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Pubdate: 1914 Source: 1913 Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture Author: Lyster H. Dewey, Botanist in Charge of Fiber-Plant Investigations, Bureau of Plant Industry Pages: 308-309, 335-337

Hemp requires for the best development of the plant, and also for the production of a large quantity and good quality of fiber, a rich, moist soil having good natural drainage, yet not subject to severe drought at any time during the growing season. A clay loam of rather loose texture and containing a plentiful supply of decaying vegetable matter or an alluvial deposit alkaline and not acid in reaction should be chosen for this crop.


Hemp will not grow well on stiff, impervious, clay soils, or on light sandy or gravelly soils. It will not grow well on soils that in their wild state are overgrown with either sedges or huckleberry bushes. These plants usually indicate acid soils. It will make only a poor growth on soils with a hardpan near the surface or in fields worn out by long cultivation. Clay loams or heavier soils give heavier yields of strong but coarser fiber than are obtained on sandy loams and lighter soils.


Very few of the common weeds troublesome on the farm can survive the dense shade of a good crop of hemp. If the hemp makes a short, weak growth, owing to unsuitable soil, drought, or other causes, it will have little effect in checking the growth of weeds, but a good, dense crop, 6 feet or more in height, will leave the ground practically free from weeds at harvest time. In Wisconsin, Canada thistle has been completely killed and quack-grass severely checked by one crop of hemp. In one 4-acre field in Vernon County, Wis., where Canada thistles were very thick, fully 95 per cent of the thistles were killed where the hemp attained a height of 5 feet or more, but on a dry, gravelly hillside in this same field where it grew only 2 to 3 feet high, the thistles were checked no more than they would have been in a grain crop. Some vines, like the wild morning-glory and bindweed climb up the hemp stalks and secure light enough for growth, but low-growing weeds can not live in a hemp field.


The yield of hemp fiber ranges from 400 to 2,500 pounds per acre. The average yield under good conditions is about 1,000 pounds per acre, of which about three-fourths are line fiber and one-fourth is tow. The yield per acre at different stages of preparation may be stated as follows:

Stalks: Green, freshly cut; 15,000 pounds Stalks: Dry, as cured in shock; 10,000 pounds Stalks: Dry, after dew retting; 6,000 pounds Long fiber, rough hemp; 750 pounds Tow; 250 pounds

If the 750 pounds of long fiber is hackled it will yield about 340 pounds of single-dressed hemp, 180 pounds shorts, 140 pounds fine tow, and 90 pounds hurds and waste.

The average yields in the principal hemp-producing countries of Europe, based on statements of annual average yields for 5 to 10 years, are as follows:

Russia; 358 pounds Hungary; 504 pounds Italy; 622 pounds France; 662 pounds

The yield is generally higher in both Europe and the United States in regions where machine brakes are used, but this is due, in part at least, to the better crops, for machine brakes usually accompany better farming.


The operations for raising a crop of hemp are essentially the same for raising a crop of wheat or oats up to the time of harvest, and the implements or tools required are merely a plow, disk, drill or seeder, a harrow, and a roller, such as may be found on any well-equipped farm. Estimates of the cost of these operations may therefore be based upon the cost of similar work for other crops with which all farmers are familiar. But the operations of harvesting, retting, breaking, and baling are very different from those for other farm crops in this country. The actual cost will, of course, vary with the varying conditions of different farms.

Hemp can not be economically grown in areas of less than 50 acres in any one locality so as to warrant the use of machinery for harvesting and breaking. The following general estimate is therefore given for what may be considered the smallest practical area:

Estimated cost and returns for 50 acres of hemp.

Cost: Plowing (in fall) 50 acres, $2 per acre; $100 Disking (in spring), 50 cents per acre; $25 Harrowing, 30 cents per acre; $15 Seed, 40 bushels, delivered, $4.50 per bushel; $180 Seeding, 40 cents per acre; $20 Rolling, 30 cents per acre; $15 Self-rake reaper for harvesting; $75 Cutting with reaper, $1 per acre; $50 Picking up from gavels and shocking, $1 per acre; $50 Spreading for retting, $1.50 per acre; $75 Picking up from retting swath and setting in shocks, $1.40 per acre; $70 Breaking 50,000 pounds fiber, including use of machine brake, 1.5 cents per pound; $750 Baling 125 bales (400 pounds each), including use of baling press, $1.40 per bale; $175 Marketing and miscellaneous expenses; $150 Total cost; $1,750

Returns: Long fiber, 37,500 pounds, 6 cents per pound; $2,250 Tow, 12,500 pounds, 4 cents per pound; $500 Total returns; $2,750

It is not expected that a net profit of $20 per acre, as indicated in the foregoing estimate, may be realized in all cases, but the figures given are regarded as conservative where all conditions are favorable.

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