Knowing when to harvest hemp for optimal CBD potency could be the difference of a few thousand dollars per pound of biomass. According to North Carolina State University’s Agricultural Extension program, a one percent difference in CBD content among 1,000 pounds of biomass equals a crop value difference of roughly $20,000 on the open market. Therefore, to reap the most return on your hemp seed investment, it’s essential to harvest hemp for optimal CBD potency on an exact schedule.
When to Harvest Hemp for Optimal CBD Potency
There are some visual cues to indicate when a hemp CBD crop is nearing harvest time. Most notably, the trichomes, or tiny mushroom-like resin glands that coat hemp flowers, will change from crystal clear to a milky white color. Though this method to determine harvest time may be sufficient for small-scale grow operations, extensive, commercial cultivation facilities will find better results by testing their crops for potency.
To be clear, test facilities look for more than cannabinoid levels including pests, mildew, and other contaminants – but it is the cannabinoid content that determines if a crop is ready for harvest (or the garbage can if its THC content is too high). Some states require lab tests before harvest anyway; check local legislation for proper hemp harvesting practices. Generally, most outdoor hemp CBD crops are ready to harvest in mid- to late-August through some strains won’t reach full potency until mid-September.
Harvest Schedule Limits
Regardless of what tests indicate, if an outdoor growing season approaches its end, it may be time to harvest. Though hemp plants are resilient, they cannot withstand harsh weather conditions. A hard frost will surely kill the crop and make it nearly impossible to collect CBD from its buds. Likewise, hemp CBD should be harvested before hurricane season to avoid damaging or washing away valuable terpenes and prevent the plant from becoming too saturated to cure correctly.
Finally, consider labor time when determining when to harvest hemp for optimal CBD potency. Remember that CBD content drops drastically after reaching its peak. This includes the time it takes for the product to cure before selling or extracting from it. Also, note that CBD hemp is usually harvested by hand to reduce contaminants and potency loss. There are no machines available to collect CBD hemp efficiently yet. Therefore, the more abundant the staff, the more timely the harvest. Small-scale operations should maintain crops of 2 acres or less. Alternatively, they can stagger crop planting schedules to allow for an extended harvest season.
Curing for Continued Cannabinoid Production
Whether the intention is to sell hemp flower or CBD extracts, the hemp curing process is vital for optimal product quality and potency. If plants are not adequately cured, they may turn moldy or trap harsh or unnecessary plant matter within the buds. Inadequate cures lower product quality and thus, the crop’s overall market value.
Hemp CBD requires more precise cultivation practices than industrial hemp. Indeed, when growing hemp for CBD, timing is everything.
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6 thoughts on “When to Harvest Hemp for Optimal CBD Potency”
Great topic! Thanks for your article but it is a little unclear…so you are saying to harvest as soon as the trikes turn milky? You want NO amber trichomes? I am guessing it is better to harvest early instead of late?
Thank you again!
Hi, Brooke. Thanks for the question.
Milky trichomes are the first visual cue indicating that hemp buds are reaching maturity. Some amber coloring is okay; it just means that the trichomes are beginning to degrade. Likewise, some clear trichs are okay; it just means they aren’t quite mature yet. A generous coat of milky trichomes suggests that the buds are at their prime for potency.
Hi Abby, great article!
Any tips for harvesting a high cbd strain so that we end up with the highest cbd level and lowest thc level?
Thank you, Joe!
Regarding the best time to harvest for high CBD and low THC, there really isn’t an easy solution other than to grow high-quality feminized seeds and to have your crops tested regularly for potency.
Bear in mind that cannabinoids like CBD and THC mature at roughly the same rate. Specifically, CBGa converts into either THCa, CBDa, or CBCa via an enzymatic conversion process as the plant grows. (This conversion only happens while the is alive; most of these enzymatic conversions cease within 10 minutes after harvest.) Whether CBGa converts into THCa, CBDa, or CBCa primarily depends on its genetics more so than its growing environment.
This brings me to my next point. Because feminized seeds are produced by stressing a female (thus omitting the need for a second parent), the seeds will only contain their mother’s genetics. As such, if the mother produces high-CBD/low-THC strains, so will her children (as opposed to the countless genetic variables that come with “regular” seeds). Thus, you can verify the cannabinoid content of a feminized hemp seed by viewing the Certificate of Analysis on the product page.
Having said that, there are a few things you can do to promote high CBD levels in your hemp crop. For example, studies suggest that high moisture levels and/or cool soil can stunt CBD production. To encourage better CBD production, we recommend using about 25-30 inches of water per growing season and maintaining temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees on most days if possible. Likewise, insufficient lighting can lower hemp CBD output, so make sure your girls have a sunny place to live.
I hope this helps. Let us know if you have any more questions.
I am currently growing Dinamed cbd+ to make high cbd oil. Can I send wet bud to the lab to be tested for potency. I thought that there would only be CBDa in bud which would first need to be decarbed into cbd.
Thanks for this quick information!
I am a home grower, starting out with 90 ended up with 60 beautiful fun to watch grow plants. I am still confused when to harvest. I’ve seen the beautiful tricomes that when you enlarge them they look like fairy land, according to this article I should have harvested a couple weeks ago, but those tricomes are still there and the burgundy on the leaves and the lower larger leaves are yellowing.
I was told to wait until this happens but that little fairy land is dwindling. I’m afraid I’ve lost potency.
Its suppose to rain tomorrow and no hot days for a week, so I’m harvesting today.
Do you think i may have waited too long?