Now that spring is within sight, it’s time for cannabis farmers across the northern hemisphere to consider
their crops for 2019. A unique aspect of this year’s season is that it marks the first full growing season
with the new regulations, or lack thereof, allowed by the 2018 Farm Bill. Most of us in the industry are
already familiar with the significance of that bill. For anyone who is not, hemp has now become federally
legalized across all 50 states. It is an exciting example of progress in the cannabis industry and opens up a
wide realm of possibilities for hemp growers and those focused on CBD products. The horizon for hemp
growers looks bright and with abundant opportunity ahead comes a need to look at what factors are
involved with growing and obtaining the top CBD hemp strains out there.
Seed selection is one of the most important decisions a hemp farmer makes during the season. A stable,
productive seed will lead to bountiful crops high in CBD or other desired cannabinoids, while a
questionable seed can lead to fields of failure. All seeds are most assuredly not created equal and
thorough vetting needs happen before making a decision on what seeds to purchase.
According to Ryan Lynch, PhD and co-founder of Boulder Hemp, a licensed hemp research, production,
and breeding facility in Colorado, seed sources can vary with the needs of each farmer but a few general
considerations are important.
“It all depends on the goals of the farmer, as hemp can be cultivated in many ways, and used for various
outputs. But in general, they should source seeds that have been produced from a consistent source for at
least several years and grown by other farmers locally through previous seasons,” Lynch recommends.
Adam Kurtz of Fusion CBD in Oregon has a similar sentiment, prefacing seed sources in general by
noting “there are seed breeders and then seed makers. We work with a few seed breeders and trial strains
out a year or more in advance before we share with our partner farms. That way we will know if they pass
compliance, what yields to expect, and if our customers will like it.”
With many people in the industry focusing on the lucrative potential accompanying the broad legalization
of hemp and the flourishing CBD market, it is more important than ever before to secure high quality
seeds. Many farmers seeking fast cash have been quick to purchase seeds from questionable sources only
to wind up with a weak, or even worse, unviable hemp crop.
Calvin Bailey, former Hemp Production Manager of Blue Forest Farms and current Research and
Development specialist with Greenhouse Growing System says that “there are a lot of issues in the
industry right now with unstable seed being sold to farmers who are in the cash grab mode and are
unwittingly going out and buying totally unstable, heterozygous seed and wondering why their fields look
like crap.” He also believes “genetic stability is of the utmost importance right now and, in my opinion,
feminization and even sterility of fiber crops is really important.” Wise words from an industrial hemp
expert with over a decade of experience in agriculture of many varieties.
Kurtz adds, “Make sure whoever you purchase seeds from can explain the breeding process, show sample
crops growing, and provide test results and germination rates.” He also offers a word of caution saying
that “many farmers have bought seeds from unscrupulous ‘breeders’ only to have major crop failures.”
Other Factors to Consider in a Quality CBD Hemp Strain
The exact hemp variety is a choice left up to the farmer for their particular needs and growing conditions.
Several factors come in to play that can provide broad direction in securing a high quality CBD hemp
strain and should be given careful consideration.
To ensure high yields of flowers from a hemp crop, good apical dominance is a necessary characteristic.
This implies that a better choice for strain is one where vertical growth surpasses lateral growth, or as
Bailey puts it, a good quality hemp strain “has a Christmas tree structure and not a candelabra.” Apical
dominance ensures that the plant itself can hold high volumes of dense flower buds without
compromising its structural integrity, thereby increase yield through the plants natural genetics.
High terpene content is another consideration when selecting a CBD hemp strain. Compliance with the
regulations laid out in the 2018 Farm Bill dictate that all hemp grown to be legally sold nationally must
contain less than .3 percent THC. That distinction is critical if a hemp crop is intended for use or sale
across state lines. If hemp is grown in a legal state, there is room to play with cannabinoid profiles;
however, many top growers seem to recommend a minimum of a 20 to 1 CBD to THC ratio for top-notch
strains intended for the CBD market.
Top CBD Hemp Strains
All of the preceding information leads us to the heart of the matter – some of the top CBD hemp strains
around. Here is a quick list of some favorites to help lead hemp farmers to a successful season. Keep in
mind the importance of seed source and if you don’t go with one of the varieties below, be sure to
complete the necessary due diligence to ensure viability.
Berry Blossom – This CBD heavy variety is a favorite among many growers and for good
reason. The structural integrity of Berry Blossom lends to super productive plants suitable for
large scale production. It is a selectively bred cross between Cherry Kandahar S1 and
Chardonnay. Excellent in a variety of climate conditions and holds up well in harsh wind and
Elektra – Known to be one of the most potent CBD seed lines available, Elektra is a cross-
bred improvement on the already legendary ACDC variety. ACDC paved the way for CBD
production in the U.S. and this hybrid improves upon that renown with a stronger stalk, fuller
flowers, and earlier blooms.
Charlotte’s Web – This strain gained popularity for its medical uses, being developed and
perfected by the Stanley Brothers in Colorado. Charlotte’s web was one of the top strains available
before medical cannabis was legally accessible to patients with epilepsy.
Cherry Wine – Possesses a very strong terpene profile with CBD content ranging from 15-
22%, with total CBD varying due to harvest and climate conditions. This variety consistently
produces large flower buds that are exceptionally dense.
Lifter – Lifter is a reliable and tested strain that consistently delivers high yields of dense
flowers, rich in CBD and other terpenes. Generally possessing CBD content around 15%, this
strain grows thick and rich like a bush leading to some of the highest yields of any CBD heavy
These are just a few suggestions and by no means are they the only options to explore. While the above
come recommended, other varieties could be beneficial depending on the crops intended market and use.
Top CBD hemp producers like Kurtz “have trialed over 20+ varieties but have recently settled on about
10 strains” with current favorite strains including Elektra, Sour Space Candy, Canna Tsu, Original Cherry
and Abacus. He also says that “as we target the smokeable hemp market, our customers like to see a variety
both in cannabinoids and taste.”
A Look into Future Potential
As research behind CBD for medical purposes develops and the legal market grows, the future is
promising for those involved in hemp growth and production. The traditional sale of smokable flower has
given way to an increase in popularity of cannabis extracts, particularly those high in CBD. New products
offering new forms of consumption are increasing consumer awareness and driving demand ever upward.
This steady demand for CBD products necessitates a constant supply of CBD hemp and by taking proper
considerations to encourage the best crop possible, hemp farmers stand to profit from this boom.
Lynch sees that “the vast majority of hemp consumed by end users is in extracted form. I’m not sure what
the future holds for the smokable flower market, it’s a small but growing segment in the US as of
2019, but its sustained growth is highly dependent on state and federal regulations and enforcement.”
Kurtz, however, sees that “the CBD and hemp industry is just beginning. I believe a trend will shift to
full spectrum products in the near future and as technology evolves, we will then find isolated compounds
mixed with specific terpenes to target specific issues. Our main business is in hemp flower, and there is
no slowing down. I expect smokeable hemp to become a tobacco replacement.”
Regardless of the manner in which CBD is consumed, farmers will continue to be the ones supplying the
public. Obtaining one of the top CBD hemp strains while adhering to the other considerations mentioned
above is a great start to securing a solid harvest. Many different factors are at play when growing any crop
and paying attention to the basics is a dependable method to increase yields and profits from a popular
and competitive commodity.
Where to Buy Seeds
A few recommended sellers of high-quality CBD hemp seed: