Pubdate: May, 1918
Source: Bulletin 293 - Wisconsin's Hemp Industry. Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Author: A. H. Wright
Pages: This is an excerpt of the entire report. ". . ." indicates that text has been omitted.



Hemp has been grown in Wisconsin for ten years. It has been found that hemp can be grown very successfully in the state, that the climate and certain soils of Wisconsin are particularly suited to the crop, and that the development of labor saving machinery has made the hemp industry one of far reaching importance. Pages 3 to 6.

Several hundred acres must be grown in a vicinity to make hemp production profitable. Cooperative growing is necessary. The state hemp association is stabilizing the industry in the state. Pages 6 to 9.

Wisconsin is the second largest hemp producing state in the Union. The principal centers of production are Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Dodge, and Racine Counties. Pages 9 to 13.

Hemp fiber is a national necessity. In addition to its important use for wrapping cords of all kinds, it is now being used for such vital purposes as thread for sewing army shoes and harness, as caulking in battle ships, and for binder twine. Page 13 to 15.

Hemp should be grown on fertile soil. Poor soils are not suitable. Hemp is not hard on land, for it removes less plant food than many other farm crops. It improves the physical condition of the soil and is a successful crop for smothering quack grass and Canada thistles. Pages 15 to 20.

Fiber hemp does not mature seed in Wisconsin; consequently, seed for planting is principally obtained from Kentucky. The seed weighs 44 pounds to the bushel and 40 pounds are required to plant an acre. Pages 20 to 24.

Hemp is drilled in a well-prepared seed bed, in the spring, and requires no further attention until it is ready to harvest in September.

Hemp is harvested with a special harvesting machine which spreads the stalks in a thin windrow. After remaining in the windrow several weeks, the stalks are tied into bundles, shocked, and stacked. Pages 24 to 32.

The dry, cured hemp stalks are hauled to a breaking mill. Here the fiber is removed from the woody portion of the stalks. To perform this separation of the fiber, especially constructed and equipped hemp mills are necessary. Wisconsin now has nine of these mills. Pages 32 to 38.

Large yields of hemp fiber are obtained in Wisconsin, averaging 1,200 pounds an acre. The cost of producing the crop is from $8 to $11 more an acre than for small grain crops. The gross returns average $75 an acre. With the advent of modern machinery, hemp can be produced just as easily as corn. Hand labor is no longer necessary and as a result, the hemp industry in Wisconsin is firmly established. Pages 38 to 46.


Wisconsin's Hemp Industry

Of the 42,000 acres of hemp grown in the United States in 1917, Wisconsin grew 7,000. Among the several states growing hemp, Wisconsin ranks second in acreage and production in fiber.

Large areas in Wisconsin are admirably suited to hemp culture, and a firmly established dairy industry helps to insure the continued productiveness of the soil.

The climate of Wisconsin is particularly suited to the production of dewretted fiber of good strength and high quality. The fall months are cool and moist, which makes it possible to ret the crop without scorching or over-retting, an item of vital importance in the production of good fiber.

The yields of fiber obtained in this state have been entirely satisfactory, ranging from 1,000 to over 1,500 pounds to the acre; the quality of Wisconsin's hemp fiber is equal to that produced in any other state; and our farmers have received profitable returns from the culture of the crop.

In the improvement of machinery for handling the crop one of the most serious problems of the industry is being solved. Hand labor is now unnecessary in handling Wisconsin's hemp crop. It is harvested by special machinery, and especially constructed and equipped mills are established in the state for separating the fiber from the stalks. In fact, Wisconsin now has over 70 per cent of the total number of hemp mills in the United States.

Hemp has been demonstrated to be the best smother crop for assisting in the eradication of quack grass and Canada thistles.


. . .


In 1908 six acres were grown on the asylum farm at Mendota and three acres on the prison farm at Waupun by the Agronomy department of the Wisconsin Experiment Station in cooperation with the Office of Fiber Investigations of the United States Department of Agriculture. The results were so promising that the investigational work was rapidly increased during 1909, 1910, and 1911. During these years fields were grown at Mendota, Waupun, and Viroqua. At each of these points good results were obtained. At Waupun in 1911 the hemp was grown on land badly infested with quack grass, and in spite of an unfavorable season a yield of 2,100 pounds of fiber to the acre was obtained, and the quack grass was practically destroyed. The results were so encouraging that several neighboring farmers became interested, and in 1912 grew a total of 125 acres. Since that time hemp has been grown in that vicinity every year as a commercial crop. During the last few years, the industry extended chiefly from Waupun to Brandon and westward through the region between Fairwater and Markesan.

To prove that hemp could be grown in Wisconsin was an important undertaking, but the great problem was to obtain power machinery in order that hand methods could be eliminated. When the work with hemp was begun in Wisconsin, there were no satisfactory machines for harvesting, spreading, binding, or breaking. All of these processes were performed by hand. Due to such methods, the hemp industry in the United States had all but disappeared. As it was realized from the very beginning of the work in Wisconsin that no permanent progress could be made so long as it was necessary to depend upon hand labor, immediate attention was given to solving the problem of power machinery. Nearly every kind of hemp machine was studied and tested. The obstacles were great, but through the cooperation of experienced hemp men and one large harvesting machinery company, this problem has been nearly solved. The hemp crop can now be handled entirely by machinery.

Hemp is now of firm footing in Wisconsin; the big obstacles have been overcome, but the final success of the new industry depends upon the kind of judgment used in its further development.



The production of hemp fiber is an item of vital importance in carrying on the work towards winning the war. Wisconsin is at the present time the most promising state for the further development of this industry.

Wisconsin hemp is now used in sewing the shoes worn by American soldiers and hemp fiber is at the present time the only suitable fiber available in sufficient quantities for this purpose. It is also used as cordage in ship building, and hemp tow is the best available material for calking vessels. During the coming year hemp will be used in the manufacture of binder twine and to eke out the scant supply of jute for covering cotton bales.

L. H. Dewey,
Fiber Investigations,
United States Department of Agriculture.



Community interest is essential to the successful production of hemp. One farmer in a community, without the cooperation of his neighbors, will fail if he attempts to grow hemp. Machinery for handling the crop is expensive, and without machinery little or nothing can be accomplished. In this state central breaking mills are necessary. These mills cost from $10,000 to more than $50,000, depending upon the capacity and equipment. Of course a sufficient acreage must be grown in a community to justify the erection of such a mill. The first year there should be at least 300 acres with reasonable assurance of from 500 to 750 acres in successive years. This means that the production of hemp must be concentrated in definite centers, to give assurance of sufficient raw material to make the operation of mills profitable.


. . .


The stable growth which the hemp industry has made in Wisconsin is due considerably to organized effort. At the very beginning of the industry at Waupun, an organization known as the Rock River Hemp Growers' association was formed. This association was considerably responsible for guiding the new industry through the experimental stage. After the crop expanded and became of state-wide importance, a state association was formed. This association is known as the Wisconsin Hemp Order. It was organized at Ripon on October 18, 1917, and is affiliated with the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Association. The object of the Hemp Order is to promote the general welfare of the hemp industry in the state. Its membership is composed of hemp growers and hemp mill operators. Anyone in the state interested in the growing and handling of hemp is eligible to membership.



In Wisconsin hemp is grown chiefly on the dark prairie loams and, to some extent, on the gray silt loams of the timbered sections. The leading hemp producing counties are now Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Dodge, and Racine. The principal towns around which hemp is now grown are Waupun, Brandon, Fairwater, Markesan, Iron Ridge, Union Grove, Picketts, and Milton. Small acreages were grown in 1917 at Waterloo, Brownsville, Randolph, Fond du Lac, Oak Center, Oak Grove, and Baldwin.

In the United States, previous to the Civil War, the chief centers of hemp production were Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois. From the close of the Civil War until 1912, nearly all the hemp in the United States was grown in Kentucky. At the present time (1918), hemp is grown for fiber in Kentucky, Wisconsin, California, North Dakota, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, South Dakota, Michigan, Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois. Of these states the most important are Kentucky, Wisconsin, and California.


. . .


Accurate data on the world's acreage and production of hemp cannot be obtained, but fairly accurate figures on the acreage, production, and consumption of raw hemp fiber in the United States are available.


 Averages by years



Total Used

















































. . .

The acreage of hemp in the United States has varied from year to year in about the same degree as has the production of fiber. Acreage in different states is shown in Table II.

The 41,000 acres of hemp in the United States in 1917 was an increase of more than 100 per cent over that of 1916, the greatest increase of any year in the history of the American hemp industry.

Previous to 1915 the great bulk of the American hemp acreage was in Kentucky, but during 1915, 1916, and 1917 the acreage in other states has been rapidly increasing.















North Dakota












South Dakota





















It is evident that there has been a tremendous increase in acreage during the last three years, especially during 1917. Just how permanent this large increase will be, it is impossible to forecast, but in those states where natural conditions of soil and climate are favorable and where thorough preparations have been made for growing and handling the crop, there is every reason to believe that hemp production is a permanent industry.



Hemp is grown for its seed, for medicine, and for its fiber. In the United States it is important as a fiber crop only.


. . .


Wisconsin is in great need of a variety of good fiber hemp that will mature seed in this climate. With that object in view, the Agronomy Department of the Wisconsin Experiment Station in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture began breeding experiments with hemp in 1912. An attempt was made to develop by selection an early maturing strain from Minnesota No. 8. A more uniform fiber type was obtained so far as general characters were concerned, but little or no progress was made in increasing early maturity, although the selection was continued without interruption for five years.

Since 1916 work with selecting and improving hemp has been materially increased. The results thus far obtained indicate that the various strains or varieties from Italy are the most promising for Wisconsin. The Italian variety known as the Ferrara has been grown for two years and many selections made. Enough seed was obtained from the 1917 plots to plats five acres of fiber hemp. This seed was sent out this spring (1918) for a commercial trial. If it produces a satisfactory yield and quality of fiber, the station will rapidly increase the supply of seed of that variety and will intensify the work of selection.

Another strain of hemp obtained from the United States of Office of Fiber Investigations has shown much promise. It is the result of a cross between the Ferrara (Italian) and the Minnesota No. 8. By another year enough seed of that variety will be available for distribution over the state for a commercial test.

For the present, Wisconsin must depend upon other states for hempseed, but it is believed possible, from the results thus far obtained, to discover or develop by breeding a desirable strain that will mature seed in this state.



Hemp is adapted to the humid sections of the temperate zones, but certain varieties, such as the birdseed forms, grow extensively rather far north in Russia and mature in 60 to 90 days. Hemp for seed requires approximately five months of favorable weather to mature, which necessitates a growing season of 175 days or more. Hemp for fiber will mature in four months, which means that so far as length of season is concerned, hemp for fiber can be grown practically anywhere in the United States.

Hemp is grown to some extent in semitropical regions for oil or drugs, but its natural habitat is in regions of temperate climate, and it is not grown for fiber outside of the temperate zone.

Humid conditions are necessary for the production of hemp fiber. Seed can be matured to some extent in regions of sparse rainfall, but the regions in the United States where hemp has been successfully grown for fiber have a rainfall of 30 inches or more annually.

The climate in Wisconsin is ideal for the production of dewretted hemp. The falls are cool and fairly moist so that the green hemp can be spread out for retting as soon as it is harvested without any danger of its being scorched or otherwise injured by the sun. As a result, when reasonably well handled, Wisconsin fiber is generally soft and pliable, and possesses considerable "nature," and it has been in great demand among manufactures.


. . .


Hemp that is suitable for fiber does not mature seed in Wisconsin; consequently no Wisconsin varieties have been established. A great deal of attention is being given by the Experiment Station to the development of a variety that will mature seed in this state and some progress has been made. The hemp that has been grown so far comes from Kentucky seed.

There are three fairly distinct types of hemp: that grown for fiber, that for birdseed and oil, and that for drugs. The fiber type is comparatively tall and slender, sparsely branched, with long internodes and distinctly hollow stems. The birdseed type is short, greatly branched, with short internodes, and nearly solid stems. The drug type is similar to the birdseed type, but the leaves of the female plants are more waxy or resinous, the foliage more dense, and the stems more nearly solid. Both the birdseed type and the drug type are unsuited for fiber production and should not be grown in Wisconsin.

The varieties of fiber hemp grown in the United States are known largely by the name of the country or place from which the seed was originally obtained. As a result we have such names as Chinese hemp, Japanese hemp, Russian hemp and American or Kentucky hemp. More specific names have been given to varieties tested and developed in the United States. The more important of these are Minnesota No. 8, Keijo, Malanyu, Hankow - all of Chinese origin; Ferrara or Bologna, Carmagnola, Itamington, Carymington, Ferramington - all of Italian origin; Tochigi and Hiroschima - both of Japanese origin.

From tests made of hemp from practically every country (Tests made by the U.S. Office of Fiber Investigations.) it is evident that the best fiber producing kinds are from China, Japan, Hungary, and Italy. It should be remembered, however, that not all hemp in those countries produces good fiber, for there are undesirable varieties grown in each of those countries. Since the desirable fiber varieties, from China, Japan, and Hungary, require from 150 to 160 days of favorable weather to mature seed they will not produce seed in commercial quantities in Wisconsin. Of the early-maturing varieties, those from Italy are the only promising ones. They will mature seed in Wisconsin in from 130 to 140 days, being fully 20 days earlier than the late-maturing varieties. Generally, hemp from Russia, India, France, Chile, Turkey, Arabia, and Africa is not desirable for fiber production.

Until a more satisfactory type or variety of hemp is obtained, the Wisconsin growers should use the Chinese type, commonly known as Kentucky or Minnesota No. 8. As a rule, foreign importations should be strictly avoided. Occasional lots from foreign countries might be very satisfactory, but the chances of getting the wrong type are very great. No one can tell by examining hempseed to what type or variety it belongs.



Since the Civil War the production of hempseed has been almost entirely limited to the bottoms of the Kentucky River and its tributaries. In Kentucky some upland hempseed is produced each year, but its production is generally unprofitable and the amount grown of little consequence. In 1917 several thousand bushels of seed were produced outside of Kentucky, principally in California, Ohio, and Kansas. While hemp for fiber is a successful crop in the extreme northern states and in southern Canada, hempseed seemingly must be produced in sections farther south.

That Wisconsin farmers must depend upon Kentucky River bottom growers to produce seed is most unfortunate, and before a dependable supply of seed can be obtained it will be necessary to have it produced elsewhere, unless there is a radical change in the manner of handling and selling seed in Kentucky.

During the last few years the price of hempseed has been unstable. This condition of the market has not been due to a lack of seed to supply the demand, for each year several thousand bushels of seed have been held over, but it has been largely due to a complete lack of organization and to the activity of seed speculators. The price that the grower of fiber has been compelled to pay for seed has often been unreasonable, and such prices, together with the very unstable condition of the market, are seriously injuring the hemp industry, not only in Wisconsin but throughout the whole United States. The future safety and permanency of the industry in Wisconsin demands that a new and dependable source of seed be obtained. The Experiment Station in cooperation with the United States Office of Fiber Investigations has investigated prospective sections for establishing new centers of hempseed production and such work will be vigorously promoted.


. . .


On fertile soils, hemp is the best smother crop for all kinds of weeds. Wherever hemp has been grown in America it has left the soil freer from weeds than has any other crop. In Wisconsin hemp has proved to be the most satisfactory smother crop for quack grass and Canada thistles. Early experiments that showed the value of hemp as a smother crop led Wisconsin farmers to grow it on a commercial scale. A large acreage is still seeded to hemp each year on soils infested with quack grass and Canada thistles.

Too many people have the idea that land infested with quack or thistles can be plowed in the spring, harrowed, and seeded to hemp, and that the hemp will entirely destroy these weeds. In very favorable seasons, and under the best conditions, quack and thistles might be overcome by such a method, but experience has shown repeatedly that hemp planted on quack grass or Canada thistle land where no attention has previously been paid to subduing these weeds, will fail both to smother out the weeds and to produce a satisfactory growth of hemp. It is highly important, therefore, that soils that are so infested be prepared properly.

Weed infested lands should be plowed in July or August of the year preceding the planting of hemp. The plowed land should be cultivated with the spring-tooth harrow every week until further growth of the weeds is prevented by the freezing of the soil. If there are many loosened roots, remove them with the hayrake, leave them in windrows, and burn them.

Use heavy applications of well-rotted manure, plowed under in the fall or as a top-dressing in the spring. Early in the spring the soil should be worked into a good seed bed, and if quack and thistles appear, they should be thoroughly subdued with a good sharp disk. If necessary, follow the disk with a spring-tooth harrow. Keep the weeds down to the very time the hemp is seeded. If the spring is cold and wet it is advisable to delay planting until the soil is sufficiently warm to insure immediate germination of the seed. On such weed infested land, seeding can be delayed until the first of June, though ordinarily earlier planting is preferable.



Though hemp escapes from cultivation and occasionally appears from year to year as a volunteer plant, it does not become a weed. It may continue to grow in fence corners, roadsides, and other waste places, but it seldom, if ever, persists in cultivated fields.

Wisconsin hemp is, as yet, entirely free from attacks by insects and diseases. Not one report of injuries to the crop from insects or plant diseases has been received. The chief enemy to hemp in Kentucky is a parasitic plant known as the "branched broom rape," but this parasite has not appeared in Wisconsin.


. . .


Outside of the United States hemp is still harvested by hand, and until the last few years hand harvesting has been generally practiced in America. Even now much of the Kentucky crop is harvested by negroes with a hand hemp-hook. Several machines have been devised for harvesting the crop, but the first successful machine and the only one considerably used previous to 1917 was the self-rake reaper. This machine does very satisfactory work, but it leaves the stalks in bundles or gavels which must be spread out by hand in thin layers or swaths. In 1917 a machine especially devised for harvesting hemp was placed on the market. This machine not only cuts hemp, but spreads it at the same time, leaving the stalks in an even swath. The work is done much better than by hand as the butts are more even and there is less crossing and tangling of the stalks. As an experimental machine it has done exceptionally well, and there is no question but that it will be widely used and will be a great factor in placing the hemp industry on a permanent basis.


. . .


. . .

POWER BRAKES. The great problem of breaking hemp in Wisconsin is now practically solved. Power brakes are established and doing very satisfactory work.

The first successful brake tested in this state has been used for several years by the Rock River Hemp Mills at Waupun. It was originally intended as a portable machine, but the idea of moving it from one farm to another has been given up and for the last two years it has been housed in a breaking mill, to which the hemp stalks are hauled.

The majority of the breaking machines now in use in Wisconsin are of the fluted roller type.

Another type of brake is now being tried out near Brandon. The breaking is done by means of fluted rolls, but instead of the stalks being fed end-wise, as in the case of the other fluted roller machines, they are fed to the rolls at an angle and by means of a specially devised feeding table. This machine has much promise but is still in the experimental stage. Many other types of brakes have been tested in this and other states, but thus far they have not proved to be as satisfactory as the fluted roll brakes.



Previous to the last few years, all dewretted hemp has been broken out in the field with portable hand or power brakes. Such a method necessitated little or no hauling. Under the modern plan of central plants which house the breaking machinery, it is necessary to haul the retted and cured stalks over distances varying from less than a mile to several miles. Just how far hemp can be hauled profitably will depend upon the condition of the roads and the price obtained. Generally speaking, two horses will draw from 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of cured stalks, which represents the yield of one-half acre of average hemp. If the roads are reasonably good, hemp can be hauled profitably as far as five to seven miles. In Wisconsin it has sometimes been hauled ten miles.

Hauling is by no means as expensive as it is generally thought to be, and it is certainly better to draw the stalks several miles and deliver them to a central breaking plant than to break them in the field with portable machines and undergo the long delays which invariably result from unfavorable weather.



The great advance made in the production of rough hemp fiber has come largely as a result of the development of the central breaking mill. The several mills now operating in this and other states have been very successful and there is every reason to believe that the principle of breaking hemp in fully equipped plants is correct, and that it marks permanent progress in the development of the hemp industry.

The modern hemp mills, several of which are now established in Wisconsin, consist of a receiving room, dry kilns, breaking room with brakes, scutchers and balers, boiler room, and engine and fan room. The receiving room is not only used for receiving the stalks but is generally used for storing sufficient hemp stalks to insure continuous operation of the mill during periods of unfavorable weather which prevent the delivery of stalks from fields and stack yards.

From the receiving room the stalks are conducted through the dry kilns, where the excess moisture is removed by means of a hot air blast. The thoroughly dried stalks are then fed to the breaking rolls where they are reduced to a crushed mass. This mass of broken stalks passes over a series of shakers by which most of the loose hurds are separated from the fiber, and is then conducted between the scutching wheels for more complete removal of hurds.

The fiber, which is then fairly clean, is twisted into coarse hands and baled. The baled fiber is the final product of the hemp mill and is known commercially as rough fiber. As such it is sold to cordage and spinning mills.

Hemp breaking mills are now in operation in Wisconsin at Waupun, Alto, Brandon, Fairwater (2 mills), Markesan (2 mills), Union Grove, and Iron Ridge. Arrangements have been made for erecting others at Milton, and Picketts.

Outside of Wisconsin there are but seven fully equipped and successfully operating mills. Wisconsin has, therefore, more hemp mills than all the other states combined.



After hemp stalks are dried and broken the woody part, called hurds, must be separated from the fiber; this process is called scutching. Before modern power brakes were used, all scutching was done by hand; the stalks were broken and uncleaned fiber whipped over the brake and shaken until it was free from hurds.

In Wisconsin, where machine brakes are used, the cleaning is done with power scutchers. These scutchers consist of from two to four large cylinders, on the outside surface of which there are wooden slats. The cylinders are stationary and revolve toward each other. The uncleaned fiber is conducted between these wheels and held firmly in the center by means of a clamp-conveyor. As the fiber passes between the scutching cylinders the hurds are combed out. A device for off-setting the hemp in the clamp-conveyor is necessary to clean the middle portion of the fiber, and scutchers with such a device are now successfully used.



The yields of hemp in Wisconsin have been good. The average of the state for the last several years has been higher than the average yields of Kentucky and equal to those obtained in any other state except California.

The yields of rough fiber in Wisconsin have usually ranged from 800 to 1,400 pounds to the acre. The average for the state in 1916 was estimated at 1,200 pounds and yields of as high as 2,100 pounds are on record. In 1917 a considerable acreage was planted on unsuitable soil, which reduced the average for the state to 1,100 pounds. Good yields have always been obtained in Wisconsin wherever the crop was planted on fertile and well-prepared soil.

For the sake of comparison the following estimate of acre yields in the leading hemp producing states is given: -




Pounds to the acre














Proportion of line and tow. The statements in Table III on yields are made in terms of total rough fiber, but it should be remembered that the total fiber includes both the long fibers, called line or long line, and the short, tangled fibers, called tow. The line is worth from two to three times as much as the tow, and the larger the percentage of line fiber obtained, the more valuable the product. Regardless of how carefully hemp is handled, there will be some tow produced. In Wisconsin the mills usually produce 10 to 25 per cent tow and 75 to 90 per cent line. The amount of tow produced depends upon how thoroughly it is cleaned by the scutchers, how carefully the stalks are handled and how well they have been retted. Stalks under four feet in length will produce fiber that is practically all tow, and if the stalks have been under-retted, a very high percentage of tow will result. Tangled and unevenly butted stalks will also produce a high percentage of tow. If hemp is properly handled both by the grower and throughout the breaking process, there should result not over 10 to 15 per cent of tow.

One thousand pounds of Wisconsin's rough fiber will yield from 800 to 900 pounds of line, and from 100 to 200 pounds of tow. An average hemp crop in Wisconsin will yield three tons of well-retted and dried stalks to the acre. To produce such a yield the stand of hemp must be even, the growth regular, and the average height six and one-half feet. The three tons of dry, retted stalks will produce, on the average, 20 per cent by weight of rough fiber. A crop of hemp, therefore, that produces three tons of dry, retted stalks to the acre will give a yield of 1,200 pounds of rough fiber.

Green hemp stalks, at the time they are harvested, contain approximately 60 per cent more water than when they are retted and dry. Consequently a yield of three tons of dry, retted stalks represents a yield of seven and one-half tons of green material.



Yield to the acre in pounds
Green stalks

Dry, retted stalks

Total fiber

Rough, long fiber





It is impossible to arrive at accurate estimates of the cost of producing hemp, for in hemp as in the production of any other crop, the factors determining cost differ on each farm. In order to provide a general idea of the cost of producing hemp, the following statements, based on dependable data, are given.

Hemp is seeded in the spring. The land must be thoroughly prepared, and consequently, the cost of preparing the seed bed will be somewhat greater than for other spring seeded crops.

Hemp is seeded broadcast, as are most small grain crops. The cost of seeding, therefore, will be practically the same as for oats, barley, or wheat.

Hempseed is now (1917-18) expensive, ranging from $7 to $10 a bushel. Since a bushel is required to the acre, the seed will cost from $7 to $10 an acre, or an average of $8.50. It is evident that seed for the hemp crop is an expensive item compared with seed for planting most other farm crops.

After hemp is seeded, no cultivation or other attention is necessary until it is ready to harvest. In this respect the cost of production is figured on the same basis as for small grains.

The cost of harvesting will depend upon what arrangements are made for obtaining the hemp harvester. If one farmer grew from five to ten acres, and bought a harvester for his own crop only, the cost of harvesting his crop would be extremely high. If several farmers clubbed together and bought a harvester cooperatively, the expense of harvesting would be comparatively reasonable. One harvester should handle 100 acres of hemp so that cooperation among growers is very important. Where growers do not see fit to cooperate in the buying of a harvester, the company which operates the mill should purchase the necessary machines, furnish a man with each, and harvest the hemp at an agreed price.

A hemp harvester costs more than a grain binder; more power is required to pull it; and since it is a new device, more delays due to breakage are likely to occur. This means that the cost of harvesting hemp is, at present, somewhat greater than for harvesting a grain crop.

After the hemp is retted, it must be taken up from the swath and bound. This operation, called lifting, can now be done with the gather-binder, a machine devised for this particular purpose. By using such a machine, the cost of binding the retted stalks will be approximately the same as for threshing small grain.

After the stalks are bound, they must be shocked, a task that requires about the same amount of labor as does shocking bound corn.

The cost of hauling the dry, retted stalks to the hemp mill will vary according to the length of haul and the conditions of the roads. In estimating the cost of hauling, it may be considered that a good team will haul an average of 3,000 pounds to the load, which means that an acre of average hemp will make two loads of stalks.

When delivered to the mill, the hemp must be stacked. This requires about the same amount of labor as stacking bundled grain.

From these facts, it can be estimated that hemp compared with small grains costs from $5 to $7 more an acre for seed, from $2 to $3 more an acre for harvesting, and somewhat more for delivering, the total cost of production ranging from $8 to $11 more to the acre.

The total returns received are such that the net profits are much greater from hemp than from small grains - in fact, greater than from most other Wisconsin crops - a statement substantiated by the reports of a large majority of hemp growers in the state.



Wisconsin hemp growers are receiving most encouraging returns for the crop. Prices received during 1917 ranged from $50 to over $100 gross an acre.

These large returns are due, of course, to the present high price of hemp fiber and should not be expected to continue indefinitely.

However, the market outlook, considered from all points and from the supplies of competing fibers, indicates that for several years prices will remain higher than they were before the war.

So long as present prices for fiber continue the grower of hemp can expect to receive $75 an acre for a first-class crop of hemp. This does not imply that any field of hemp is worth $75 an acre for not all hemp is good hemp. Crops that are short, irregular, full of weeds, and poorly handled are of less value and may be nearly worthless.



Before hemp fiber can be spun into yarn it must be either carded or hackled. Carding and hackling are combing processes, both of which are now done by power machines at the spinning mills. These processes remove all foreign materials and reduce the fiber to finer uniform strands. Formerly a large proportion of the best hemp in Kentucky was hackled by hand, and there are still two or three mills in that state where hand hackling is continued on a reduced scale. The fiber hackled by hand results in the Kentucky single-dressed and Kentucky double-dressed hemp still quoted in the market. One or two of the local dealers also have cards for preparing carded hemp, which is usually prepared from the medium grades or tangled hemp that would not command a first-class price as line fiber.

. . .



While more progress in the development of the hemp industry has been made during the last few years than in all previous years combined, yet there remain many important problems to be worked out.

The seed situation is very unsatisfactory. The price has been so unreasonably high and erratic that the very life of the Wisconsin hemp industry is threatened. Unless the seed market becomes stabilized and the price reasonable, it will be necessary to develop new areas of seed production, and for the Wisconsin hemp growers to contract for seed acreages. The Experiment Station, in cooperation with the Federal Office of Fiber Investigations, has already made preliminary arrangements for the development of such new centers of production and such work must be continued as vigorously as possible. In the meantime everything possible must be done to develop or discover a variety of fiber hemp that will mature in the state. The Station has already made considerable progress along that line, encouraging results have been ordained, and by a continuation of such work, it may be possible to solve, finally, the whole troublesome seed problem.

There should be a standard market classification for Wisconsin fiber. Quantities sufficient to warrant such a classification are now being produced. To accomplish this, both growers and dealers in the state must realize that there is good fiber and poor fiber. The grower must learn how to handle the crop in order that the best quality of fiber may be produced, and the operators of breaking mills must learn to know hemp fiber, to differentiate between the general grades, and to handle the breaking and cleaning processes in such a way that the fiber will be in the best possible condition for further processes.

Farmers have learned rapidly to grow and handle the crop, but they are giving too little attention to keeping the stalks straight and the butts of the bundles even, and they have often neglected the retting. The more the stalks are crossed and tangled, the more tow will be produced. Uneven butts reduce the length of the line, and consequently decrease its quality. Improper retting is causing a great deal of trouble and if continued is sure to affect the market price. Under-retting is entirely too common. Farmers are usually very anxious to gather up the hemp stalks to avoid the danger of their being "snowed under" for the winter, and often take them up, bind and shock them two weeks or a month too early. It should be remembered that the stalks should be left spread out until the green color has entirely disappeared and until the fiber will readily peel away from the woody part of the stems. By giving attention to these important details the grower can do much towards insuring a stable and profitable market, a matter which is as important to him as it is to the mill operator.

More attention should also be given to handling properly the hemp stalks at the breaking mill. There is too much careless handling of the stalks in preparing them for the dry kiln and in delivering them to the brake after they are dried, all of which increases the percentage of tow and reduces the quality and quantity of long line fiber. The stalks should be butted carefully before they are fed to the brake, and the uncleaned fiber should be delivered to the scutcher in such a way that the butt ends of the broken material will be as even as possible throughout.

Great progress has been made in devising breaking and scutching machinery, but there is still room for improvement. The greatest need right now is for an improved scutcher, one that will remove practically all the hurds from the fiber and will not produce such a large percentage of tow. Much attention is now being given to producing such an improved scutcher and there is every reason to believe that one will soon be available.


Special thanks to Dave Watson, Chairman of the International Hemp Association (IHA) for donating a copy of the above report to HEMPOLOGY.ORG.

The IHA is dedicated to the advancement of Cannabis, through the dissemination of information.  The IHA publishes a peer reviewed scientific journal printed on 100% hemp paper in June and December of each year. We strive to cover a wide range of Cannabis topics from fiber to medicine. Please refer to our journal for a detailed look at our aims and accomplishments.
The IHA is a member service organization staffed by volunteers. We try to answer all requests for Cannabis information.  However, we always attend to the needs of our members first.  We encourage prospective journal subscribers to also join the IHA.  Membership fees are used for office expenses and to finance our projects. 
Payment can be made by personal check, international postal money order or by Visa, Mastercard, or American Express credit card. Following are the membership categories and fees:
Student:                        US$ 25.00 per year        or  NLG 50.00 per year
Individual:                    US$ 50.00 per year        or  NLG 100.00 per year
Sustaining/Business:    US$ 100.00 + per year  or  NLG 200.00 + per year

Yearly membership includes two issues of the IHA journal. Businesses should join as sustaining members and will then be listed under the business name in our membership directory.  Our most important project has been financing the multiplication and preservation of the Vavilov Research Institute Cannabis seed collection.  The IHA maintains a seed collection of registered hemp cultivars. The IHA also sells a Cannabis Educational Package to members only for US$ 50.00 that contains several books, a transparency set, audio tape and many samples of hemp products.  We welcome all serious Cannabis researchers and enthusiasts to join the IHA .

Please contact us for more information:
E-Mail: iha@euronet.nl  or
International Hemp Association
Postbus 75007
1070  AA  Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Telephone/Fax  +31  (0)20  618-8758