PROTECTING YOUR CROP FROM INCOMING INVADERS
BY COSMOS BURNIGHAM
ACCEPTING CLONES FROM anyone can be a dicey proposition. Even if said incoming clones and their respective rhizosphere have been thoroughly inspected by microscope and all signs point to a healthy, happy plant, there could be tragedy and casualties lurking just around the corner. Pests, eggs, larvae and diseases can of course be hidden, undetected or lying dormant, putting your entire crop and investment in jeopardy if you don’t follow a few simple, logical steps.
I learned this lesson the hard way this Summer when I accepted seemingly healthy clones from a trustworthy vendor who did their very best to ensure the product was viable and healthy. I put these freshly rooted cuts right into the greenhouse alongside my then vegging crop. The royal truth of the matter is that beneath the surface of these clones, root aphids were hard at work, sucking and depleting nutrients and life from the clones themselves and it wasn’t long before the infestation started in on the rest of my crop.
First signs appeared in 3 full grown ladies simultaneously– wilting and looking almost over-watered. All of the foliage drooped immediately and the clones appeared healthy but stunted, so we separated the clones and 3 suspects from the rest of the crop. Upon further examination we noticed aphids on each of the ladies, although only a few bugs in the canopy. So we went to work immediately with peppermint, eucalyptus, castille soap, cinnamon, hot peppers, onions and garlic. Introduced Beauveria Bassiana, a fungus that keeps them from thriving in the rhizosphere and predatory nematodes to munch the remainder in the soil and ladybugs to work the canopy. We lost 5 plants before the madness was contained but managed to save the rest of the crop, thus-far by acting quickly and addressing thoroughly.
The bottom line is that introducing clones from anyone to your grow space is always a roll of the dice, however there are several basic, common sense precautions that can be taken to increase your odds of successfully diversifying your stock without risking your stalks.
Keep a clean space – your first defense. Most bugs and disease cannot thrive in a clean environment. That said, keep yourself clean too–wash up if you visit another garden space or deal with other live cannabis or if you simply go to the grow shop. A lot of growers are lurking at the grow shop with their bugs and larva, eggs, etc. unknowingly all over their clothes and body and potentially on some of the packaging and some of the products you are about to purchase, minimize exposure at the grow shop – have your list and get in and out and clean up before you re-enter your own space. And don’t allow visitors, just like in the good old illegal days – too much liability then and now just for different reasons. A positive pressure environment will also help keep intruders on the outside.
Be leery of all incoming clones, from friends or legitimate providers or otherwise; shit happens and that shit rolls downhill. Thoroughly inspect and clean each individual clone and examine as much of the plant and rhizosphere as you can with a microscope if possible. There are some incredible and affordable digital microscopes with LCD screen displays available on Amazon.com starting at $150ish. Be prepared to be amazed what’s happening in your living soil. It is relatively easy to identify space invaders with the LCD screen, photo capture and Google.
Simply make a space (if you haven’t already usurped every square inch of potential grow space) far enough away and isolated from the rest of your crop, where you can keep the incoming clones for preferably a couple of weeks. Even if you don’t see signs of bugs, immediately treat the quarantined clones as if they do have some sort of infestation. Treat the soil and canopy with the aforementioned organic ingredients and predatory friends, which seem to take care of most problems that could potentially surface. Continue to treat your clones this way for the 2-week quarantine time and be sure to cover the surface of the soil under each plant. Diotemacious earth and or bark and alfalfa hay make a particularly uncomfortable environment for any space invaders lurking in the first few inches of the topsoil.
If you still see potentially harmful bugs after cleaning, screening and quarantining for 2 weeks, don’t be afraid to throw those clones away, no matter what cultivar they might be and despite the fact that you may have been asking a friend for those cuts for a year. Learn from my mistakes, it just isn’t worth risking your entire investment, or labor of love, no matter the size.