The rising acceptance of hemp and CBD, along with easing regulations at state levels, has helped spark a surge in US hemp production.

The industry grew by 40 per cent in 2017 to more than $300 million. 2018 was a breakout year for the total CBD market valued at $500 million. According to the analytics firm of New Frontier Data, those figures will rise to $1.2 billion by 2020 and nearly $2 billion by 2022.

That’s a lot of grow to keep up with demand and it places tremendous pressure on hemp farmers who already have a lot to worry about. Since the increasingly important plant has been illegal to cultivate for decades in the US, many farmers are now learning on the fly how to grow it properly.

From higher than legal THC levels to lower than ideal CBD quality, costly mishaps can occur with such a strictly regulated product. With the need for high-quality CBD growing daily to satisfy consumer demand, how can farmers keep up?

The answer is clones — selecting your best specimen and copying the dickens out of it. Fortunately, a new service is available to provide cultivators with the tools they need to be successful after passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized hemp in the US last year.

GrowLife, a leading cultivation product and service provider, recently announced it launched a subscription service for consumable cloning supplies as part of its EZ-Clone commercial propagation equipment line.

Read also: Differentiating Between Industrial Hemp and Marijuana

Growlife has been focused on building its cloning and propagation efforts after acquiring EZ-Clone Enterprises to become a leader in the aeroponic plant cloning systems business, changing the way people produce exact copies via prescribed parameters and defined management control.

Early production units for the hobbyist market allowed for 32, 64, and even 128 cloned plants. “Commercial growers used the 128 plant hobby units with modifications until we announced the EZ-Clone Pro that takes things to a new level — 459 cuttings at once — with one reservoir and a single source control for pH, PPM, and water temperature,” says Jason Whittenberg, research and development director for GrowLife. “Instead of having a technician going from system to system, they can now go to a single spot and balance everything with all components housed in a single 10-foot-square source that just needs a wall plug to function.”

The new EZ-Clone system for hemp can grow hundreds of plants in succession almost three times a month. “If you do the math, 459 plants about every 10 days, that’s 1,377 identical transplantable clones every month — quite the production model,” adds Whittenberg.
These are exact replicas of the mother plant, selected for all the qualities desired by hemp growers — all are feminized and all are under the 0.3 percent THC regulatory guidelines.

Not only a time saver, but a money saver as mechanical specs indicate the unit runs on about five amps, reducing the cost of electricity. “Depending on where you are in the US or Canada, it puts you anywhere from a dollar to a couple of dollars per day for operational costs,” says Whittenberg.

“Growers get the ability to select the most dominant genetics that produce the most oil and the greatest yield with operational efficiency. Instead of needing a ton of space and workers to determine which seeds will be male or female plants (and then having to remove the males), you get an exact replica, 100 per cent accuracy. You only need one seed in the beginning for a mother plant which can then produce thousands and thousands of clones from that one seed.”

Read also: The Hemp Revival: Why the World is Seeing More Hemp-based Products on the Market

Hemp seed farmers are at higher risk than those who use clones because their field crops can be inconsistent in a market where consistency is key. High THC levels can ruin a hemp crop for farmers working with new seed because the hemp becomes ‘hot’ due to excess THC levels and that puts it in a different category. Because of this, says Joe Barnes, GrowLife’s vice-president of sales and marketing, demand has increased.

“We observed a spike in demand for commercial cloning systems and this subscription service allows us to service these customers without additional overhead costs,” says Barnes.

It all comes back to efficiency and viability. “We help clone in a way that’s better than traditional methods,” says Whittenberg. “First off, the roots. A cutting in traditional stonewool allows no capability of watching the clone progression. Once you place a clone in that medium and saturate it, many things can happen. A technician can under water and create clone die-off or you can over water and create die-off from wilt disease. And when root formation callusing begins, you have no idea of viability.

The aeroponic method offers a hyperoxygenated chamber for the irrigation and oxygen mix that creates a perfect environment for rooting. From the time callusing starts, you’re already getting at least a seven- to 10-day advance on traditional procedures.
Whittenberg has a few suggestions for success when it comes to cloning.

Use a healthy mother plant and allow some rest time between prunings to avoid introducing any environmental stressors. As long as you’re not butchering your plant on a regular basis, he says, a healthy mother will continue to stay healthy and won’t change its genetic features.

Read also: 5 Things To Know Before You Plant Hemp

When you take your cuts, cut in a way that will build a healthy foundation. The theory back in the 1990s was that lower sites produced better hormones, but the healthiest cuts come from the top working down… they’re the best producers. And if you’re trying to create a good structural plant, taking lower growth won’t do that because that growth doesn’t regenerate. When the lower branches are gone, you end up lollypopping the moms, ending up with long stalks at the base.

Take your growths from the top, 20 per cent at a time, with shears, and place them immediately into a vessel of water to reduce the chance of embolism. All the materials you use should be sterile (use 99.9 per cent isopropyl) so that from the beginning, you don’t introduce any type of pathogens. We use cuttings ranging from four to six inches because size does matter if you’re looking for a faster growth rate. Make an immediate 45 degree cut and place that into our gel rooting compound before placing it into the system where irrigation is constantly running.

“We’re creating tools hemp growers need in order to be successful in an ever-changing competitive landscape,” says Whittenberg.