Update on FIN-314
|alpha-Linoleic acid||(18:3, n-6)||19.2|
|gamma-Linoleic acid||(18:3, n-3)||4.4|
In 1995, we began to develop an early-blooming Cannabis variety
that is now known as FIN-314. We reported our initial development of (Callaway & Laakkonen 1996) and
progress with (Callaway et al. 1997) this variety in earlier issues of this
journal. The goal has been to cultivate this variety for its potential as a food
crop, rather than for fiber. The following is a brief overview and description of our most recent observations.
Our experiences have verified the hope that FIN-314 can produce commercially significant amounts of seed at a high latitude, when planted and harvested by unmodified modern agricultural machinery. In 1995, law enforcement authorities reported that the maximum THC level in mature female flowers reached 0.08% for this variety. No results were released to us in 1996, and in 1997 this level was reported to be 0.04% in similar samples. This has important implications for meeting the needless regulations that are being imposed on hemp seed foods produced in the 'developed' nations. Oil profiles for the 1995 and 1996 harvests were reported in the previously mentioned articles. The following results are from the 1997 harvest:
Due to its short stature, large seed head, and characteristic lack of branching, FIN-314 resembles other machine harvestable crops, such as sorghum, rather than the more common hemp varieties. However, in previous years, our breeding test plots were typically too small to offer a realistic view of large scale production. In 1997, we planted 5.5 hectares to investigate the possibility of commercial production.
Like other varieties of Cannabis, FIN-314 responds favorably to a well-aerated soil having good structure. Our earlier attempts were often compromised by compacted clay soils that lacked appreciable amounts of organic matter. Thus, for the 1997 planting, a sandy soil type was selected. Hemp is still a newly re-introduced crop in Finland (Laitinen 1996) and a field of an unusual grain would almost surely attract visitors, some of them undesirable. Therefore, a remote field surrounded by forest was chosen. This field (61º N latitude) was owned by a conventional grower. It was previously planted as a pasture of timothy grass for the past 7 years, so was spared yearly applications of fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. Soil structure was good, although not outstanding.
The field was plowed to 20 cm, partly in the Autumn of 1996 and partly in the Spring of 1997. The field was harrowed twice prior to planting. Seeding was to a depth of 2-3 cm at 21 kg/ha. On May 24th, 115 kg N/ha, as ammonium nitrate, was applied as fertilizer. Successful seedlings sprouted vigorously six days after planting. In excessively dry areas of the field, seedlings suffered visibly and yellow coloring was observed. The first month after planting, the field received only 10 mm rain.
Careful seeding appears to be an important consideration in growing this crop. Where the tap root developed sufficiently at the outset, the crop withstood quite a bit of drought stress. However, in dry sections, where initial development was hindered, growth was not as good, and as we use no herbicides, couch grass prevailed. Weed competition and seeding density appeared to be closely related with each other, and 20 to 25 kg of seed per hectare appeared to provide a sufficient canopy to suppress weeds. Too sparse a seeding does not work, as there is no branching at all in FIN-314. On the other hand, too dense a seeding encouraged fungal growth in damp years.
In later parts of the summer, with adequate heat and good moisture, growth seemed to be very good. Interestingly, despite having one of the hottest summers of the century in 1997, the crop did not mature any sooner than in previous years. It is possible that this was due to the high rate of fertilization.
Because of relatively dry weather, machine harvesting a 1 Ha plot in 1996 was fairly easy and the moisture content of the harvested seed was about 20%. The resulting seed germination rate was over 95%. However, the weather in 1997 was cold and wet at the time of harvest and moisture content of the freshly threshed seed was about 35% for the initial harvest attempt, and germination rate of untreated seed was about 60%. The germination rate was increased to 75% by the application of the anti-fungal agent TRAM-50. This was done solely to fulfill legal requirements of the Canadian government for importation of agricultural seed.
The hemp crop seemed to mature about the same time as flax in the area. In 1997, the first killing frosts came rather late, and it required a number of severe frosts to initiate browning of leaves and the seed head, as had also been observed in previous years. Around October 1st, some plants began to die. Despite the damp weather conditions, the more mature part of the field was harvested on October 4th. Harvesting equipment did not work particularly well under these conditions. Cold weather had killed most of the plants by October 10th. Were it not for the rains, this would have been a good date to harvest. The birds found the field after that date and another attempt at harvesting was made on October 18th. This was a tedious exercise, as it was still not sufficiently dry. Moisture content of the harvested seed was again 35%. On October 20th it snowed, but this began to melt away on October 28th.
On November 4th, a very cold (-12°C) and sunny day, harvesting was attempted. This worked quite well and the moisture content of the yielded seed was only 20%. Good ground speed with the combine was maintained, and we were relieved to have this harvesting window. Unfortunately, after only 1.5 hours of very successful harvesting, an unexpected snow storm made any further progress impossible. Overall, seed yields were very satisfactory, with record yields in some cases, but this result might be optimized by more careful seeding, sufficient moisture during the early part of the growing season, and drier Autumn weather to facilitate minimal mechanical damage to the seed in harvesting and drying.
About one hectare of hemp was left in the field to be harvested during drier weather, in late February or March of 1998, but this seed crop was picked clean by hungry birds during the harsh Finnish Winter.
Harvest waste management (i.e., stalks and leaves) and its subsequent incorporation into the soil turned out to be surprisingly easy during the Spring of 1998. This observation is based on a Spring plow-culture, but there is a good chance that it would also be feasible with cultivator-based systems. Whether using plow or cultivator techniques, there seems a definite advantage to having a hemp stalk with relatively little biomass and a low fiber content (13-15%). This unusually fine, flaxlike fiber might be harvested, but when using organic farming techniques, it may be more useful being returned to the soil, where it apparently is easily decomposed and adds to soil integrity. It remains to be seen, however, if this decomposition also occurs in "dead" soils where more conventional farming techniques have prevailed. In short, it is clear that FIN-314 is particularly well suited for organic or semi-organic methods of cultivation.
In conclusion, the important components for growing FIN-314 are: careful seeding, good early soil moisture and a dry Autumn. Neither predators (e.g., birds and molds) nor weeds were a serious problem for FIN-314, and the application of organic techniques to its cultivation are recommendable. The end-products of the seed oil and protein have a huge potential and this unique strain should prove to be extremely valuable in the rapidly developing market of "functional foods" and "nutraceutical" products. We are not aware of another crop that can provide: an optimized human dietary balance of both essential fatty acids, supplements of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and stearidonic acid (SDA), a complete and easily assimilable protein, and significant dietary fiber, all from an organically-grown plant which can be sown and harvested by modern agricultural machinery.
T. T. Laakkonen
J. C. Callaway, Ph.D.
Dept. of Pharmaceutical Chemistry,
University of Kuopio,
PO Box 1627,