The hemp harvest in Terry County has begun and, considering there were very few acres of hemp planted this year, it will be over about as soon as it starts.
For the purposes of this particular field, combine harvesting is highly efficient due to its ability to cut a swath about 40 feet wide through a field. Combines are optimal when harvesting hemp seeds on a wide scale, but they can easily shatter seeds at moisture levels lower than 15%. Combines can also increase levels of microbial contamination if hail or rain flattens the swath of plants into the ground. So you must assess your field for swathing potential and carefully adjust your settings for optimal combine harvesting.
As the combine or swather goes through the fields, it cuts the plants off and lays them down. You can see as you look at the pictures of the laid down hemp the difference in the plants. The dryer looking plant that from the road, appears to be weeds, is actually the male plant. The greener plant with all the leaves is the female. They are both laid down to dry out a bit.
A couple of days later, the baler goes through the fields and round bales the plants left lying. These bales are then loaded onto a truck and carried to a processing facility, which in this case, is at Slaton.
The bales will be air dried at Slaton to be ready to process. Virtually every part of the hemp plant can be used.
It remains to be seen if hemp will one day be seen as a viable crop option for producers in this area. This is still very much an experimental crop for our area, with some pretty good potential for diversity for our farmers.