After an 80-year hiatus, hemp is being planted on farms throughout Pennsylvania this year.

Lancaster County used to be the epicenter of hemp production, and you could say the county is now picking up right where it left off.

I opened my Holtwood farm for a no-till CBD hemp planting demonstration on May 30.

CBD is a chemical with reputed medicinal properties produced by hemp.

The demonstration focused on planting the CBD hemp seedlings directly into a cover crop mulch.

My son, David, began the process by rolling down 4-foot tall cover crops that included hairy vetch, triticale, Austrian winter peas, winter oats, and a bit of oilseed rape.

This cover crop rolling technique dramatically reduces and can even eliminate the use of herbicides. The John Deere 6125R’s GPS was used to make perfect passes in order to come back in the exact same path to plant companion cover crops, a new technique I am testing.

A mix of 10 intentionally chosen cover crop species and a biostimulant were then strategically placed in the John Deere 1560 no-till drill.

By using the tractor’s GPS, exact placement of these products was achieved in order to correlate with the rows of hemp to be planted next.

The biostimulant was placed on either side of where the hemp transplants were to be put in the ground.

The next drill units, moving away from the future transplanted row, seeded a mix of yellow blossom sweet clover, red clover, ladino clover, Dutch white clover, and the new AberLasting clover.

These low-growing species will provide nitrogen to the hemp and will serve as pollinators later on in the summer when they are blooming.

In the row middles of the intended rows of hemp was also planted the same mix of clovers as well as several low-growing grass species — Stamina perennial ryegrass, Banfield perennial ryegrass, Wrigley 2 Chewings fescue, Cindy Lou creeping red fescue and cereal rye.

This cover crop package will enhance diversity, provide some fertility, and keep the soil covered, virtually eliminating erosion while keeping nutrients out of our water sources. Drip irrigation will mitigate any water usage of the cover crops.

The final demo was using a no-till transplanter to put the seedlings in the ground. Using the tractor’s GPS, the rows of hemp were planted exactly where they needed to be in the context of the 10 species of cover crops and biostimulant seeded minutes before.


Eric Hurlock will hit the road in just about two weeks for Lancaster Farming’s first-ever cross-country tour of hemp farms and industry events. Read more