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Cannabis for different purposes November 08, 2007 3:32 PM

This is an exerpt from "Hemp: A New Crop with New Uses for North America" by Ernest Small and David Marcus. It's from 2002, but it is very informative.


Fig. 2. Cannabis sativa. This superb composite plate by artist Elmer Smith, often reproduced at a very small scale and without explanation in marijuana books, is the best scientific illustration of the hemp plant ever prepared. 1. Flowering branch of male plant. 2. Flowering branch of female plant. 3. Seedling. 4. Leaflet. 5. Cluster of male flowers. 6. Female flower, enclosed by perigonal bract. 7. Mature fruit enclosed in perigonal bract. 8. Seed (achene), showing wide face. 9. Seed, showing narrow face. 10. Stalked secretory gland. 11. Top of sessile secretory gland. 12. Long section of cystolith hair (note calcium carbonate concretion at base). Reproduced with the permission of Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

Fig. 3. Photograph of Cannabis sativa. Left, staminate (“male”) plant in flower; right, pistillate (“female”) plant in flower.Fig. 4. United States National Institute of Health, University of Mississippi marijuana plantation site, showing variation in plant size. A tall fiber-type of hemp plant is shown at left, and a short narcotic variety (identified as “Panama Gold”) at right.

There is great variation in Cannabis sativa, because of disruptive domestication for fiber, oilseed, and narcotic resin, and there are features that tend to distinguish these three cultigens (cultivated phases) from each other. Moreover, density of cultivation is used to accentuate certain architectural features. Figure 5 illustrates the divergent appearances of the basic agronomic categories of Cannabis in typical field configurations.

Fig. 5. Typical architecture of categories of cultivated Cannabis sativa. Top left: narcotic plants are generally low, highly branched, and grown well-spaced. Top right: plants grown for oilseed were traditionally well-spaced, and the plants developed medium height and strong branching. Bottom left: fiber cultivars are grown at high density, and are unbranched and very tall. Bottom center: “dual purpose” plants are grown at moderate density, tend to be slightly branched and of medium to tall height. Bottom right: some recent oilseed cultivars are grown at moderate density and are short and relatively unbranched. Degree of branching and height are determined both by the density of the plants and their genetic background.

Highly selected forms of the fiber cultigen possess features maximizing fiber production. Since the nodes tend to disrupt the length of the fiber bundles, thereby limiting quality, tall, relatively unbranched plants with long internodes have been selected. Another strategy has been to select stems that are hollow at the internodes, with limited wood, since this maximizes production of fiber in relation to supporting woody tissues. Similarly, limited seed productivity concentrates the plant’s energy into production of fiber, and fiber cultivars often have low genetic propensity for seed output. Selecting monoecious strains overcomes the problem of differential maturation times and quality of male (staminate) and female (pistillate) plants (males mature 1–3 weeks earlier). Male plants in general are taller, albeit slimmer, less robust, and less productive. Except for the troublesome characteristic of dying after anthesis, male traits are favored for fiber production, in contrast to the situation for drug strains noted below. In former, labor-intensive times, the male plants were harvested earlier than the females, to produce superior fiber. The limited branching of fiber cultivars is often compensated for by possession of large leaves with wide leaflets, which obviously increase the photosynthetic ability of the plants. Since fiber plants have not generally been selected for narcotic purposes, the level of intoxicating constituents is usually limited.

An absence of such fiber-strain traits as tallness, limited branching, long internodes, and very hollow stems, is characteristic of narcotic strains. Drug forms have historically been grown in areas south of the north-temperate zone, often close to the equator, and are photoperiodically adapted to a long season. When grown in north-temperate climates maturation is much-delayed until late fall, or the plants succumb to cold weather before they are able to produce seeds. Unlike fiber strains that have been selected to grow well at extremely high densities, drug strains tend to be less persistent when grown in high concentration (de Meijer 1994). Drug strains can be very similar in appearance to fiber strains. However, a characteristic type of narcotic plant was selected in southern Asia, particularly in India and neighboring countries. This is dioecious, short (about a meter in height), highly branched, with large leaves (i.e. wide leaflets), and it is slow to mature. The appearance is rather like a short, conical Christmas tree.

Until recent times, the cultivation of hemp primarily as an oilseed was largely unknown, except in Russia. Today, it is difficult to reconstruct the type of plant that was grown there as an oilseed, because such cultivation has essentially been abandoned. Oilseed hemp cultivars in the modern sense were not available until very recently, but some land races certainly were grown specifically for seeds in Russia. Dewey (1914) gave the fo  [ send green star]

 November 09, 2007 7:40 AM

Until recent times, the cultivation of hemp primarily as an oilseed was largely unknown, except in Russia. Today, it is difficult to reconstruct the type of plant that was grown there as an oilseed, because such cultivation has essentially been abandoned. Oilseed hemp cultivars in the modern sense were not available until very recently, but some land races certainly were grown specifically for seeds in Russia. Dewey (1914) gave the following information: “The short oil-seed hemp with slender stems, about 30 inches high, bearing compact clusters of seeds and maturing in 60 to 90 days, is of little value for fiber production, but the experimental plants, grown from seed imported from Russia, indicate that it may be valuable as an oil-seed crop to be harvested and threshed in the same manner as oil-seed flax.” Most hemp oilseed in Europe is currently obtained from so-called “dual usage” plants (employed for harvest of both stem fiber and seeds, from the same plants). Of the European dual-usage cultivars, ‘Uniko B’ and ‘Fasamo’ are particularly suited to being grown as oilseeds. Very recently, cultivars have been bred specifically for oilseed production. These include ‘Finola,’ formerly known as ‘Fin-314’ (Fig. 6) and ‘Anka’ (Fig. 7), which are relatively short, little-branched, mature early in north-temperate regions, and are ideal for high-density planting and harvest with conventional equipment. Dewey (1914) noted that a Turkish narcotic type of land race called “Smyrna” was commonly used in the early 20th century in the US to produce birdseed, because (like most narcotic types of Cannabis) it is densely branched, producing many flowers, hence seeds. While oilseed land races in northern Russia would have been short, early-maturing plants in view of the short growing season, in more southern areas oilseed landraces likely had moderate height, and were spaced more widely to allow abundant branching and seed production to develop. Until Canada replaced China in 1998 as a source of imported seeds for the US, most seeds used for various purposes in the US were sterilized and imported from China. Indeed, China remains the largest producer of hempseed. We have grown Chinese hemp land races, and these were short, branched, adapted to a very long growing season (i.e. they come into flower very slowly in response to photoperiodic induction of short days in the fall), and altogether they were rather reminiscent of Dewey’s description of Smyrna. Although similar in appearance to narcotic strains of C. sativa, the Chinese land races we grew were in fact low in intoxicating constituents, and it may well be that what Dewey thought was a narcotic strain was not. Although some forms of C. sativa have quite large seeds, until recently oilseed forms appear to have been mainly selected for a heavy yield of seeds, usually recognizable by abundant branching. Such forms are typically grown at lower densities than hemp grown only for fiber, as this promotes branching, although it should be understood that the genetic propensity for branching has been selected. Percentage or quality of oil in the seeds does not appear to have been important in the past, although selection for these traits is now being conducted. Most significantly, modern selection is occurring with regard to mechanized harvesting, particularly the ability to grow in high density as single-headed stalks with very short branches bearing considerable seed.

Fig. 6. ‘Finola,’ the first cultivar of Cannabis sativa bred exclusively for grain. (Courtesy of the breeder, J.C. Callaway, Univ. Kuopio, Finland.)Fig. 7. ‘Anka,’ the first registered North American bred cultivar of Cannabis sativa. This variety is best suited for grain production. (Courtesy of the breeder, P. Dragla, and of the Industrial Hemp Seed Development Company, Chatham, Ontario.)  [ send green star]
Here's another exerpt November 09, 2007 10:31 AM

Read the whole article here

The most widespread claim for environmental friendliness of hemp is that it has the potential to save trees that otherwise would be harvested for production of lumber and pulp. Earlier, the limitations of hemp as a pulp substitute were examined. With respect to wood products, several factors appear to favor increased use of wood substitutes, especially agricultural fibers such as hemp. Deforestation, particularly the destruction of old growth forests, and the world’s decreasing supply of wild timber resources are today major ecological concerns. Agroforestry using tree species is one useful response, but nevertheless sacrifices wild lands and biodiversity, and is less preferable than sustainable wildland forestry. The use of agricultural residues (e.g. straw bales in house construction) is an especially environmentally friendly solution to sparing trees, but material limitations restrict use. Another chief advantage of several annual fiber crops over forestry crops is relative productivity, annual fiber crops sometimes producing of the order of four times as much per unit of land. Still another important advantage is the precise control over production quantities and schedule that is possible with annual crops. In many parts of the world, tree crops are simply not a viable alternative. “By the turn of the century 3 billion people may live in areas where wood is cut faster than it grows or where fuelwood is extremely scarce” (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). “Since mid-century, lumber use has tripled, paper use has increased six-fold, and firewood use has soared as Third World populations have multiplied” (Brown et al. 1998). Insofar as hemp reduces the need to harvest trees for building materials or other products, its use as a wood substitute will tend to contribute to preserving biodiversity. Hemp may also enhance forestry management by responding to short-term fiber demand while trees reach their ideal maturation. In developing countries where fuelwood is becoming increasingly scarce and food security is a concern, the introduction of a dual-purpose crop such as hemp to meet food, shelter, and fuel needs may contribute significantly to preserving biodiversity.

The most valid claims to environmental friendliness of hemp are with respect to agricultural biocides (pesticides, fungicides, herbicides). Cannabis sativa is known to be exceptionally resistant to pests (Fig. 51), although, the degree of immunity to attacking organisms has been greatly exaggerated, with several insects and fungi specializing on hemp. Despite this, use of pesticides and fungicides on hemp is usually unnecessary, although introduction of hemp to regions should be expected to generate local problems. Cannabis sativa is also relatively resistant to weeds, and so usually requires relatively little herbicide. Fields intended for hemp use are still frequently normally cleared of weeds using herbicides, but so long as hemp is thickly seeded (as is always done when hemp is grown for fiber), the rapidly developing young plants normally shade out competing weeds.

Fig. 51. Grasshopper on hemp. Most insects cause only limited damage to hemp, and substantial insect damage is uncommon, so the use of insecticides is very rarely required.


The basic commercial options for growing hemp in North America is as a fiber plant, an oilseed crop, or for dual harvest for both seeds and fiber. Judged on experience in Canada to date, the industry is inclined to specialize on either fiber or grain, but not both. Hemp in our opinion is particularly suited to be developed as an oilseed crop in North America. The first and foremost breeding goal is to decrease the price of hempseed by creating more productive cultivars. While the breeding of hemp fiber cultivars has proceeded to the point that only slight improvements can be expected in productivity in the future, the genetic potential of hemp as an oilseed has scarcely been addressed. From the point of view of world markets, concentrating on oilseed hemp makes sense, because Europe has shown only limited interest to date in developing oilseed hemp, whereas a tradition of concentrating on profitable oilseed products is already well established in the US and Canada. Further, China’s supremacy in the production of high-quality hemp textiles at low prices will be very difficult to match, while domestic production of oilseeds can be carried out using technology that is already available. The present productivity of oilseed hemp—about 1 t/ha under good conditions, and occasional reports of 1.5 to 2 t/ha, is not yet sufficient for the crop to become competitive with North America’s major oilseeds. We suggest that an average productivity of 2 t/ha will be necessary to transform hempseed into a major oilseed, and that this breeding goal is achievable. At present, losses of 30% of the seed yields are not uncommon, so that improvements in harvesting technology should also contribute to higher yields. Hemp food products cannot escape their niche market status until the price of hempseed rivals that of other oilseeds, particularly rapeseed, flax, and sunflower. Most hemp breeding that has been conducted to date has been for fiber characteristics, so that there should be considerable improvement possible. The second breeding goal is for larger seeds, as these are more easily shelled. Third is breeding for specific seed components. Notable are the health-promoting gamma-linolenic acid; improving the amino acid spectrum of the protein; and increasing the antioxidant level, which would not only have health benefits but could increase t  [ send green star]

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