Optimizing the field’s performance with Sunn Hemp

Optimizing the field’s performance with Sunn Hemp

Here in Florida, we are lucky to be able to grow many diverse plants that help optimize the way our fields perform and our crops produce. One such plant is the Sunn Hemp. Many Florida growers use this nifty annual legume as a cover crop, and their benefits to the agriculture industry are amazing.

The crop works by returning nitrogen to the soil while forming a cooperative relationship, thus preventing weeds and nematodes and improving the soil’s ability to hold water as well as reduce field erosion. Another benefit of Sunn Hemp is its rapid growth. In as few as six weeks after seeding, it is already producing substantial amounts of biomass and nitrogen. Also, upon seeding in spring or early summer, it can reach the height of seven feet and will create a canopy closure in about ten weeks.

Locally we buy Sunn Hemp from Wise Seed Company in Frostproof. We are planting at a rate of 20 pounds to the acre.  Currently, the seed runs about $2.60 per pound, but they are known to fluctuate with the market. The hopeful results are approximately 170 pounds of nitrogen to the acre back in the soil. That is extremely cheap versus the cost of conventional fertilizers.

CREDIT

column by BRAD WEIHRAUCH

BIO: Brad Weihrauch is a Polk County native. He grew up around a family business of agriculture and customer service. After Winter Haven High School, he went on to complete his education at Polk Community College and Warner Southern College. After serving 17 years in customer service for a large retailer, Weihrauch returned to his agriculture roots and founded RWC, an agriservice and management company, in 2002.