By Joseph Rothberger
Agricultural Hemp Manager
LCO's Agricultural Hemp Manager, Joseph Rothberger, presented a report for the General Membership Meeting held on Saturday, Sept. 24, detailing the current status of the hemp growing pilot operation. He gave his 2022 Hemp Year in Review in written form.
The following is his report and here is also a link provided to the most recent article about the operation at last year's harvest time published by the LCO News.
As we conclude our second and final growing season under theUSDA Grant, this year has presented a number of challenges to the program. As we began the year for cultivation, our priority was to relocate the location of the research plot to LCO’s University Research Farm. This location provided a better outlet for water for the plants and facilities for the staff. This also aided in our ability to hire on a Limited Term Employee to assist with cultivation.
The field was prepped with 21 rows with black cover plastic and the seedlings were acquired in late May. The first issue we had to overcome was the seedlings that were started on-site were done so with artificial lighting indoors and did not provide as strong of transplants as the year previous. This resulted in a loss of about 18%, which in turn pushed back the transplanting date almost three weeks.
During which time another issue was with the deer population trampling our row covers. This causes issues with plant moisture and weed pressure. There was also a limited number of seedlings, at a count of 400 to start, with only 330 available at the time of transplanting. There was also a reduced number of companion plants to include dill, marigolds, and clover in our companion plant blocks. On a positive note, this year we recieved a constant rainfall to the fields and the need for daily maintenance was reduced.
As the season progressed our weather was adequate for growing, and the plants albeit small, did grow to a mature size. Once established, the plants that did survive had little or no issues with pests or animals.
Samples were taken in late August and submitted to UW Madison or common viral analysis, with results still pending. As we look at September, our testing schedule with LCO Conservation was established for two main groups of plants. The first round, Sept 1st, and second round Sept 15. This was based on the growth of 95-100 days, which was 15 less than last year to try to avoid the spike in THCa which caused last year's “hot” plants to be destroyed as per the Tribal Code.
The next issues came with the mold content of the samples taken by LCO Conservation on Sept 1st. Three out of 4 of the samples could not be tested due to mold. Also the test results have not come back yet as of 21 days since samples were taken. This has created an unforeseen issue with the harvesting of the cannabis from the field. We have been in constant communication with LCO Conservation as to how to proceed.
Looking to the following year and beyond, we are considering switching from a CBD focus to a seed/fiber variety trial. However before we make this transition we are in need of amending the Tribal Code: as it currently states that outdoor cultivation only allows for feminized and female plants only, as per the Cultivator Application Agreements. It also does not allow for seeds to be saved from previous years crops to reduce the need for outside funds to be spent on the Hemp Program. I believe hemp cultivated for fiber can be an amazing resource for building materials and soil improvement.
* Research plot moved to Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University Research Farm
* License Approved 5-3-2022
* Partnered with U of I- Champaign for additional varieties to trial
* 16 different varieties were sourced for 2022 trials
* 400 total seedlings were germinated on site
* 330 transplanted into the ground June 27th
* Added a team member to assist with cultivation
* 275 plants are set to be harvested Sept. 28-29th
* No issues this year with theft
* Looking forward to 2023 cultivation, and amending Tribal Code