weareparts logo

1-888-4-BLADES (425-2337)

FREE SHIPPING ON Qualifying Orders

A farmer’s guide to growing hemp in the USA

Agriculture in the USA has increasingly become an industry of fine margins.  A tweak here, an innovation there – farmers must tune in to small changes in the industry and technology that can help them to squeeze that vital extra profit out of a business that is largely stretched to its limits.

But a few years back, a change to legislation triggered something of a gold rush in farming.  Changes to the Farm Bill 2018 took hemp off the list of controlled substances, and opened a floodgate.  

Farmers raced to plant hemp, lured by soaring demand.  Many made a tidy profit in 2019, but just a year later, the bubble seemed to burst.  Huge supplies of hemp lay unsold as farmers struggled to access processing facilities, while others suffered crop failure due to bad weather.

Despite this, many farmers remain interested in the possibilities of hemp as an alternative crop – but they’re understandably cautious.

Why grow hemp?

Industrially-grown hemp is an extremely versatile crop.  It grows quickly, often in less than 100 days, requiring less pesticides and weedkillers than other crops, and using less water.  It’s also known for its deep roots, which can help to break up compacted soil, prevent soil erosion and sequester carbon.

Hemp used to be widely grown across the US for these very reasons – even the founding father, George Washington, is known to have cultivated hemp, and an early draft of the Declaration of Independence was printed on hemp paper.

Today, demand for hemp is growing worldwide due to increased awareness of the potential health and environmental benefits.  This makes hemp growing an extremely interesting prospect for farmers who may be struggling to make money from other crops.

What’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Industrial hemp is part of the cannabis sativa plant family, which essentially means it’s related to marijuana.  But industrial hemp varieties are extremely low in the psychoactive component of the plant, called THC.  The USDA specifies that agricultural hemp grown in the USA must have a THC content of less than 0.3%, or it must be destroyed.

What is hemp used for?

Hemp has a huge variety of uses.  The majority of hemp grown in the USA is grown for its flowers, from which oil can be extracted for use in the manufacturing of CBD products.  The demand for CBD oil is growing exponentially due to its health benefits and effectiveness as a treatment for a wide range of complaints, including pain, anxiety and insomnia.

Hemp can also be grown for its fibre, which has a huge range of uses.  It’s an environmentally-friendly alternative that can be used to make paper, textiles, plastics, biofuels and construction materials.

Lastly, hemp can be used as food.  It’s approved as a foodstuff for humans and pets in most states, but currently it cannot be fed to livestock that will enter the food chain.

Is growing hemp legal in the USA?

The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the USDA’s list of controlled substances, making hemp production legal at federal level in the US.  But many individual states have their own laws and regulations governing hemp cultivation, and some (like Colorado and Oregon, for example) are more welcoming to the cultivation of hemp than others (such as Idaho and South Dakota).

Before investing in hemp as a crop, it’s important to understand what guidelines your state requires you to follow.  Regardless of where you want to grow hemp in the USA, you require a license to do so and you must inform the relevant authorities about exactly where and how much hemp you intend to cultivate each year.

Is it easy to grow hemp?

Once established, hemp is easy to grow.  It is not vulnerable to many of the diseases and pests that can affect other conventional crops like corn, and is an extremely effective weed suppressor due to its rapid growth rate.

However, hemp does require certain conditions to grow well.  It likes rich, well-drained soils with a neutral pH, so testing before planting is always advisable.  Hemp can be killed by frost, so seeds should not be sown until the risk of frost has passed.  Established hemp plants have deep roots that make them fairly drought tolerant, but young plants need moisture and will require irrigation for the first six weeks if the soil is dry.  

Hemp is a photoperiodic plant, which means its growth is directly impacted by the amount of light it receives.  The crop needs a minimum of 12 hours sunlight per day during the growing season, which means it may not be suitable for shaded fields or valleys.

In the USA, the pacific northwest has an ideal climate for growing hemp, with a mild climate and long growing season.  Hemp is also widely grown in Colorado, Kentucky, Tennessee and California.

What tillage and planting tools are needed to cultivate hemp?

Farmers don’t need any specialist tillage or planting tools to cultivate hemp.  Land for the cultivation of hemp should be identified well ahead of time and tested for the appropriate pH (6.5-7).  

Hemp seeds germinate best in moist, well-aerated soil.  Strong, rapid germination is essential if the young plants are to out-compete weeds.  Good seed-to-soil contact is required so a firm, level and relatively fine seedbed should be prepared (similar to that for other forage crops) using the appropriate tillage tools.  

Hemp can be sown in rows or using a grain drill. Narrow row planting may negate the use of pesticides or herbicides in organic systems, but planting density varies depending on the variety and purpose of the hemp – flowering varieties for oil extraction often being planted more densely than varieties for fiber or grain.  Hemp can be successfully grown in no-till systems provided that the soil is warm and moist at planting, providing optimal conditions for rapid germination and growth of the seeds.

Hemp in crop rotations

Hemp makes an ideal crop to add to a crop rotation system.  It grows rapidly and matures quickly, with a deep taproot system that reduces soil compaction and erosion, and draws nutrients to the surface. Hemp’s natural disease resistance means it can help to reduce pathogens in the soil while contributing to increased potassium and nitrate levels.  Many farmers planting fall cereals after a hemp crop have reported increased yields and less dependence on herbicides.

Is hemp a financially viable crop?

Hemp has the potential to be a game changer for US farmers.  Acre for acre, hemp’s value far exceeds that of corn and the global market for industrial hemp is expected to grow to $17bn by 2030.  Hemp can also be used for many things besides foodstuffs, with the added benefit of being more sustainable to grow than almost any other crop (given the right conditions).

However, farmers who are early adopters of industrial hemp face significant challenges and must weigh the pros and cons carefully.  Hemp does require fairly specific conditions for successful growth, and even if you get a large crop, there are still question marks – for instance, too much sunlight can cause the plants to grow ‘hot’, with a THC level over the 0.3% threshold that will result in those plants being destroyed.

Then there’s processing.  Whether it’s CBD oil extraction or processing hemp fiber, there’s currently a lack of hemp processing facilities in the US.  Farmers face significant costs to transport the bulky fiber to processing centers, and may face legal challenges along the way due to differing state laws on transportation.  But with prospective processors nervous about investing in more facilities due to limited supplies of raw hemp, it’s a chicken-and-egg situation – one that farmers across the US will be watching with interest over the coming years.

Agricultural Bearing Hubs: What they are and why they matter

In crop farming, there will always be the need for tillage in one form or another, and disc blades have long been regarded as the most efficient tool for the task – in fact the disc harrow as we know it today was first invented way back in the 1880s. 

Rotating circular blades create less resistance when moving through rocky or heavy soils, which maximizes efficiency – and wherever there’s a rotating blade, you’ll usually find a bearing hub.  

But what exactly are agricultural bearing hubs?  What function do they perform?  What should you look out for when choosing bearing hubs for your disc harrow or cultivator?  Let’s take a look at some of the engineering behind agricultural bearing hubs, and how they can impact on machinery performance.

What is an agricultural bearing hub?

An agricultural hub or bearing hub is an assembly of parts that allows a rotating blade or other ground-engaging component to be attached individually to a machine such as a harrow.

Agricultural bearing hubs are made up of two main parts – a rolling bearing, and a bearing housing.  

A rolling bearing is composed of two concentric, grooved metal rings called races.  Within the groove between the two races is a series of ball bearings or rollers.  The ball bearings allow the races to roll clockwise or counter-clockwise around each other with a minimal amount of friction.

Most bearings are mounted in a housing that enables them to be fitted onto a piece of machinery.  There are lots of different types of bearing housing, for example pillow block bearings, flanged bearings, tapered bearings and more.

In an agri hub assembly, the bearing is housed in a circular hub with bolt holes that allow the complete assembly to be securely attached to the center of a disc blade for a high-speed disc harrow, a planter or other piece of machinery.

What do agricultural bearing hubs do?

As we’ve already explained, bearing hub units are used for any machine that has rotating blades mounted on individual shafts as opposed to ‘gangs’ of blades, which are mounted in groups on a shared axle.  

Bearing hubs allow the moving parts to turn freely, reducing friction and minimizing wear on the parts themselves.  They absorb the load of the machinery itself, and the drag as the blades move through the soil.  This protects non-replaceable components from the long term effects of vibration, axial and radial forces, and even impacts with obstacles in the field, such as rocks.

Bearings also serve to distribute loads more evenly so that components like disc blades can achieve consistent contact with the soil, and wear down evenly.  The result is that blades need replacing less often, and the overall lifespan of expensive machinery is extended.

Maintenance of agricultural bearing hubs

Maintaining your agricultural bearing hubs is important for overall machine performance.

Worn bearings can result in uneven blade-to-soil contact, which in turn affects soil aeration and seed germination.  If your bearings are worn, your blades won’t turn freely, which increases drag – this results in more wear and tear on your disc harrow or planter, and will also increase your fuel costs.

Signs of worn bearing hubs include:

  • A grinding noise when the blade turns
  • Excessive vibrations when the machine is operating
  • Heating up or discoloration of the bearing housing
  • Oil or grease leaking from the housing
  • Contaminants accumulating in the bearing housing

Key features of agricultural bearing hubs

In agricultural operations, bearing hubs have to withstand a unique set of challenges.  

Bearing hubs that are not specifically designed for agricultural machinery are unlikely to deliver the durability required.  This can result in frequent breakdowns and costly downtime for the farmer, as well as potential long-term damage to equipment.

Load capacity and speed

Agricultural bearings are exposed to extreme, often variable radial and axial loads.

This can be from the weight of the equipment, from collisions with rocks and debris in the field, from the force of the cutting blades, or from the gears of the machine itself.  

These loads act on the bearing for long periods and across large areas, sometimes thousands of acres.  If the bearings don’t perform consistently, the blades can’t do their job properly, resulting in inconsistent results.

Speed is an important consideration when choosing the right bearing hubs for your application.  For example, a high-speed disc harrow will put a lot more strain on its bearings, compared to a lower speed machine.

Contamination resistance

Another key challenge for agricultural bearing hubs is contamination.  Farm machinery operates in difficult conditions with a lot of contamination in the form of water, soil, seeds and even corrosive substances like pesticides and fertilizers.  

If these contaminants are able to get inside the bearing hub, they can damage the smooth action of the bearing, or even cause it to seize up.

For this reason, agricultural bearing hubs should be designed with an effective system to seal the housing against contamination, keeping dirt out while sealing the lubricant in for long-term performance.  As mentioned above, if you see grease leaking from your bearing housing, or if it’s gathering debris, it may be time to replace.

Ease of maintenance

That brings us to a final point – ease of maintenance.  Most agricultural bearing hubs are designed to be maintenance-free.  Because they are sealed to prevent contamination, you can’t normally lubricate them yourself – they should simply be replaced when they become worn.  

Removing a bearing hub is a relatively simple task – simply loosen the bolts that attach the hub to the disc.  If the bolts have seized over time, you may need to carefully grind them off.

Wearparts bearing hubs

At Wearparts, we offer a range of agricultural bearing hubs to fit various brands of farm machinery.  We’ve searched the globe for the finest engineering and most carefully considered hub designs, to ensure our customers get the efficient performance and long wear life they expect from Wearparts.

Our bearing hubs offer key features including induction hardened flanges and cast housings for enhanced durability.  We’re also the exclusive distributor of FKL bearing hubs in the United States.  

Based in Serbia, FKL has been manufacturing high-performance bearing hubs since the 1960s and has a specific product development program for agriculture.  Their Agro Point hub assemblies offer best-in-class performance for farming operations, including their unique ‘dirtblock’ system for contamination.

FKL’s dirtblock seal is high-durability solution created for heavy-duty applications in harsh environmental and operating conditions. It ensures that grease is always in contact with the rolling element and bearing raceway, while also preventing mud penetration and dissipating the heat produced during operation. 

Wearparts bearing hubs (including FKL hubs) come in various diameters, with 4 and 5-hole bolt patterns to fit a wide range of OEM branded machinery, including Degelman, Vaderstad, Horsch, Norwood, John Deere, Amazone, Kuhn, Poettinger, Lemken and more.

To find out more, get in touch – or click to find your nearest Wearparts dealer today.