
  • Flower: although we commented at the beginning that there are no specific varieties in Europe selected for their cannabinoid content, there are a number of varieties that are being grown for flower production. We should really talk about Flower/Fibre varieties. Unlike the cultures in which the seed and the fibre are interested, in exploitations in which we want to produce flower and fibre, we will have to think about feminized varieties and, depending on our climate, they will be able to be of long cycle or we will have to work with varieties of short cycle (in climates with especially humid autumns, and with high densities of plantation, the delay in the harvest of the flower can end up in important infections by fungi that give rise to considerable decreases).
  • Multiple: This is actually the majority use. In this group have been included all those varieties that do not stand out especially for the fiber or the grain, but that give good average values for both.
Name Climate zone Main use
8 CS all multiple
11 Carmagnola all multiple
14 Codimono south and central europe fiber
15 Dacia Secuieni north and central europe fiber
18 Dioica 88 north, south and central europe oil and flour
19 Earlina 8 FC north and central europe oil and flour
20 Eletta Campana all multiple
22 Fedora 17 north and central europe multiple
23 Felina 32 north and central europe CBD flower
26 Fibrol north and central europe fiber
27 Fibror 79 north and central europe fiber
28 Finola boreal continental and oceanic oil and flour
29 Futura 75 north, south and central europe CBD flor
31 Férimon north, south and central europe oil and flour
33 Gliana south and central europe fiber
39 KC Dora north and central europe multiple
40 KC Virtus north, south and central europe CBD flower
41 KC Zuzana north and central europe multiple
43 Kompolti north, south and central europe CBD flower
50 Markant north and central europe fiber
53 Monoica north and central europe multiple
58 Ratza north and central europe fiber
60 Santhica 27 north and central europe CBD flower
61 Santhica 70 north and central europe CBD flower
63 Silvana north and central europe fiber
67 Tiborszallasi south and central europe fiber
68 Tisza north, south and central europe CBD flower
71 Uso-31 north europe atlantic zone oil and flour
75 Zenit north and central europe multiple

The following table shows the main uses of each of the varieties consulted, as well as the climatic zone in which they show the best results. For the elaboration of the table we have taken into account the description of the seed made by the producer/distributor, as well as the opinion of several growers in Spain and experts from the EIHA (European Industrial Hemp Association).

Varieties not certified on the EU:

These are varieties that are either not certified/registered by any official body or have been registered but not for cultivation in the EU.

Many of our customers ask us about the legality of growing these seeds. The answer is very simple, it is legal to grow them as long as they are:

  • Their THC content is below 0.2%.
  • The harvested products are not marketed.

That is, they can be grown for medical/scientific purposes (with prior authorization from The Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Devices (AEMPS) and for self-consumption, but never for sale. Therefore, unless you have a license from the AEMPS, they are not varieties that we can consider commercial.

It is similar to what happens with other agricultural products, for which the Law 30/2006 of July 26, seeds and nursery plants and plant genetic resources dictates the same rule. Any agricultural product intended for sale must come from registered seeds. If, a farmer cannot select his best tomatoes to extract seeds and plant them the following year to sell those tomatoes (this issue would give for a dedicated article).