Consistently walking your rows becomes a necessary chore as your field's flowers begin to take form in late July.
This process allows you to develop strong relationship with your plants and identify male phenotypes early on. It’s especially important to catch them before their pollen sacs open up and taint the flowers around them with seeds.
Our genetics are 99.97% feminized, but we do find a phenotypically male plant at a rate of about 1 in 4000. These ‘males’ often make themselves relatively obvious with spindly flowers that stand taller and lankier than most. Their flowers are obviously different than the females' and filled with dusty pollen. The only catch is they don’t always make themselves obvious early on.
We walk our rows several times a week throughout the flowering stage, marking suspicious specimens with bright orange flags and noting their locations. When a plant shows its intentions to spread pollen, we rip it out and place it in a garbage bag. If it’s far enough along and the pollen sacs are beginning to open, plants are sprayed with water to reduce viability. Plant carcasses are burned or trashed.
But male phenotypes are not all to keep an eye out for. Take special note in surveying fields for areas of stress, as plant stress can lead to female plants producing male flowers. Though not as prolific of pollen spreaders, hermaphrodites can be almost as destructive. The male flowers often appear in lower areas of the plants between branches and internodes. These ‘herms’ are best destroyed as well.
Above all, don’t slack. Plants can flower quickly and not only will pollen make your crop considerably less valuable, it will also damage those for miles around you. If you notice a neighbor growing males, speak up.