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.


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.


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).


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 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 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.


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 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 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, 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.


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.


by Todd McCormick & Mel Frank

With legalization, cannabis culture is becoming more and more mainstream. What was once activity that was hidden from view is now coming out of the shadows and into the light with an esteemed reverence for those brave enough to have broken the law, and in doing so, brought us the progress in cannabis policy that we have today.

Starting in 1971, Mel Frank began writing about cannabis and teaching the world how to cultivate cannabis. In doing so, he opened up a culture to the opportunity to grow their own. I took a tour of Mel Frank’s cannabis cultivation history through the lens of his camera, and asked him to narrate the show for those of us who could not attend in person.

Todd: Mel Frank, please tell us about the show.

Mel Frank: This spring, M+B Photo in Hollywood presented the first gallery showing of archival film marijuana shots. The show ran from April 28 through June 16. All shots were taken in natural light with Kodachrome or Ektachrome slide film between 1976 and 1998.

Since the context of what, at the time, was hidden criminal activity, we decided to give attendees a sense of what growing marijuana was like during these dangerous times, so the first room used six images to give a sense of marijuana growing where I photographed 20 to 40 years ago.

As you entered the gallery, the first image was of a young man and a smiling woman standing proudly in the doorway of a makeshift greenhouse filled with marijuana. However, even these happy growers made an effort to hide their faces. This was 1977 in Sonoma County, and many California growers were still somewhat cavalier about their growing. Unfortunately, that feeling was dramatically changing. By 1978, authorities had become more funded, organized, monetarily motivated, and determined to arrest growers and destroy their crops. Hidden faces would become the theme for the next 40 years. This motif continues in the image of a man where in one hand he holds branches of harvested marijuana, while his other hand pulls his knitted cap down to cover his face (1978). Helicopters became a grower’s nightmare, especially in California.

Contrasted with the greenhouse grow is a small plant, grown with window light on a ground floor apartment on a busy street in San Francisco (1981). The grower carefully pruned and tied down her plant’s branches so that it couldn’t be seen by passersby from the sidewalk. Next to this modest growing attempt is Trichome Technologies’ professional electric light grow (1998) (voted “Best Indoor Grow in 25 Years”, High Times), which shows the sophistication of the growing industry as it evolved, moving indoors in response to authorities’ pressure on outdoor crops.

In the ’70s, city youth were buying their rural 40 acres, trying to return to the land and live on revenue from growing marijuana. Entering the next room we see such, and the motif resumes where a man stands behind a potted outdoor plant, wearing no more than a loincloth, his face just outside the picture’s frame (1976). On the opposing wall, a woman stands among giant plants where leaves obscure her face. “Freedom is the Issue” is the caption on her t-shirt (1979).

By the late ’70s, pressure from authorities forced West Coast growers to hide their plants by growing them below tree canopies or mixing them among native vegetation. Contrasted here are images from New York in 1982, where the plants were grown in open stands and small fields. Local authorities had yet to realize the extent of native growing and weren’t actively looking. The fields shown yielded better than 500 pounds of high-quality sinsemilla.

The gallery’s main room is devoted to marijuana buds, the exalted product of the cannabis plant. Unless you are a grower, the dried buds seen at dispensaries are visually unremarkable, but we who grow admire their fresh or dried beauty and distinctiveness as displayed in three live buds, a South Indian, a Colombian, and a Nigerian 1979-1980) in all their 30×50 inch glory. And we see unique qualities between dried buds as well in Purple Colombian (1979) and California Redhead (1996).

These buds, and a row of five live buds 13×20 inch (1979- 1997) on another wall, proved to be the most popular, as their aesthetics, with contrasting colors, forms, light and shadows, engage even the naive viewer.

Photomicrographs of resin glands were taken in the late 1970s to illustrate resin production in a book I was currently writing (Marijuana Grower’s Guide Deluxe, 1978, Frank and Rosenthal). I began photographing marijuana and continued for four decades to illustrate books and articles I would write. But reflecting on the process, photography became more and more a means to help educate myself as I looked closer and more studied with my efforts to better know this remarkable plant. My perception of the plant’s aesthetic evolved as I better understood light in the photographic medium.

Todd: Thank you Mel Frank! I appreciate all you have done to further the knowledge of cannabis cultivation and also to preserve the history of our culture. In addition to the 30 images hung for the show, 15 other prints are also available, for example, Morning Mist, New York, 1982.

Although the show has closed, all prints can be seen online at: mbphoto.com/artists/567-mel-frank/series/other-works/ And better yet, the prints can still be seen in person at:

M+B Photo Gallery 1050 N. Cahuenga Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90038 Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

When We Were Criminals travels to New York, opening September 14, 2018 at

Benrubi Gallery, 521 W 26th St, Floor 2, New York, NY 10001


I have some seeds I found in my desk that are more than 20 years old. Will they grow?KR M.

Ed: Probably not. Seeds expire fastest when they are kept warm. Cool (refrigerator) temperature extends their viability. Constant freezing preserves the living seed for years. Seeds kept in a desk drawer at room temperature usually have viability for just a few years. If you have a large number of seeds you could crack a few open to see if the little embryo inside is still alive fresh and alive. If they are dried or deformed, then they are dead or damaged and will not germinate.

Old seeds also take longer to germinate than fresh seeds.They may take up to two weeks to pop. The reason for this is that the enzymes and hormones used for the process have lost their chemistry or evaporated. With fewer enablers, the germination process slows.

The hormone and enzyme deficiency creates viability problems. Most seedlings die soon after germination, after their cotyledon leaves or first set of serrated leaves open. Only a small percentage of them usually get past this point. These plants are usually weak, rather than vigorous. They are not necessarily a wasted effort because they can be used for breeding.

There is a general assumption that one reason germination is prolonged is that the shell has hardened and is more impervious to water, so it has a hard time penetrating the shell. I don’t think this is so, instead that the problem is internal, with the embryo, as I described above.To alleviate some of this difficulty, it’s suggested to scuff the shells using a fine sandpaper, or to slice them slightly with a knife. Others suggest soaking them in water with additives for 24 to 48 hours to start the germination process.

On the other hand, using DMSO, which helps water penetrate both the shell and cell membranes while carrying solutes with it, some experimenters were able to increase germination rates, but the seedlings all died within days or weeks. Perhaps using DMSO and humic acid and Nitrogen (N) as described below might help with survival.

Recipes call for eight ounces water and include quarter- to half-teaspoon hydrogen peroxide, quarter-teaspoon humic acid and/or molasses or sugar. These are of marginal value, regarding germination, but the humic acid and sugars may provide some strength to the seedlings.

Plant the seeds shallowly in sterile planting media and add mychorrizae. Use the humic acid and molasses formula as well as a small amount of N such as an eighth of a teaspoon of high N fertilizer with micros, fish emulsion fertilizer, or high N guano. This will support the initial growth and may help the plants to start photosynthesizing fast to get past the vulnerable post-germination stage. Use a heat mat to keep the temperature at between 72 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

Expect to wait to see the seeds germinate – light spray with the water formula might help. Hope for miracles–that is, a viable plant.


I saw an electronic magnifier that plugs into your computer. You can use it to spot pests. Do you know where I can find one? Nathanial Ed: Look up digital microscopes on an internet search site such as Google or on the sales sites. You will find scopes ranging in price from a few to thousands of dollars.


Are all THC molecules the same? If so, what works in conjunction with it to change the effect and experience of one strain’s euphoria vs. another’s laid back effects if they both have the same percentage?Michael

Ed: In most cannabis, you will find mainly THC. Often varieties have small amounts of other cannabinoids. Some of these other cannabinoids, such as CBD and CBG, have calming effects, but are not psychotropic. None of the cannabinoids have an odor.

You have probably noticed that odor is related to cannabis’ effects.These odors are produced by terpenes, the ingredients of plants’ essential oils. Essential oils and the terpenes they contain are the key ingredients in aromatherapy. They can have both physical and psychological effects.

Dr. Rafael Mechoulam, who discovered THC, calls the combined effects of THC (and perhaps other cannabinoids) and the terpenes the “entourage effect.” He described what millions of marijuana users had discovered long ago: the terpenes and THC affect the body’s processing of each other and change the entire experience. Together, they are responsible for the strain’s different effects.


In your book, Marijuana Harvest, you talk about finishing products and their ingredients. I have been growing for about seven years (two) rooms using a popular brand’s planting mix and fertilizers products with success. Now I’m wondering if I‘m missing out by just sticking to one line?Papa Yahoo

Ed: If you are curious about some of the bud enhancers and finishing products mentioned in Marijuana Harvest, you owe it to yourself to experiment with them. Set aside a separate space or separate irrigation system to test them against your standard fertilizers and enhancers and make sure to keep all other conditions the same.

The manufacturers of these products depend on repeat sales. If they don’t work, who will buy them a second time?


For the past two years, botrytis has attacked my crops. I only use organic and environmental friendly products to manage this problem. It comes back right before harvest.

The plants are grown in a greenhouse with raised beds, so changing the soil is not much of an option. It is well ventilated with drip irrigation. I foliar feed at night. I have been growing the same strain for the past two seasons. Should I change varieties? If the botrytis is present once, is it always present? Should I spray the whole greenhouse with a bleach solution, but what about the beds?

The first step I’m taking is to learn about soil health and to improve the diversity of microorganisms. The second is, stopping monoculture, which I’m seeing as not the correct way of growing any crops. So, I am adding companion plants, which will work as natural pesticides and nutrient cyclers. Third, is to never let the soil be exposed, as to improve soil life and health. I’d like to think these steps I’m taking go hand in hand with preventing pest invasions and pathogens.

Is there anything more that I can do to fix the problem once and for all?Mikaela

Ed: First, let’s clear up your confusion regarding pests and diseases. Pests are animal kingdom creatures. Diseases are caused by pathogens such as yeasts, bacteria, and viruses. Botrytis is a disease caused by a fungus, Botrytis cinerea. Its spores are airborne and not related to the soil.

Botrytus is an environmental disease. As was mentioned, Botrytus is airborne and it’s everywhere, so it will come in contact with your plants. Its spores germinate easily when the relative humidity is more than 50 percent and the temperatures range from the mid-50s to the low 70s. When you foliar feed at night, you are increasing the RH to unacceptable levels. Stop increasing relative humidity by ceasing all foliar feeding from the second week of flowering.

Botrytus germinates in acidic conditions. By spraying a 10-percent milk solution or pH up on your plants, the surface pH will change to unfavorable for the fungus–alkaline. Potassium carbonate also works well as a spray up to the first three to four weeks of flowering. These are good to spray on after a rain to prevent germination of spores spread by raindrops.

Certainly improving the quality of the planting mix using bio- culture such as mycorrhizae, trichoderma, and other beneficials is a good idea, but it won’t affect B, Cinerea. However, keeping the soil loosely covered helps thwart thrips and fungus gnats, lower humidity, and increase time between irrigation. If you have a light deprivation greenhouse, set it to harvest the plants before the time they are usually attacked. If not, change to varieties that are normally harvested before Botrytus season starts.

I don’t recommend that you grow companion plants in the greenhouse. By keeping it just cannabis, you can cater to its needs and not make any compromises.

During both day and night, keep the temperature in the mid- 70s or higher, above the high end of the range for the fungus. During the day, it can climb as high as 85 degrees, increasing the plants’ growth.

If you are located in an area with high RH during the year, you might consider growing in a closed loop greenhouse. Rather than using ventilation as part of the environmental controls, condition the air in the greenhouse using air conditioning and dehumidifiers. This will eliminate the disease by lowering the humidity below 50 percent, outside the fungus’ environmental range. This also gives you a chance to clean the air so it contains fewer pathogens.

UVC light is used to control powdery mildew. The light passes over the plants for just a few seconds daily, but it kills the pathogens and its spores. There are controlled ways to use the light without coming in contact with it since it is also harmful to humans.


I am an 18-year-old high school senior living in Illinois. I want to pursue my dreams of becoming a master grower. I plan to attend Oaksterdam University, then my community college before transferring to Northern Michigan for medicinal plant chemistry. I spend hours doing research and studying, reaching out to growers, pretty much anything I can to expand my knowledge in the field of marijuana. I want to be the best I can possibly be. I was wondering if you had any advice, tips, secrets, or opinions on my plan, just anything that can help lead me in the right direction in this industry.Andrew

Ed: Your goals and plans seem reasonable to me. Illinois is opening up to legalization and so are its neighbor states, so you will be working in an industry with excellent growth. Many new people will be needed to run things. Your idea of getting formal education that is industry based through Oaksterdam and then to get a degree in agriculture and chemistry is laudable. My one piece of advice: while you are getting your education, intern with someone or an organization you respect to get a feel of things and to network.


I’m growing on the island of Hawaii. I moved my indoor vegetative outside where we have at most 14 hours of light on June 22, the longest day of the year. We turn the lights on at 9 pm, 12 am, and 3 am. How long should each blast of light be? Doing ten minutes now. Cyrano

Ed: An individual leaf needs only a few moments of red light to restart the count to a critical darkness time period.The chemistry that deals with this is changed back to the active state, which prevents flowering, with just a short light duration. The reason the lights stay on longer or move is to make sure that most of the plant receives the light. Even a gentle wind causes movement, exposing more of the plant to it. A moving light changes its angle in relation to the plant, also exposing it more completely.


I am at the force flowering stage and I have noticed that, within a few minutes of the lights going out, the plants wilt severely and when I check on them for the next 12 hours they are still wilted. After the 12 hours are up, the lights turn back on and they look great. Is there a problem here?Mike C.

Ed: Plant leaves drooping at night is not a problem. It costs the plant energy to maintain the turgidity needed to maintain leaves upright. Since they are not attempting to catch moon- rays, during the dark period, the plants let the leaves hang looser since there is no advantage to keeping them upright and it costs them energy.

This is a phenomenon common not only to cannabis, but to other plants as well, including many trees and garden plants. Using time-lapse photography, you will notice leaves in different positions during the 24-hour circadian cycle. It seems to react to light rather than time, although plants “learn the cycle” and anticipate events based on repetition.

Sometimes, leaves begin to droop on plants several hours before lights go out. This may mean that the leaves are maxed out on light for the day. They have had as much as they can handle and are not trying to capture any more for photosynthesis.


One week after adjusting the lights to 12-12 for flowering, the lights were left on for 36 hours. That was one 12-hour period that was supposed to be lit, 12 hours that should have been off but were left on and the regular 12-hour lit period again. What should I do?James Harvey

Ed: The plants will take it in stride and it will have little total effect on flower yield or quality. You should get a timer that is reliable and start using it immediately.


I have a couple of indoor plants that are five weeks into flowering. They are not developing well. The buds are tiny, very airy, and sparse. They are very different than my past results and look more like two or three weeks of flowering instead of five weeks. Upon closer inspection, I noticed one of my timers was at fault. During the 12-hour dark period, all through the five weeks, this timer was coming back on for 15 minutes after being off for three hours.James Harvey

Ed: The space would go dark, and then, three hours later, this one light would come on for 15 minutes and then go off leaving the room dark for the rest of the period (eight hours and 45 minutes). The problem has now been fixed.

Assuming the plants look like they are at two or three weeks flowering stage, should I just let them flower for another five weeks? Then they will flower for a total of 10 weeks, although the variety usually takes only eight weeks to flower. Do you think they will take more time to develop or will they just reach maturity at eight weeks?

As you described, the plants were receiving mixed signals about flowering. This has affected the growth. I think your speculation that it has also affected the chronological pattern of development is correct. The plants’ development is at an earlier stage than the five weeks the plants have spent in flowering.


The plants are two weeks into flowering and all the plants have immature seeds in every node and calyx. What can I do to save it? Is there a chemical that will stop those seeds from maturing? Other than this, things are growing faster than I’ve ever seen. The plants have never had nugs this big in week two. – Jim

Ed: First question: Have you found the culprit? Was it a male or a sneaky hermaphrodite? Or was it a result of general hermaphroditism in the group? If the latter, then there is no stopping the seeds because of continued pollination from new male flowers. The buds will best be used for concentrates. If the seeding was the result of sloppy male inspections or a few sneaky hermaphrodites, then with their elimination, any new flowers will be seedless. If it is only lightly seeded, new flowers will start growing. These flowers will be seedless, but will be part of a bud or cola that contains seeds. If the buds were heavily seeded, there is a good chance the plants will go into senescence as the seeds mature. There is no chemistry I know of which will reverse the damage caused by the pollen.


In the section called “Nutrient Deficiencies” of your Marijuana Growers Handbook, you wrote about some minerals being “mobile”, where others are not. What does the term “mobile” mean in this context? – Leslie K.

Ed: Mobile nutrients can move around the plant to the section where they can be used most advantageously. Nitrogen (N) is one such nutrient. If there is a deficiency, the plant moves the element from lower portions to the top of the canopy. Other mobile nutrients are Phosphorus (P) in the form of phosphate, Potassium (K), Magnesium (Mg), Chlorine (Cl), Zinc (Zn), and molybdene (Mo).

Immobile nutrients have a fixed position in the plant. Once they are absorbed into the tissue, they are locked in place. They are Calcium (Ca), sulfur (S), iron (Fe), boron (B), and copper (Cu).


The CO2 level in my sealed grow room goes up to 2000 ppm and higher during the dark period. Is this negatively affecting yield and quality?Victoria

Ed: I don’t think that plants will indicate a stress mode from 2000 ppm CO2 during the relatively inactive dark period. The plant absorbs CO2 only during the lit period when it is photosynthesizing.

The CO2 level rises during the dark period because it continues metabolic, that is, life processes and growth, during the dark period. It burns the sugar it has produced for energy to engage.


Story and Photos by Dan Pomerant

You can learn a lot about a person from what you see on their bookshelf. When I was younger, I stocked my bookshelves with biographies, drawn to stories of amazing lives, especially rebels and, among the rebels, drug smugglers. My 20-year-old self’s bookshelf was the usual: Bruce Lee, Ed Rosenthal, Jorge Cervantes, and a few books about smugglers flying loads from South America and shipping massive cargo across the seas. But I could never find any books about the lives and experiences of cannabis growers. Law enforcement was harsh in the ‘90s during the Clinton era and growers had everything to lose. Their stories could not be told.

A lot of people may not realize that to be a cannabis grower, manufacturer, distributor, or retailer used be very risky and dangerous in many places, including Northern California, and continues to be for some. Nowadays, our industry is turning towards corporate or craft cannabis into a race to the bottom, and market share is largely based on presentation and professionalism, rather than authenticity and quality.

Sadly, some of the very best growers – pioneers who’ve lived lives of badass risk, adventure, and endurance – are easily overlooked. This series is my opportunity to have some fun, share some of their stories, and hope to encourage consumers to really think about who and where you want your cannabis to come from, and why and what will give you the best experience every time you consume cannabis.

For the first farmer in this series, I wanted to share a story of optimism and positivity. Roots and loyalty. Naturality, surrounded by sustainable beauty, a place to balance wellness and conciseness. We produce the female cannabis plant for her healing nature. It is a deep connection to the feminine energy of the universe. That connection between female energy is a bond male growers will never have. I think this is a reason many of our industries best growers have been women, and our culture has evolved carried on the backs of their hard work and dedication. Big ups to all the women of cannabis; our industry can be an example of gender equality. That is why I want to start this series featuring my neighbor Tina of Mood Made Farms.

Tina’s story began with humble beginnings like most growers. Before coming to Palo Verde, she was living in the Mission District of San Francisco. She was exploring life, deeply entrenched in the underground art and music culture. Playing drums in rock bands like Lost Goat and The Glamour Pussies, recording and touring, putting out videos like “Hot Chick Stoner BBQ”, “zines” (Stroker Magazine), making art, and living on her own terms. Her last band was a badass all female AC/DC tribute band, AC/Dshe.

When I met with her for coffee to interview her for this piece, she explained her relationship to cannabis back then was as a conduit to creative inspiration. Smoking pot helped her manage pain while recovering from a car accident. Because of the accident, couldn’t play drums, so she taught herself how to play guitar on a ’68 Gretsch. Smoking was awesome for starting songs, but terrible for finishing them. She patched many of these riffs together for create a 12-hour composition, performed from sun up to sun down as part of the 2006 fall equinox. The Rambler, a mobile sound stage that hosted this performance, has since made its way to hauling pot plants, bags of shake, and bails of straw. It’s about to become a mobile t-shirt shop for Tina’s Moon Made Apparel line.

Tina landed in Southern Humboldt thanks to her drumming. In 2007, a drummer friend, Valerie Agnew, brought Tina on a road trip up to Palo Verde. The day they arrived, she met Joani, a fellow female drummer and someone who would become very inspirational in her life and future. They became fast friends and Tina even made a documentary about her, titled “Joani, Queen of the Paradiddle.” While working on the documentary, Tina transitioned to living in Humboldt and started working on a Palo Verde Farm, Villa Paradiso. A year after moving to the hill, Joani and her partner Marion asked Tina if she wanted to buy their land, a life-changing opportunity. Tina bought the 40-acre parcel on Palo Verde with the agreement with Joani and Marion that their ashes could one day be spread and buried to rest on the property as they blend into the regeneration of nature and the farms ecosystem. Moon Made Farms is part of Tina’s commitment to their legacy.

I asked Tina about her current relationship with cannabis. She explained she uses CBD products daily to balance her wellness and consciousness, and that high THC is mostly reserved for times of vision quests of person learning and growth. After a few years of cultivating cannabis, Tina discovered that she resonates with cultivating and ingesting high and mixed-CBD cultivars. Growing strains like Harle Tsu, Canna Tsu, Ringo’s Gift, and Pennywise was a revelation.

Moon Made Farms’ main focus is in growing CBD- dominant varieties and creating health-promoting wellness products to smoke and vape, as well as tinctures and other exciting herbal infusions. They have a diversity of CBD genetics ranging from 20:1 to 1:4 ratios including Pennywise, Cannatonic, Ringo’s Gift, and Harle Tsu, among others. Tina describes Ringo’s Gift as pleasant, easy on the throat and lungs, a sweet light mint freshness, with a relaxed and inspired effect that helps balance her turbo pace.

They also grow some pretty fire THC strains such as tasty Purple Punch, Sour Tangie, Huckleberry Hill’s Huckleberries, a Moon Made original called Pineapple Wonder that Phylos could not detect any relatives to in their genome galaxy… and maybe even a few Rebel Grown strains in the mix.

She doesn’t hold back about the role of the feminine essence of cannabis. She says, “the crucial ingredient is in sticky sweet feminine seduction that hovers over the land” that promotes healing, wellness, and a shift in consciousness.

For anyone who has not experienced cannabis in bloom, there’s nothing like it. These flowers are LOUD. Just being around the flowers makes you feel good.

Moon Made Farm’s flag ship and home piece is located in an oak grove at 2,100 feet elevation at the heart of the Emerald Triangle on Palo Verde. It wasn’t until she moved to Southern Humboldt that she was awakened to the power of nature. “Clean air, fresh water, stars in the sky,” she says. Tina’s style of cultivation is about aligning with the natural forces and using all of your senses – smelling, listening, touching the soil and the plants, and becoming intuitive on a cellular level with what the plants tell you. Inspired by Lunar Farming and the moons subtle light cycles effect on plants, “It’s all about tuning in and observation,” she says. She uses land-provided inputs to build soil and to build the beds plants live in. Her plants grow in no-till soils with established humic and fungal layers from integrating native soil, oak leaf, inoculating with humus from under the trees, making compost teas from inputs growing on the land–all of this helps introduce indigenous micro-organisms into the soil. Many of the beds are made of rock and wood harvested from the land surrounding the gardens.

Her romantic and farm partner Chris says, “If you can’t bring the plants to the forest, bring the forest to the plants.” They’ve been implementing regenerative practices since before it was common, making their own compost, woodchopping their own mulch, with nine-year- old hugelkultur beds, and learning to dial in closed-loop farming. It was a stretch to evolve out of the tiny shade gardens that Joani and Marion grew during the CAMP era, but she’s left these gardens in tact as a historical marker and reminder and part of the land’s legacy.

While Tina was wary of going legal and had a general distrust of government, she just wanted to provide medicine through the plant. “This is the most powerful plant on earth, capable of helping people globally for the first time in history,” she says. She also had witnessed on the business side of things the positive creation of opportunity this plant can create. She had seen cannabis farmers work for years to save their funds to open birthing centers in India, build schools in Haiti, get surgeries, college degrees, start their own farms, and homestead projects. She believes this plant facilitates so much creativity, dreaming, and love through art and music. This plant’s potential and these experiences and desires motivated her to continue “onward.”

From San Francisco’s underground music and art scene to the Palo Verde of Southern Humboldt, to farming and business, Moon Made Farms continues to provide for people and nurture the earth. Tina says each day is challenging but inspiring. She wants to see others feel balanced, inspired, and appreciate life. Sipping my coffee on her deck listening to the birds, and taking in the diversity of the land, I mentioned how beautiful the view was. As we compared farms in the neighborhood she said, “there’s not a bad view, it doesn’t exist; everywhere you look up here is beautiful.”

Cannabis has so much to offer and its produced in so many ways by people from all walks of life. As we continue this series, my hope is these stories will inspire a fuller experience every time you smoke through a deeper understanding of the origins of our culture.


by Todd Dalotto

A core concept of sustainable cannabis agriculture is viewing the farm as an ecosystem within a broader ecosystem. Crop management is much more than just providing for the needs of one plant species–it’s managing soils to optimize the habitat of mutualistic soil organisms, managing irrigation to favor aerobic microorganisms, and managing nutrition to maximize the roles of soil microbes and mycorrhizae to break-down organic molecules and atmospheric gasses into plant-utilizable nutrients.

The cannabis industries are centered around growing plants, so it’s vital to understand how plants play a central role in the continuum of atmospheric, pedospheric, lithospeheric, hydrospheric, and biospheric interactions. The number of these dynamic interactions is seemingly infinite, so we will focus our attention on the Nitrogen Cycle to understand how management of soil, plants, microbes, and inputs affects nutrient efficiency.


1. Nitrogen (N) is considered a plant macronutrient because N atoms are part of lipid, protein, and nucleic acid (DNA & RNA) molecules that are abundant in every plant cell. N is very plant mobile, so if there is a deficiency in the soil, older plant leaves will gladly give up their N to provide for the nutritional needs of new growth shoots–just as good parents give up their life force for the good of our children. This is why N-deficiency symptoms show as chlorosis (yellowing) of older leaves.

2. When plants die or drop leaves, the tissue becomes organic matter (biomass), consisting of mostly organic N, to be consumed and transformed ultimately to plant- utilizable forms of N. Decomposing plant roots are also a significant source of organic N and carbon in the soil.

3. Nitrate (NO3-) is taken-up and utilized by plants more efficiently than any other molecular form of N, which is why inorganic (mineral) fertilizers are an effective means of rapid plant growth, although at a cost of reducing beneficial soil microbes and increased risk of nutrient burn. Some mineral fertilizers are certified-organic because they are synthesized from plants, however they don’t contain any organic N. If the fertilizer solution is clear, it is not chemically organic. N in organic matter/fertilizers are broken-down from organic N by soil microbes and made available plants by the next two processes:

4. Mineralization: Soil microbes decompose organic matter/fertilizer and transform organic N into ammonium (NH4+), and then into Nitrate (NO3-).

5. Nitrification: Aerobic soil bacteria and archaea oxidize ammonia (NH3) and ammonium (NH4+) into nitrite (NO2-), and then oxidizes nitrite into nitrate (NO3-)

6. When wood chips and incompletely-decomposed organic matter are visible in soil or media, a high carbon (C) to nitrogen ratio exists and will cause immobilization, which transforms plant-available N into organic N (the opposite of mineralization) because soil microbes are consuming N in order to decompose carbon-rich matter. When there is a high C:N, you may see N-deficiency symptoms, even with otherwise sufficient N-fertilizer is added.

7. Soil organisms not only consume and release N as described above, but also release organic N when their own bodies die, to be decomposed by living soil organisms.

8. Good irrigation and soil management results in a healthy balance of water:air in soil pore space, which promotes soil microbes to consume atmospheric N2 gas, break the N-N triple bond (which is too strong for plant cells to break), and form nitrate. Water-logged soils cause microbes to release N2 gas, among other undesirable effects, including favoring pathogenic microbes over beneficials.

9. Atmospheric N2 gas is also transformed into nitrate by rhizobium, which are N-Fixing bacteria that have a mutualistic relationship with plant roots (particularly with legumes). Plant roots form nodules, where rhizobium lives and enjoys the carbohydrates fed by the roots. In exchange, the bacteria transform N2 into nitrate and release it at the root nodule. N-fixation is one of many benefits of cover-cropping with legumes (bean and pea family).

10. Clay particles and aggregates are mostly negatively-charged, so clay plays a particularly useful role in the cation-exchange of positively-charged ammonium (NH4+). Ammonium is held by clay colloids tightly-enough to not leach easily, but loosely-enough to move through the soil towards areas of lower NH4+ concentration (diffusion) in the rhizosphere, then transformed into nitrate by microbes (nitrification), and taken-up by plants. When over-fertilization occurs, ammonium returns to the lower-concentrated clay colloid (diffusion), and leaching occurs when cation exchange sites overflow, causing water pollution.

11. Animals (humans included) are an important part of the Nitrogen Continuum. Just like microbes, we consume plants and other animals, break-down organic N in the lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids of our food, and transform it (with the help of our intestinal microbes) into organic N in every cell in our bodies, as well as in our feces. When animals die and return to the soil, our organic N becomes the next meal for soil microbes, which break it down eventually into plant-utilizable nitrate.

12. Although not a significant source of nitrogen for plants, it is notable that lightning produces gaseous nitric acid (HNO3).

13. Plants can’t utilize the gaseous nitric acid or dinitrogen from the atmosphere directly, but they can utilize gaseous ammonia (NH3), which is taken-in through stomata (gas- regulating leaf pores) from the atmosphere. Gaseous ammonia is also released in small quantities by plants.

14. Fertilizer manufacturers recapture gaseous ammonia from the atmosphere to be used in the manufacture of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, which can be thought of as a sustainable practice.

15. Methane gas (CH4, a fossil fuel) is used to produce ammonia, which is the precursor to numerous other inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, such as urea, ammonium nitrate, and anhydrous ammonia.

17. Over-fertilization combined with poor soil & irrigation management leads to soil erosion and eutrophication of surface water, which leads to toxic algal blooms and other pollution in oceans, lakes and rivers.

18. The combustion of fossil fuels produces toxic gasses such as nitrous oxide (N2O) and nitric oxide (NO).

19. Denitrification is a microbial process that transforms nitrate into gaseous dinitrogen, which is not a harmful product. However, it may be seen as an unsustainable process because it results in the loss of plant-utilizable nitrate and is partially the result of over watering and over-fertilization.

The entire cannabis industry flows downstream from farms, so applying this understanding of the good, the bad and the ugly of the Nitrogen Cycle, and how plants and soil microbes play a central role, can help purify the headwaters of our industry.


By Cosmos Burnigham

Bob Johnson is a humble, passionate, and accomplished man with notable, meticulous attention to detail in everything he does. He lives by the Hunter Thompson quote, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right”, and nowhere is that more evident than his grow.

He raced stock cars for 25 years. A rat rod mechanic and enthusiast to say the least, Bob custom built his 1936 Plymouth with a ’55 DeSoto Hemi. He calls her Mary Jane, and her interior is complete with intricate cannabis details throughout the cabin and she’s parked with the fleet out front including his ratified “cool bus,” refurbished 1946 rat rod school bus Chevrolet Panel Roadster. The 60 year old Arkansas native is driven to be the best that he can be in all that he does, and it shows throughout his spotless property. That said, he’s not yet that well known for his cannabis growing skills having moved to Oregon just five years ago to grow his first legal crop ever.

Some of you that have been growing for 20, 30, 40-plus years might ask what’s so special about Bob? In the game five years; couldn’t possibly be putting out anything notable or consistent or worthy of publishing, or so you might think. But this guy doesn’t mess around–remember my first paragraph? The one you just read, the intro, the build-up, well, I don’t mess around either when I tell you that I was compelled to share this story with you, not by Bob’s rat rods, nor his legendary glass pipe collection, rock collection nor enviable man cave where all of this was housed. Rather, it was the shelf on the back wall of that man cave–30 or so jars of various harvests of his own nug, grown on site, under LEDs.

At first sight, Bob’s buds were noticeably A++, denser, bigger, and more coated than any buds I have ever seen finished under straight LEDs. Many growers are hesitant to throw down the investment in LED solutions because they are worried about size and quality of their harvest under the current technological limitations of LEDs in horticulture applications. Bob, however, embraced the LED. In fact, it could be said that the owner of Green Fusion LED lights inspired Bob to stay in the game, uproot from Arkansas to Oregon, and show the world what these lights are capable of in the cannabis garden.

The humble German proprietor behind Green Fusion is not new to LED technology. He has digitally mastered chips on LED panels from the bottom of the ocean to the outer reaches of space, having built the LEDs responsible for the Titanic exploration and the International Space Station’s horticultural efforts alike. He is also responsible for a significant amount of the lights throughout the Hollywood cinema scene. And now, this same technology is finally producing buds on par or better than those fruited under traditional HID lamps, and for a fraction of the cost.

These lights are significantly lighter in weight than most LEDs, and you might have noticed Bob’s flower rooms, how close the lights are to the head colas, some even touching the bottom of the LEDs. It starts with the chips that regulate the diode and cooling fans. They are able to keep them so cool that they can be lowered directly to the tops of the plants and thereby allowing a maximum PAR while maintaining the integrity of the bulbous trichomes and the volatile cannabinoids and terps within.

You have to squeeze, smell and smoke these buds yourself to believe it. They were dense–nothing like these larfy, lanky buds that we saw from the first couple generations of LED grow lights. The flavor profiles were abundant and unique, bursting with terpenoids, dynamic takes on classics like White Widow, which had an extra something and Trinity, which was notably the original Trinity but with the terpene volume cranked full throttle. I smoked three or four of the tastiest bong hits of Mystery Haze out of one of Bob’s premier pieces from his collection. I was high–really high, giddy, and laughing like a school boy high, and this is saying a lot for someone who smokes all day for 25-plus years.

After about an hour of touring the facility I went back to the office. It was now almost two hours since my relatively small sesh with Bob and when I got back, Bear greeted me by saying, “Bro, you look baaaaaaaked!” This is someone I have smoked thousands of bowls with and who I smoke with everyday, and never, in the 12 years I have known him, has he ever commented about how baked I looked. I went to the bathroom to look in the mirror and he was right, I looked just as high as I was, all pink eyed and goofball. I busted back into the office determined to get everyone as high as I was, sharing some of the buds Bob sent home for the team here at Grow. Now, they are demanding Rat Rod Bob buds by his name rather than cultivar name. They don’t care about the lineage, sativa or indica, they just want Rat Rod Bob buds.