The Wide Spectrum of Weed Production
Cultivating cannabis can range from growing a single plant in an apartment to a large operation covering many acres. We break down the basics of modern cannabis cultivation.
While buying cannabis legally may be relatively new, our collective connection to cannabis goes back, way back, some 12,000 years. Suffice to say, there have been many advancements in its cultivation in that time. So, let’s delve a little deeper into the production methods behind some of the beloved brands we offer at Marigold.
Chances are, you have grown a plant or several in your time and are likely aware of soil-based growing. Maybe a few of your plants did not make it, leaving you wondering “what did I do this time?” That’s the takeaway with soil-based growing, cannabis or otherwise: there are many variables up in the air, making it difficult to pinpoint what went wrong – or even right.
Because soil content varies greatly and soil is prone to a plethora of pests, gnats, and fungal contamination, it is tricky to make sure the plant itself is getting optimal nutrients to prosper. Plus, the right temperature, light, and other weather variables (wind, humidity, etc.) also impact the crop.
That said, growing in soil is the most basic way of growing, the most forgiving even, and is a great place for any beginner to start. It’s also the cheapest and most flexible in terms of what the setup looks like. Cultivators can choose to grow either in or outdoors in an array of plot sizes, alter their soil content with minerals and other nutrients, and refine their grow after trial and error.
Now, imagine this on a large scale: a field of cannabis with multiple roots all searching and struggling for proper nutrients, water, and oxygen. When the plant itself does all the work to survive and thrive, its fellow buds in the field may not fare as well, resulting in lower grade weed in less bountiful quantities.
To help plants prosper more effectively, a variable was removed from the equation – soil – and the more advanced cultivation system of hydroponics was born.
Essentially, hydroponically-grown cannabis works like this: the plant sits in some type of medium (often spun limestone, rockwool or coco coir), which is then suspended in or dispersed with – you guessed it – water. Within the water are all the fertilizers and nutrients the plant needs to grow, resulting in a larger yield, less contamination, and better-quality cannabis than soil cultivation.
It is estimated that hydroponic cannabis grows 30-50% faster than soil cultivation. While this is good for business, of course, it can be rather complicated to get set up and must be highly monitored by plant professionals. And unfortunately, because most of the mediums are not reused or composted, and the nutrient water solution often only goes through the process once, many natural resources are wasted.
As cultivators seek more integrity in their sustainability efforts, some are turning to growing cannabis aeroponically. A subset of hydroponics, aeroponically grown cannabis is suspended in air with only a small amount of media present in the process, and the water and nutrients are re-circulated.
The hovering roots of the plant are misted with a nutrient solution at exact intervals, 24/7; this exposes them to more oxygen and an increased “bioavailability of nutrients,” notes Dr. Stacy Tollefson, Director of Cultivation at Aeriz, a leader in aeroponic cannabis. The plants grow faster, while still retaining their natural cannabinoids – you know, the stuff that makes each strain so uniquely delightful. And best of all for the environment, this method uses 30% less water than traditional hydroponics or up to 95% less than soil!
Kevin Maloney, Head Grower at Aeriz, equates the process to taking care of ourselves: “if we work out and eat right, we look and feel our best…we’re doing the same with cannabis using aeroponics.” By delivering the “most precise amounts of nutrients in short bursts and sprays,” they give the plant “exactly what it wants when it wants it, providing the environment is correct.” As you can imagine, perfecting the aeroponic environment and maintaining precision is no easy undertaking, but the result is worth it – a purer product, free of contaminants.
“If we work out and eat right, we look and feel our best...we're doing the same with cannabis using aeroponics.”
As you can see, there are many ways to cultivate cannabis, each with their own set of benefits and challenges. One is not necessarily “better” than any other; circumstances such as budget, space, understanding of the cannabis plant, yield goals, resources, and lots more must be considered before venturing into commercial cannabis.
At Marigold, we want our patients and enthusiasts to be well-informed about our wide array of products. If you would like to learn more, just ask any one of our knowledgeable cannabis consultants next time you stop in and say high.