OPTIMUM PLANT AND SOIL HEALTH

by Chris Kehoe

Silica is widely misunderstood. It is mistakenly left out of most plant nutrition and agriculture input management programs. Current popular wisdom for adding silica (SiO2) to any cannabis nutrient regime is relatively limited to strengthening cell walls and increasing vigorous plant growth. Fortunately for growers who are ready to master the art and science of cannabis cultivation, the role of silica is just now being discovered for optimizing success in plant nutrient programs.

Modern plant science classifies silica as a beneficial micronutrient required for healthy plant growth. Silica is a naturally occuring compound containing the elements Silicon (Si) and Oxygen (O), known scientifically as silicon dioxide [SiO2]. In order for plants to benefit from SiO2, silica must be plant available in forms such as silicic acid [Si(OH)4] or Monosilicic acid [H4SiO4].

Historically, most soils had some soluble forms of silica as a result from physical and geochemical weathering. Due in part to climate change and unsustainable farming practices, plant-available silica in native soils is increasingly rare. Today most commercial agriculture-grade silica fertilizers are byproducts of industrial steel production.

With more cannabis growers required to follow strict SOP (Standard Operating Procedures), it is important to source clean and green inputs. Naturally derived silica products available for sustainable farming practices are derived from fermented plants (such as horsetail), volcanic mineral deposits, and those that are mined from ancient mineral sea beds, commonly known as diatomaceous earth.

Applications to various agricultural crops indicate silica accumulates in plants at different rates and is critical for many physical and biochemical functions. Cannabis uses silica at every stage of growth. Once taken-up by the plant, silica will not only strengthen the xylem and vascular transport network, but will act as a bio-regulator of other minerals and micro- nutrients.

Plants with access to silica will better control the uptake of a host of essential nutrients, including phosphorus, by increasing the ability to deliver the most critical foods at every stage of growth. Activation of this uptake control in plants will also help mitigate certain non- beneficial toxins and heavy metals from entering the rhizosphere.

Studies have shown a connection between adequate silica and reduced fungus diseases such as fusarium wilt. In the case of powdery mildew, disease attack has been shown to reduce the impact on flowers, coffee and grapes treated with silica. Silica also reduces manganese toxicity common in acidic soils that cause brown spots, leaf desiccation, and reduced plant growth.

Consider silica the new “smart drug” for plant health. Increasing size and physical strength are obvious benefits that all plant-lovers can appreciate. Increasing the ability to regulate the uptake and translocation of essential plant nutrients is even more impressive.

Experienced growers understand the many challenges to growing exceptional quality cannabis. The knowledge and ability to quickly identify specific biotic and abiotic stressors reduces critical time to remedy potentially devastating problems. When plants are deficient in silica the immune system is compromised and a weakened plant will be susceptible to diseases, pests and dangerous pathogens.

Protecting valuable crops from pests requires a rigorous IPM (Integrated Pest Management) program. One line of defense from many pests is simply the strengthening of plant tissues. There are many studies showing how silica will help the plants resist attacks from certain herbivorous insects because they are unable to chew on hardened tissues. This physiological resistance is also catalyzed by the production of phytochemicals such as tannic and phenolic compounds. Science has shown that most pests are unlikely to attack a healthy plant with these naturally occurring compounds.

For outdoor growers silica helps protect crops from excessive heat, cold and wind stress. Strong plants will have fewer broken branches and are better prepared to handle the weight of heavy flowers.

Another lesser known function is in the role in photosynthesis. Studies have shown leaves with sufficient amounts of silica capture sunlight more efficiently by tracking the movement of the sun, thus maximizing the phytochemical producing photoperiod, and contributing to increased plant growth.

It is often noted in scientific journals the use of silica in many crops will increase biomass, flower weight and oil production. In one recent side by side study, resin oil content and terpinoid profiles were significantly boosted. In this case, the grower used the same grow media, the same genetics, and added silica as the only new input to the standard nutrient program. Lab tests confirmed the increase of THC resins in each of the genetic profiles. Although more data is needed to substantiate this finding, this result alone could be a game- changer for cultivators in an ever competitive cannabis landscape.

Of the silica-based fertilizers available to growers it is important to distinguish the pros and cons of each. Many commercial-scale flower producers apply silica in a foliar spray. This application methodology does not allow important Monosilicic acids to be absorbed by the roots, systemically into the plant, and will not provide the same benefits that micronized silica rock dusts can. For hydroponic growers, using soluble forms of silica in nutrient solutions will help maintain a disease-free grow environment while giving roots access to the multitude of benefits.

Minerals such as Azomite™, Greensand, and Glacial Rock Dust contain various amounts of silica and have been relatively successful in the maintenance of healthy gardens. Although many farmers also use Diatomaceous Earth for its silica content, the hardened mineralized diatoms are slow to break down and may take years before plants can benefit. Volcanically derived mineral clays, such as Silica Earth™, is made up of micronized particles that can easily be broken down for increased bio-availability.

Remineralizing soils is an essential practice for sustainable food and flower production. Minerals will not only help sequester carbon from the atmosphere, but add important nutrients back into the soil food web. Silica, once a neglected mineral nutrient, is now emerging as an integral part in any proactive cannabis plant and soil care program.

UTILIZING PREHISTORIC POWER IN CULTIVATION

by Peter Baas, PHD; Colin Bell, PHD and Matt Wallenstein, PHD

When we get asked by cannabis growers why they should use microbes in their cannabis cultivation, we answer: because they work to naturally increase plant health, crop quality and yield. Over the last few decades, scientists have unveiled the critical role microbes play to support plant growth. Our research team at Growcentia has spent years exploring the specific ways in which plant-microbe interactions affect plant development and yield. In a previous article in Grow Magazine (July 2017), we discussed several mechanisms by which microbes can affect plant success. In this article, we will focus specifically on how microbial consortia (i.e. groups of different microbial species) work together, just like in nature, to support plant growth more effectively than any single microbial species can alone.

Microbial consortia make up the foundation of all ecosystems. More than 700 million years ago, plants evolved into a microbial world as their roots extended into soils teeming with microbial life. To this day, no plant in nature exists without help from soil microbial consortia supporting plant success by converting macronutrients into plant-available forms. There are several reasons why microbial consortia are more effective at supporting plant growth over single microbial species or non-synergistic microbial mixtures. The main reason is because nutrient cycling often requires several different metabolic pathways–and no one microbial species can carry out all the pathways alone.

Microbial nutrient cycling often requires multiple processes or “steps.” These steps are somewhat equivalent to an assembly line in a factory. However, in this case, the final product is bioavailable nutrients for plants to uptake. No single microbial species has the genetic ability to conduct all the steps in cycling nutrients–they need to work together as consortia to get the job done. For example, cycling nitrogen into bioavailable forms for plant uptake (typically ammonium and nitrate) require specialized microbial functions to complete different steps of nitrogen cycling. Liberating phosphorus for plant uptake requires a wide range of chelating, solubilizing, and catalyzing processes that can only be facilitated by different microbial species interacting within the consortia. Microbial consortia are also important for cycling potassium into bioavailable forms for plant uptake. Overall, microbial consortia cycle nutrients much more effectively than any single microbial strain.

Microbial consortia also form complex networks using biochemical and even electrical signaling to coordinate many processes. This type of communication within a microbial consortium is called quorum sensing. For example, intricate microbial networks can produce a specific compound that signals their density and activity in an environment. When enough of these microbes are present, they are able to trigger a physiological change for the initiation of the “next step” of nutrient cycling. These physiological triggers are often useless for single organisms acting along, but essential when microbial consortia work together.

We are now able to use modern technology to analyze and learn from microbial consortia in action–recording their activities, specific functions, and communication networks. One approach uses DNA genetic markers as unique identifiers to collect a census of the tens of thousands of different microbial species in an environment. This tool gives us a great idea of what microbes are working together within the consortia. Likewise, by utilizing DNA metagenomic tools, we are now able to identify the expression of specific microbial functional genes and unravel the functions performed by microbial consortia.

Over the last century, the agriculture “green revolution” focused on intensive use of chemical fertilizers to maximize crop productivity. However, these intensive farming practices also resulted in soil degradation and negative environmental consequences. To address some of these issues, microbial technologies are now being widely adopted to support soil and plant health. Our ability to harness the natural power of soil microbes is now being considered one of the next most important agriculture innovations to support plant development and yield across many crops.

SOURCING THE BASICS FROM NATURE

by Grubbycup

Organic nitrogens (from proteins and amino acids) do not tend to be immediately available to plants and must be first broken down by bacteria into ammonium, and then nitrate. Distribution of this nitrogen is spread out over a period of time. Popular organic nitrogen sources include blood meal (12-0- 0), alfalfa meal (2-1-2), and compost (3-1-2).

Phosphorus can be obtained naturally from organic composts or bone meal, although crushed rock phosphate is often considered an acceptable organic alternative.

Organic sources of potasium (also known as potash) include powdered kelp (1-0-4) compost (3-1-2), and greensand (0-0-3).

BUILDING BLOCKS FOR QUALITY CANNABIS

by Grubbycup

A plant’s nutrition centers around its macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), which a plant uses in the largest quantities. Because they are so important to the plant, they should therefore be important to the gardener.

Fertilizers list the NPK values for these three macronutrients on the front label. The first of the three numbers indicate the percentage of nitrogen. Ammonium nitrate (NH4)(NO3) has an NPK rating of 34-0-0. Therefore 34 percent of the weight of the fertilizer is nitrogen, and 66 percent of the weight is something else (hydrogen and oxygen in this case).

The second number is the amount of phosphorus by weight as if the phosphorus was expressed as phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5). This is true even if the phosphorus is in another form. Phosphate Rock with a NPK rating of 0-30-0 indicates that it contains enough phosphorus to create enough phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5) to equal 30 percent of the total weight.

The third number is potassium content by weight as if the potassium was expressed as potassium oxide (K2O). An NPK rating of 0-0-60 for potassium chloride denotes a potassium content equal to 60-percent potassium oxide. NPK ratings are proportions, so a fertilizer with an NPK rating of 2-1-2 has the same relative proportion as a fertilizer made from the same ingredients at 4-2-4. The difference would only be in the percentage of fillers or in the concentration.

While all three are used by plants for most of their life, the proportion needed can change based on the developmental stage. An increase in nitrogen promotes leaf and structure growth, important for strong early development. Higher phosphorus levels promote vigorous flowering and fruiting.

NITROGEN

Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients for plant growth. As a bacteria, it both prepares it for uptake by plants and helps return it to the soil after the plant expires.

In gardens, nitrogen deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency. Nitrogen is important for the proper development of chlorophyll (the green in leaves) used in photosynthesis. Nitrogen compounds comprise from 40 to 50 percent of the dry matter of plant cells. It promotes large healthy foliage, absorption by roots, and proper plant development and is used in chlorophyll, amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids production. Trees and shrubs absorb nitrogen directly from ammonium (NH4) well, but flowers and vegetables respond better to nitrogen further processed by bacteria into nitrate (NO3).

Nitrogen-deficient leaves will contain relatively little chlorophyll, tending to be pale green or yellow in color, while the plants’ growth will have slowed. Nitrogen is very mobile in plants, enabling them to readily move supplies where they are most required. Such transference is common from old growth to young growing tips when supplies are short. This mobility and re-utilization of nitrogen explains why deficiency symptoms appear first in the older parts of plants, working their way up to the grow tips. This same type of symptom creep from bottom to top is common to all mobile nutrients.

THE NITROGEN CYCLE

The air we breathe is mostly nitrogen gas (N2), a fact often overlooked in favor of an emphasis on the amounts of oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), or pollutant content. The reason for this is simple; the nitrogen gas in the air is so stable that, for most practical purposes, it can be considered inert. Our bodies can’t extract or make use of it directly. This is because when two nitrogen atoms are attached in a nitrogen gas molecule, they form a triple bond, which makes them less available to interact with other molecules or atoms. Nitrogen is very “vain” in the sense that once it pairs with itself, it tends to shut most of the rest of the world out.

NITROGEN FIXATION

In nature, nitrogen can be collected from the atmosphere by certain types of nitrogen-fixing bacteria such as Azotobacter. These bacteria fixate best in neutral to alkaline, nitrogen-deficient soils. Some of these bacteria form symbiotic relationships with the roots of plants, especially legumes such as clover. Gardeners can use this to their advantage by purposefully planting legumes, and then using the resulting plant material as a nitrogen source for other plants. Lightning strikes can also fixate atmospheric nitrogen, but are harder to cultivate in a garden.

A synthetic method of nitrogen fixation involves the Haber-Bosch process, which uses high pressure, high temperature, and a catalyst to convert nitrogen and hydrogen gases into ammonia (NH3). When ammonia is exposed to acidic conditions, it can pick up an additional hydrogen atom to form ammonium (NH4+). While the Haber-Bosch process has allowed for an increase in the amount of ammonia-based fertilizers available to humans, it does so by imbalancing the natural system and increasing nitrogen pollution.

Nitrogen is returned to the atmosphere by denitrifying bacteria that releases nitrogen gas from nitrates not taken up by plants.

Fortunately for gardeners, there are nitrogen forms that are already fixed that can be used as nitrogen sources. Plant material, animals, and animal waste all contain organic nitrogen, which decomposes into ammonium (NH4+) in a process known as ammonification. In organic gardens, manures and plant meals are commonly added to gardens as source materials for this process.

Nitrification in nature takes two steps. First, ammonia- oxidizing bacteria (AOB) oxidize ammonium (NH4+) or ammonia (NH3) to produce nitrite (NO2). Second, nitrite- oxidizing bacteria (NOB) oxidize those nitrites into nitrates (NO3 -).

Plants absorb nitrates (and ammonium to a lesser extent) through their root hairs and convert them to organic nitrogen for use in developing plant material. Animals eat plants (or other animals) to make use of this organic nitrogen for their own cells before returning it as part of the ammonification process above.

ORGANIC VS. SYNTHETIC FERTILIZERS

Organic fertilizers frequently make use of organic nitrogen and are added to source material for the ammonification process. This means that for the nitrogen to become available to plants, the organic nitrogen first decomposes to ammonium and then converts to nitrites (with an “i”), and then finally nitrates (with an “a”). This takes time and tends to complete over a matter of weeks or months. Organic fertilizers tend to be slower acting, and longer lasting than synthetic fertilizers.

In contrast, synthetic fertilizers can simply include nitrates. This allows for a shortcut that eliminates the time needed for decomposition and nitrification. Since nitrates are soluble in water, they can reach the root system quickly. Synthetic fertilizers also tend to be faster acting than organic fertilizers. and should be reapplied more often as they also wash away faster.

In synthetic or organic gardening, the washing away and wastewater aspects are cause for pollution concern, since high levels of nitrates in the waterways can (along with phosphorous pollution) lead to damaging algae blooms and other health risks. Eutrophication occurs when a body of water becomes nutrient rich and the resulting algae bloom and plant growth overloads the water. As the plants and algae die and decompose, oxygen is absorbed at an unsustainable level causing stagnation and a poisoning of the water.

Understanding the natural nitrogen cycle can help a gardener coax nitrogen from where it is to where it is wanted, with a minimum of waste and pollution. Nitrogen in the waterways is not only a pollutant, but a waste of potential resources. The nitrogen cycle is an example of the importance of bacteria in life, and if it weren’t for bacteria, then there wouldn’t be nitrogen for plants, which we need so we can eat, or a way to return the nitrogen in our bodies to the world for reuse.

PHOSPHORUS (P)

Phosphorus is required for photosynthesis, blooming, and root development, and is also used to form nucleic acid which is an essential part of living cells. Compounds of phosphorus are used in respiration and the efficient use of nitrogen. It’s important throughout the life cycle of the plant, but use is elevated during flowering.

Phosphorus deficiencies usually manifest as a generalized underperformance of the plant. Leaves may develop a bluish tint. Phosphorus assists in nitrogen uptake, so symptoms of phosphorus deficiency are often similar to those of nitrogen deficiency. An overdose of phosphorus may cause iron and zinc deficiencies.

Rock phosphate is available in two forms: “soft rock” phosphate and “hard rock” phosphate. Soft rock phosphate contains a higher amount of immediately available phosphorus, and is usually the choice for container soil enhancement. Hard rock phosphate is better suited to improve a field where plants are to be grown for several years.

POTASSIUM (K)

Potassium, also known as potash, is important for photosynthesis, carbohydrate and protein creation, and disease resistance. It’s used in the “plumbing” of the plant: liquid movement within the plant, stems, roots, etc. Many enzymic reactions require potassium, and it assists in silica uptake.

Potassium deficiency often shows as a yellowing/ browning/dying of the leaf edges, curled over leaves, followed by yellowing spots in the interior of the leaf face. Discolored spots may also appear on the undersides of leaves. Deficiency symptoms show first on lower leaves as flecking or mottling on the leaf margins. Prolonged deficiency results in cell death along the leaf margins and the plants can show signs of wilt. These symptoms first display in older leaves, and continue to work up through to the newer leaves if not corrected. Growth, root development, disease resistance, and bud size are reduced. Overdosing potassium can result in calcium and magnesium deficiencies.

The NPK rating will state the proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium of a fertilizer. To compare fertilizers, read the labels for the NPK rating and listed ingredients. The ingredient list should declare the type of nitrogen used. Considering these factors can help with making an informed decision about choosing a fertilizer that meets a garden’s needs.

THE ANCIENT CHINESE SECRET IS OUT

by Adam Jacques; photos courtesy of Mountain Greenhouse

CBD IS A hot topic right now in the hemp and cannabis industry. CBD (Cannabidiol) is a cannabanoid that exists in the cannabis plant with high concentrations available in the trichomes of the flowers. CBD has been used successfully in treatment of seizure disorders, pain relief, PTSD, and many other issues. With hemp becoming legal, medical growers utilizing it for years, and recreational producers growing it for market, I was interested in finding out where the discovery of CBD and its uses started.

We know cannabis rich in various cannabanoids and terpenes has been used for thousands of years. In writing, the Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi (ca. 2900 BC), whom the Chinese credit with bringing civilization to China, seems to have made reference to “ma,” the Chinese word for cannabis, noting that cannabis was very popular medicine that possessed both yin and yang. But when did we actually discover what CBD was and begin actively using it as a treatment

It was first isolated from the cannabis plant by Roger Adams in 1940. Adams was a Harvard alumni and a prominent organic chemist at the University of Illinois, spending several years of his career researching the chemistry of marijuana. However, when he separated the CBD chemical compound from the rest of the plant, he didn’t describe its chemical structure. It wasn’t until years later that other researchers went back and realized he was the first to find and isolate it.

After Adams isolated the first cannabanoids from cannabis, scientists began testing them. At this point, they didn’t even really know what they were working with. Walter S. Loewe conducted initial experiments in 1946. He tested cannabinoids on animals, specifically mice and rabbits. The THC caused, well, THC effects. The CBD, however, caused no effects, at least not the psychoactive effects they were testing for. At this time, these cannabanoids were isolated, but they were not named nor was it understood what they actually were.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was the first to actually identify CBD in 1964. He completed the work at his lab in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is where he also identified THC. His work in cannabis science was a huge turning point for medical patients and the industry. He was able to discern that THC caused the “stoned” effect we associate with cannabis and that CBD did not.

In the mid ‘70’s, after Mechoulam identified the cannabanoids and their uses, interest in cannabis for medical uses increased immensely. A tincture was released in the UK at this time that was likely the first CBD-based medication to be purposely created.

Dr. Mechoulam and researchers from Brazil conducted the first known double blind study with CBD in February 1980. The 16 individuals involved helped find that CBD had a definite medical benefit with very little to no side effects. This was a huge turning point in medical cannabis.

“Who cared about our findings? No one!” Dr. Mechoulam is quoted as saying. “And that’s despite many of the epilepsy patients being kids who have 20, 30, 40 seizures a day. And what did they do? Nothing!” This feeling was reinforced by the general consensus that cannabis was a recreational drug and had little to no medical value, or at least, that is what the government wanted people to believe.

On October 7, 2003, the US Government filed Patent No. 6630507. While maintaining to the public that CBD, THC, and other cannabanoids had no medical benefit, they patented it as a neuroprotectant. A very confusing move, considering it remained a Schedule I narcotic.

Since that time, many states that do not have medical or recreational cannabis laws have passed CBD-only legislation allowing the oil to be used. Breeding, breakthroughs, and laws continue to change so rapidly, it seems hard to keep up. But, it is nice to know where we started to gain a better understanding of this wonderful cannabanoid.

SAVE TIME AND MONEY WITH THC/CBD RATIO TESTING

By Leah Braggs

THC:CBD ratio testing is a new offering that has been popping up at analytical laboratories across the country over the last few years and saving growers serious time and money in the process. Imagine the electricity, soil, money and not to mention 8-10 weeks of flowering-time to determine if a particular strain suits your mission.

Well those days are over thanks to science– chemists are finding that a cannabis strain’s ratio of THC to CBD stays relatively similar throughout the life of the plant. Ratios are not always precisely the same in all strains, but the variances are small enough that a CBD focused horticulturalist can submit early leaf material from several new potential varieties and find out which one is scientifically more likely to produce the CBD’s they desire.

Beyond the ratios, Phylos Bioscience in Portland, Oregon offers a genotype test, resulting in a detailed report highlighting heritage and relationship data for each sample you submit, along with a time-stamped certificate.

You also receive a digital ID card to share with your customers via your website and social media, which links to the Phylos Galaxy, a 3D visualization of cannabis strains utilizing DNA sequence data to map the relationships between cannabis varieties and shows the position of your sample based on its genetic relationship to every other sample in their database.

The galaxy is truly amazing and can be seen online at: phylosbioscience.com/the-phylos-galaxy

TAKING THE CONFUSION OUT OF CANNABIS GENETICS

By Amari Emani

Basically, when it comes to landrace cannabis, it could be described as a strain of cannabis that grows wild. It also refers to an isolated subspecies of a cannabis strain that is specific to a geographic region. When you have an understanding of the history of a plant’s genetic profile, you gain insight into the particular climates and zones in which that plant will thrive outdoors. This will help you select varieties of cannabis most suitable for growing in your garden or crop. Once you have isolated landrace strains suitable for your geographic location, then from there you can choose those strains most likely to deliver the balanced flowers you desire.

Cannabis Ruderalis is a particular type of cannabis that comes from areas such as Siberia, Eastern Europe, and the Himalayas. These are often small plants that are adaptable to weather in climates that can be best described as harsh. They do not pack a punch with potency for smokers looking to get baked, but have their own unique niche with breeders, and increasingly in the laboratory.

Cannabis Indica is a variety of cannabis that traces back to India, Pakistan, and the mountains located in Afghanistan. A typical Indica plant will grow an average of 4-6 feet while having wide leaflets. They’re also known for taking a shorter period of time for the flower to mature. Often skunky even musky aromas are associated with cannabis indica strains. These strains are suitable for growing in temperate climates. Strains such as Hindu Kush, Blueberry, and Northern Lights are among some of the favorite strains of cannabis indica amongst breeders, growers, and consumers alike.

Cannabis Sativa is said to come from Asia Minor, Asia, and North Africa. This particular type of cannabis plant has been a favorite of many for quite some time. Strains such as Acapulco Gold and the notorious Thai stick were born from Sativa varieties of cannabis. Sativas thrive in tropical climates that have more sunlight and longer summer months. These plants normally grow very tall reaching up to 20 feet in height with slender leaves. The flowers are known to take longer to mature on sativa. They are often associated with having floral and fruity aromas rather than the skunky tones of their indica counterparts.

Now you have the basic insight to the three most common types of cannabis growing around the world today. With a little research, this will help you determine what type of crop or garden is best suitable for you to grow based on your environment and condition.

STRATEGIES FOR IMITATING THE SUN CROSSING THE HORIZON

By Chris Gifford

To imitate nature is something man has always tried to achieve. Growing indoor is an example of the never-ending battle to achieve this task. There are many things in nature that people have tried to mimic growing indoor. We will be focusing on the benefits of imitating the sun crossing the horizon.

Growing indoor, when you change from eighteen hours of light a day to twelve hours of light a day induces flowering, taking your plants out of the “veg” stage. In nature the days become shorter after the summer solstice passes and you get closer to fall, this is when the female plant will begin flowering.

Every morning the sun rises in the east and the sun sets in the west, crossing the horizon and evenly lighting the landscape. Light tracks are one efficient and cost-effective technique that some people take advantage of as a way to spread the light throughout their room evenly. People have found that it makes their plants more symmetrical and even in growth and that they can cover up to 20% more canopy.

All strains will vary in results but doing a mono crop will make it easier for you to see the results in a shorter amount of time. Similar length, width, and height will be achieved. One of the other methods used for imitating the sun crossing the horizon is “the checker board method” witch would be to set the timers to half of your lights on for the first 1/3 of the day, all lights on for the middle 1/3 and the other half of the lights on for the remaining 1/3 of the daylight in a checker board pattern.

Most people “veg” their plants under t5’s or metal halide’s and flower under high pressure sodium. The checker board method is a good way of weaning your plants into a different spectrum of light without stressing them out.

After about 2-3 weeks it’s recommended to have all of your lights on in the room and to have the proper amount of lumens per square foot to ensure full, healthy, dense flowers. Essentially achieving the same thing a light track is doing by spreading light in concentrated areas throughout the room without using a motor, using less lumens and therefore saving money.

Something that is also recommended if you want to grow even, symmetrical plants is to turn your plants 180 degrees every time you water on both track and checker board methods. This will ensure even light penetration throughout the plant and give light to bud sites that would otherwise not have seen the light of “day.”

Over all, there are many opinions, many different strategies, but I have always believed that if you find something that works for you, something that you see results with, go for it. Don’t let hearsay keep you from trying new things. Every day people are developing new, more cost-effective, more efficient techniques and technology to grow cannabis that we should all be excited to see in the future.

TIPS FOR LOW STRESS CANNABIS TRANSPLANTING

By Sophia Ruiz

Whether you are a beginner, a novice, or a master grower, there are some basic tips you’ll want to know when it comes time for transplanting cannabis. Moving a plant from one pot to another is one of the most dangerous times of the plant’s life–a time when carelessness and mistakes translate directly into unnecessary stress, potentially stunting growth or even causing plants to become hermaphrodites or worst case scenario, die.

Stress can cause all kinds of unnecessary and unwanted harm to your plants and should always be avoided. Try to handle the moist, not soaked, plant-bed as little as possible when transplanting. Make this process as painless as possible for you and your plant/ plants. Before you even start, assess the size of the planter you will be using. Be sure it is large enough for your root system ultimately. Read your plant and it’s roots’ body language, and consider root growth over the time it has been vegetating and then consider how much time remains in your plant’s life (continued veg. time + flowering time) and choose your finish pots accordingly–bigger pots cost more to fill and so save your cash for tactics that are guaranteed to fruit better flowers. A large pot or soil volume will not necessarily give you a better or bigger yield, however a pot that’s too small will certainly stunt your plant’s growth.

That said, I’ve seen monster plants fruit monster colas from 20 litre (5.28 gallon) airpots, and I’ve seen outdoor master gardeners that swear they use every cubic inch of 500 gallon pots each season. Not to mention the hydro I have seen that defies logic–trichome jungles from root balls in some of the most confined reservoirs. It’s surprise value across the board, so I encourage you to experiment and see which methods and which of all the mediums and pots available fruit the best results for your venture. Don’t forget to share your results with us.

If you are transplanting from traditional pots or cups, put your hand over the soil surface with the stalk between your middle fingers and with your other hand grab the bottom of the pot and gingerly turn it upside-down, freeing the root ball and dirt clump from the pot. This may take some gentle force and don’t be alarmed if some of your soil chunks off, simply continue to the new pot and cover the exposed roots immediately. We’ve recently had the chance to experiment with some airpots in our research garden and among other attributes, these funky looking pots make transplanting a snap, literally just unsnap the old pot and unfurl it from the medium–the easiest safest way to transplant.

If your roots are bound up against the edge of the pot, gingerly pull them apart and in extreme cases cut some of the roots loose to promote new, lateral root growth. When you are transferring your plants from a smaller pot to a larger planter, it’s a good idea to stake your plants. You do this, so they have a little stability until their stalk and roots strengthen.

One of the most important things to remember when transplanting is to water immediately upon replanting your cannabis plant. Avoid transplanting plants in direct sunlight when possible, cannabis roots are not fond of UV rays. These are just some basic simple tips to help you when it comes time to upsize your beds.

By Gooey Rabinski

Labeled by master gardeners as the most common–and potentially costly–threat facing modern cannabis cultivation is the common mite. Indoor or out (they are especially troublesome in greenhouses), the problem is the same: Mites are ever-ready to pounce on your pot plants.

The extreme commonality of mites in cannabis gardens means that all cultivators and farmers must be ever vigilant. The goal is to stop any threat before significant damage is caused to one’s harvest–along with decreased production volumes.

In gardens suffering an existing infestation, the sole option is obviously an eradication strategy that preserves as many plants as possible.

DETECTING MITES

Mites typically appear during hot, dry conditions. Infestations advance quickly, often taking cultivators by surprise. Unfortunately, abundant use of synthetic fertilizers has killed many of the natural predators of mites.

Their extremely small size makes mites difficult to detect during casual garden inspections. A magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe is necessary to properly detect this microscopic menace, especially smaller species.

The most common variety, the spider mite, damages plants by piercing leaf tissue and feeding on fluids and resin. Evidence of feeding includes leaves featuring light yellow spots which, if untreated, will turn fully yellow or brown and fall from the plant.

A fine webbing on plants indicates a large colony of spider mites and a severe infestation. Routine inspections, if performed thoroughly, are an opportunity to detect these pests before they wreak extensive damage. Unfortunately, the much smaller russet mite leaves no such webbing, making it significantly more difficult to detect.

ERADICATING MITES

Any cannabis cultivator will eventually encounter a mite infestation of one severity or another. When evidence of mites is first detected, quick action is necessary to prevent rapid expansion.

Novice farmers, at the first sign of an infestation, often panic and are tempted to apply synthetic pesticides to their plants. Unfortunately, this approach can be counter- productive for multiple reasons.

First, synthetic pesticides kill beneficial predator insects, meaning they can, ironically, result in the spread of an infestation. Second, mites have shown a tendency to develop a quick resistance to many common pesticides. Thus, the best approach to the treatment of mites is one involving organic methods.

One strategy for heavy mite infestations is the use of a soap spray or an organic pesticide to decrease the mite population–after which predator insects are employed to fully rid the garden of intruders. Predator bugs offer the additional benefit of helping prevent future infestations.

PESTS PREVENTION TACTICS

Mite infestation can occur from many sources, including unsealed grow rooms, human clothing, pets, and even dirty equipment. Ensuring the cleanliness of grow environments and greenhouses–and those working in them–is important to minimizing a garden’s exposure to attack.

In addition to cleanliness, one of the most effective means by which to prevent mite attacks is the introduction of predatory insects. These include praying mantises, ladybugs (which also munch on aphids, another common pest to cannabis plants), and predatory mites (like the persimilis variety, which gorges on spider mites).

Among the most effective commercially available predator varieties is the western predatory mite, which is most helpful in dry, hot conditions. The western predatory mite, including similar species, are advantageous because they do not feed on cannabis plants; if damaging mites aren’t available for a quick meal, it will either die or migrate to another food source.