ObjectivesThe ASTA Hemp Seed Working Group was created to discuss and react, as applicable, to the issues surrounding hemp seed in this rapidly changing environment. The group determined its focus should be directed toward the actions and level of involvement by ASTA and suggest assistance and guidance for its members involved in the industry.

Participants: All interested parties were invited to participate in the original Task Force, although the Working Group, as created by the ASTA Board of Directors will be limited to ASTA members only and other selected non-commercial sources.

Legislative CommentsThe ASTA position, in general, is to ensure consistency between state hemp seed regulations and that they align with other state seed regulation with the goal to ensure quality seed delivery. AOSCA certification should continue to be the benchmark requirement for quality seed, as it becomes available.

Define Hemp?

USDA has the federal language of the definition here. The term “hemp” means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds therof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

Where can I find more information about purchasing hemp seed?

The legalization of hemp provides an exciting opportunity for the seed industry. However, it’s important that there is consistency in quality, so growers know what they’re getting. See ASTA’s documents, “How to Read a Label on a Bag of Hemp Seed” and “Laws, Regs & Other Considerations,” when buying hemp seed for more information.

Is hemp seed regulated?

The legalization of hemp production essentially introduces a new crop variety into the marketplace. If a grower does not want to, or cannot source AOSCA Certified seed, they should pay close attention to seed sourcing. Hemp seed productonis complicated and requires extensive education and experience. Therefore, to ensure the highest quality seed for growers, buyers should always be sure to buy from a professional seed producer. State and federal seed laws are in place for the benefit of the grower and the producer. Whether it’s for your agricultural production, conservation planting, or backyard gardening, it pays to know that the seed you purchase is exactly what you desire – and state and federal seed laws are in place to ensure the quality and consistency of that seed.

What information is included on a seed label?

When farmers buy a bag of seed, they are getting a lot more than just seed. They’re getting expertise and valuable services that support their overall success throughout the year. See the American Seed Trade ASsociation(ASTA) infographic, “What’s in a bag?” for information on how to read a seed label. Seed labels are determined by federal and state seed laws, so they may differ from state-to-state.

What should I look for when buying seed genetics?

  1. Buy legally: Only purchase well-packaged seed with a label that conforms to state and federal law.
  2. Get to know the company: Claims like 100% feminization, 100% germination, extremely high or low cannabinoid content, etc. should be validated with respectable 3rd party data.
  3. Request proof of stability: Stability means the variety has performed consistently for a number of generations in your growing region. Asking for data on the parent generation can be helpful in determining if the genetics are stable. This is particularly important for THC content. Well-bred seed should have stable THC content across at least 2-3 prior generations. Due to the lack of AOSCA standards, there is currently no Certified feminized high CBD industrial hemp varieties.
  4. Consider AOSCA Certified seed: This is 3rd party data that certifies that the particular seed has been grown according to AOSCA Standards to maintain genetic purity. A seed certifying agency works closely with seed growers to help them follow AOSCA Standards throughout the seed production process. AOSCA Standards apply to hemp and a wide range of field crops, turf grasses, fruits, vegetables, woody plants, forbs and vegetative propagated species available for sale. Seed lots that successfully complete the seed certification process qualify for the official “Blue” Certified seed tag, providing assurance to the seed customer that the seed has met standards for genetic and varietal purity.
  5. Pick the right variety: Talk to the seed producer to find a variety that fits your needs. Consider adaptability to your production methods and equipment. Seek seed that has demonstrated performance in your region or has been bred in your region. Only buy seed once you understand the market that variety serves. And, most importantly, identify your customers for your crop before you plant.

Cannabinoids can never be stable because they will vary depending on environment, right?

It is true that environment plays a role in many plant traits. With some traits it plays a larger role, and some a smaller role. Scientists refer to this by “G by E,” or genetics by environment. University research is beginning to show that cannabinoid pathways are largely controlled by genetics – over 80%, and the remainder 20% is influenced by environment. This is great news! Stable cannabinoid profiles across regions is attainable in well-bred varieties, as evidenced by many EY and Canadian varieties. It is likely that the variation seen in the current market is due to genetics that have not been improved or stabilized. As with any plant species, the best seed is well-bred for adaptation to your specific region and climate. Though major traits will remain stable, variety performance will vary slightly within a region. Importantly, cannabinoid content should be stable.


Farmers have an extremely good understanding that plant health impacts yield. Hemp is no different.

How do you measure CBD content?

First of all, a grower must ask the seed producer for their method of testing and where it was tested. Each Department of Agriculture/Indian Tribe has their own hemp regulatory plan and sampling requirements. These plans must be approved by the USDA and meet general Federal guidelines. Currently the USDA IFR on hemp production states that all hemp fields must be tested before harvest. Typically, an inspector will take samples from the flowering tops of many plants in the field which are then sent to a lab for THC testing. Each grower should be familiar with how regulations and sampling is administered in their area. In the same manner, seed buyers should be aware if sampling and THC testing requirements in their area are different than the ones the seed producers used. If THC testing is different in the seed producer’s area, the grower might not be able to reproduce the same low THC numbers that the seed producer has on the Certificate of Analysis. It is also prudent for seed buyers to contact the lab to ensure that their analytics protocol matches the requirement.

What are Autoflower Genetics?

The term autoflower, also known as “day-neutral,” is a cannabis-specific term which defines genotypes that are insensitive to photoperiod (e.g. daylength). Simply put, photoperiod insensitive genetics do not require shortening daylengths to initiate flowering. It is common for “autoflower” advertisements to specify the number of days to flowering and maturity, some in as few as 60 days. However, this is a bit oversimplified as there are several environmental cues which plants sens in order to initiate flowering including temperature, water status, and the corresponding plant metabolic state of the plant. These factors can be controlled in indoor production so the life cycle of a crop can be precisely estimated but this is not always the case under outdoor conditions. In general, this term should refer to genotypes which have the ability to flower under increasing daylengths.

What is Feminized Seed?

Feminized seed is a seed source which produces predominantly female plants. A higher proportion of female plants is desirable since females are the source of seed (for grain) or flower for extraction. Seed producers may have different definitions of what feminized seed is. Typically, “feminized seed” refers to seed that produces predominately female plants when grown. Most often growers ask for feminized seed when they intend to grow an unseeded crop for harvest (for example CBD production). Seed producers often generate feminized seed by inducing a female hemp plant to produce male flowers that release pollen. When a female plant makes pollen, the pollen is genetically female. Genetically female pollen can, in turn, pollinate other female flowers, yielding seed that is “feminized,” i.e. genetically female. (Side comment: Most seed producers making feminized seed have gone away from making feminized seed using hermaphrodites. Usually it is a separate cross of natural female x induced male (i.e. genetically female). Also, there are other means of inducing male flowers on a female plant besides chemical inducing application, although that is the most common. You can think of feminization as the final cross to produce consistent female F1 hybrids.)

What can I do to ensure hemp seeds are feminized?

The first thing a buyer should ask to ensure feminization status is ask the seed producer what steps they take to control pollination during feminized seed production. These measures can include culling genotypic males within the planting block, controlled pollination in greenhouses or netted pollen cages and bags, safe distance from potential airborne pollen contaminants, and quality masculinization protocol of female pollen donors. Additionally, ask what postharvest practices the seed provider conducts to confirm proper seed feminization. This can include third party PCR (genetic) sex testing, which will be accompanied by a lab report, and/or growing out a portion of the seed lot to confirm a high feminization rate (99.9% feminization is expected). It’s always good to verify what the grower means by this, or to see it written out in a purchase agreement.

What is the difference between AOSCA and AOSA, and how do they effect Certified seed?

AOSCA, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies, works with seed certifying agencies in the U.S. and internationally to establish standards for genetic purity, seed quality, seed certification regulation and procedures. Inspection of seed production according to certification standards is performed by state agencies under the guidelines established by AOSCA.

AOSA, the Association of Official Seed Analysts, is an association of member laboratories in the U.S. and Canada that develop methods and standards for seed quality testing, such as germination and purity tests. Basically, they create the guidelines for analytical methods used by member laboratories.