Here in Florida and the rest of the Southern United States, we experience high temperatures. There are reasons why Midwestern residents settle in Florida for the Winter, and then head back as soon as Spring kicks in. It gets hot down here, and we do our best to make it work.
This can be a challenge for farmers, particularly those who need to grow cover crops. Knowledgeable farmers around the country understand that you can’t simply harvest and then wait to plant again. Cover crops are placeholder plants, which both provide fertilizer and dredge up nutrients in the soil. The result is a healthy seedbed just waiting to grow more healthy cash crops come planting season.
The challenge comes when you need to establish a cover crop during the Summer. The high temperatures and occasional lack of precipitation makes this season the toughest to plant in the South.
Here’s where Sunn Hemp makes its MVP argument!
This species thrives in dry soil, and even sandy soil bases…something that very few cover crops can say. When properly integrated into your fields, it can produce up to 5,000 lbs. of biomass, and 100 lbs. of Nitrogen per acre. And it does all of this within 60 to 90 days of planting.
Need more convincing? All species of Sunn Hemp contain above average level of alkaloids, which is indigestible for nematodes. If your field is stocked with Sunn Hemp, the local roundworm population will disappear quickly, leaving it in prime condition for your cash crops.
Sunn Hemp isn’t indigestible for all organisms, however. In fact, it’s a great grazing option for all livestock, and deer. Its leaves contain 30% protein!
“Boy, Sunn Hemp really sounds great,” you say. “So why isn’t it more popular?”
The sad answer is that it all comes down to its name. People hear “hemp” and assume the worst. The truth is that the relationship between Sunn Hemp and anything remotely resembling a recreational drug is as distant as the relationship between Grizzly and Panda Bears (which, for the record, are not at all related). Still, regulators spent years lumping Sunn Hemp in with more seedy seeds, resulting in it being banned in multiple states until recently…even though the USDA lists its benefits as a cover crop on its website.
The misconceptions are so bad that most retailers who carry Sunn Hemp place warnings that it’s dangerous for human consumption. Yes, Hancock Seed has had a brain-dead buyer complain that the Hemp didn’t work the way he had hoped it would. Hint: He wasn’t baking it into brownies.
The truth is that Sunn Hemp has been one of the most popular cover crops internationally for a very long time. It originated in India, where it is still a major agricultural tool. It thrives in similar tropical and subtropical climates. Its spread has made it immensely popular in Brazil as well.
You know what’s another sticky, hot atmosphere where Sunn Hemp is the perfect choice as a cover crop? The Southern United States. Hancock is ready to kickstart a craze!