DELAVAN, Ill.–There’s a different plant growing in central Illinois now.
WMBD’s Matt Sheehan went to the Diekhoff Farm in Delavan to learn about the process of growing industrial hemp.
There’s a big difference between the industrial hemp David Diekhoff is growing at his farm, and marijuana.
From the way it’s grown, to the way it’s used.
Diekhoff planted 2,000 seeds in May, and now the plants are nearly 7-8 feet tall.
In order for it to be classified as industrial hemp, it has to be under .3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This is Diekhoff’s first year growing industrial hemp.
While there are many uses for it, he wants to focus on CBD oil.
“There really aren’t any facilities locally that can process the plants for seed or for fiber, so we’ve decided to go for the CBD oil,” Diekhoff said.
Once harvested, Diekhoff will sell his crop to a processor who will eventually put his product into stores.
“They’ll have to go through a distributor. I won’t sell this directly, that’s not my plan to sell this to individual people or anything. The processor I will use will extract the oil and then sell it,” Diekhoff said.
Diekhoff has to notify the Illinois Department of Agriculture one month before he plans to harvest.
They’ll take a sample of his crop and make sure it is not above the .3% THC level.
“It’ll be hand harvested. A one acre field like that, we estimate could take maybe 10 people, about 4 days to harvest this. We’ll go in, cut the plant’s off at the base, and then we’ll take them up here to dry for 10 days to 2 weeks.”
During World War II, Diekhoffs’ grandfather grew industrial hemp for the fiber, which was used for rope.
“This is a new crop. It’s not very often farmers are being able to try a whole new different crop. It hasn’t been done since the 40s here,” said Diekhoff.
The farm currently has about 900 plants. Diekhoff says by his plants being outside, they will produce nearly 3-4 times more flowers than plants kept inside. While he planted the seeds in May, he officially moved them outside in mid-June.
“We’re hoping to get maybe 3-4 pounds on some of these smaller plants. Of the flower, that’s kind of the yield we’re hoping to get. Some of the bigger plants we may be able to get 4-5 pounds of flower from,” Diekhoff said.
Diekhoff used non-feminized seeds, as male hemp plants can be harmful to flower production.
“For CBD, we do not want any male plants in here. A few weeks ago we had to make sure there weren’t any male plants that would pollinate the females. What we’re after is the bud, and if it gets pollinated there will be seeds in that bud and that decreases the amount of CBD,” Diekhoff added.
“If I was to do it again, I think I’d probably want to do the feminized seed. It’s a lot more expensive, but I think that would cut down on our labor that’s required to go through the fields everyday just to make sure there aren’t any male plants out there,” Diekhoff said.
Diekhoff says some people have driven by and taken pictures next to his plants for fun.
“You don’t see many fields growing out in the open, and right out here at an intersection. We put up some signs to discourage anybody from coming out to get it because it’s industrial hemp. What we’re trying to minimize in this field is the THC,” Diekhoff said.
If the Department of Agriculture approves Diekhoff’s plants, his products will solely be used for CBD oil.
But one day, he says he hopes to be able to use his crop for swine feed and dog food.
Diekhoff said samples of his plant were being taken today to check the levels and he hopes to harvest his field in about four weeks.