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How To Start Growing Cannabis
When the time comes to start a new batch of plants, there are essentially two main methods a grower can choose. The most common method is to make clones, or genetically identical copies of a “mother” plant. Cloning involves cutting off a piece of stem with some leaves, then planting it under conditions which make the stem grow roots and eventually a whole new plant. The second method, using seeds, is probably what people typically think of when growing plants. That’s because you can buy packs of seeds for vegetables or almost any other plant at the grocery store. Almost all major crops are grown from seed, and for good reasons. Modern agriculture has benefited from years of science that enables breeders to produce consistent batches of seeds; however, cannabis breeders haven’t had those same tools available, until very recently. An example of a technology that helps breeders speed up development of new strains is dna testing, like what we offer here at delta leaf.
Advantages of Seeds and Clones
Compared to clones made using traditional methods, seeds produce plants that grow larger and are more disease resistant. Growing from seed also eliminates the risk of transferring "stowaway" pests such as mildew and gnats, which can show their face and cripple your garden after months of work. Plants grown from seed are reported to be heartier and larger because they establish what's called a taproot, which is the large central root that pokes out of a seed when it first germinates. The taproot grows straight down, anchoring the plant and sprouting all the lateral roots that extend outward. While clones might seem to save time because they're bigger when they enter your garden, it's not hard to plan ahead so that you have seedlings ready of similar size when you would normally buy or start new clones for your next grow cycle. When proper planning is used, seeds can easily replace clones in grow operations with high turnover (frequent harvests). Using Plant DNA Sex Testing also drastically improves the cost-efficiency of growing from seed.
Plants that are started from seed have also been reported to produce a larger harvest than clones that are started at a comparable stage. Finally, the most important aspect of plant health that is affected by cloning is the acceleration of senescence (deterioration due to aging). Each time a clone is cut from a mother plant, it creates a minor stress of infection and tissue damage that accumulates negative consequences over time. Worse, if a clone is taken from a clone (which must be done after a mother becomes exhausted), then senescence will only be accelerated further each generation you get away from the original seed. The multitude of advantages that seeds offer regarding plant health and vigor make them invaluable to many growers.
Seeds vs. Tissue Culture
Many of the disadvantages inherent to clone growing can be overcome using plant tissue culture, however, this requires costly infrastructure and continuous maintenance of culture stocks. Cannabis plants grow very rapidly and a single plant is able to produce thousands of seeds. These factors diminish the potential commercial benefits of using tissue culture (a.k.a. micropropagation) to supply clone stocks. Further, seeds are stable for long periods of time under a wide variety of environmental conditions and are easily germinated with high success rates. An individual seed also requires less space to store it than a micro-propagated plant. When consistent genetics become available as seed stock, the cannabis industry will no longer be reliant on clones to produce a consistent product. The hemp industry is already far ahead in terms of breeding certified varieties as well as being dominated primarily by seed growers. Both of these methods (seed production and tissue culture) can produce disease-free and genetically predictable starting points; therefore, overhead costs of maintaining seed stocks vs. maintaining tissue culture stocks will become the major factor in determining how cannabis genetics are propagated in the future - and the clear winner is seeds.
What Is Powdery Mildew?
This white fuzzy fungus is a persistent pest on farms and gardens around the world. It infects many different types of crops including flowers, legumes, fruit trees, berries, wheat and leafy plants. Although a powdery mildew infection doesn’t immediately spell doom for your crop, it can become quite severe and even kill your plants if left untreated. The mature fungus feeds on the outermost cells of a plant and sucks out the nutrients so detecting and removing any infected material immediately will help reduce any potential negative impacts on your crops.
Why Does Powdery Mildew Infect Cannabis and Hemp?
Why Does Powdery Mildew Infect Some Plants But Not Others?
There are several factors that can contribute to powdery mildew infections. We’ve already discussed the influence of environment in the previous section, but that’s only one half of the equation. As with any disease or health condition, a combination of environment and genetics determines the ultimate outcome. Different species of plants, and even different varieties of the same plant species, will have different genetic resistance to powdery mildew infection. Some breeders are often able to select different plant varieties that are more mold resistant, however, sometimes a grower will want to produce a specific flavor or variety that might not be as mold resistant as others. This is when creating an optimal growing environment as well as implementing early detection and treatment practices become even more crucial.
The Powdery Mildew Life Cycle
Infections of powdery mildew usually start off by the spores landing on the plant. Then, when there is enough warmth and the correct amount of moisture (some powdery mildews can actually prefer dry environments), the spore will germinate and begin to reproduce across the surface of the plant. As the fungus matures, it begins to feed on the outermost layer of cells of whatever plant tissue it’s growing on. All of this occurs before any visible signs of infection are present. Only after the fungus has grown a network of feeding structures and begins to expand significantly will you start seeing the fuzzy white stuff appearing on your plants. The mature fungus will then begin to produce more spores and release them into the air to be carried by the wind onto nearby plants. Spores can also travel between plants by hitching a ride on insects or even the clothes of someone in the garden, where the life cycle will begin all over again.
How To Treat Powdery Mildew
The first line of defense against powdery mildew infection is to maintain a clean growing environment. That means keeping your tools and equipment clean, removing all dead plant material, keeping the humidity relatively moderate (30-40%) and having adequate airflow around all your plants. If you powdery mildew still shows up no matter how meticulous you are, removing any infected plant material immediately and destroying it is the next step to take. Avoid composting any infected material you remove, as the spores can still live and re-infect your garden. Finally, you may be able to use fungicides to prevent the spread and growth of powdery mildew. Be careful which fungicides you choose and always follow the instructions carefully. Overuse or incorrect use of fungicides can lead to resistant molds and mildews that can only be eradicated by completely destroying your garden.
Detecting Powdery Mildew Using DNA Testing
Mold and fungus, particularly powdery mildew, can be a difficult problem to eradicate completely. This is often because spores and early infectious growth can be present without being visible to the naked eye. An early detection technique can be extremely useful to ensure your plants are free of infectious fungi before transferring them into the next stage of your grow. Some key use cases are when you’ve got a batch of clones in quarantine and need to ensure they aren’t carrying pests before moving them into your main garden, or when you have a batch of plants that will be moved into a flowering stage and want to ensure they aren’t carrying powdery mildew that will break out and infect the entire crop only a few weeks before harvest. If you want to get to the bottom of a recurring problem with powdery mildew, order your DNA Collection Kits today to stop powdery mildew
Cannabis and Multiple Sclerosis
Those that have multiple sclerosis (MS), or know someone with it, know that it is an unpredictable disease that can sometimes prevent you from fully participating in day to day activities. MS attacks the central nervous system and can cause muscle spasticity, pain and inflammation. While there is no cure, there are disease-modifying therapies, such as cannabis use, that can provide some relief with little to no side effects.
This article will provide and introduction to how cannabis can alleviate some symptoms of this disease. The information here can be useful for a wide range of people including cannabis professionals, health and medical professionals, If you have been diagnosed with MS and/or if you're currently or considering becoming a caretaker for someone with MS, this article is for you.
Calming Muscle Spasms
Muscle spasticity in MS patients can be severe at times, causing an increase in muscle tone which results in painful muscle spasms and stiffness, which can in turn impair mobility. Cannabis works with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to reduce the inflammatory proteins in the muscle, which are the cause of the muscle spasms. Cannabis products can be smoked, eaten or applied topically. Localized treatments, as in topical creams or oils, tend to work best with muscle spasms as they can be applied directly to the spastic area, numbing it and providing instant relief.
Neuropathic pain, such as that associated with MS patients, is hard to treat as it is not caused by inflammation. Most pain meds work to relieve that inflammation, which reduces pain. Due to this, many MS patients are turning to cannabis. This is because the cannabis plant has many naturally occurring chemicals with medicinal properties. One such property is an analgesic (painkiller). The peripheral nerves in your nervous system detect pain sensations, which is exactly what happens in MS. Cannabis has been shown to alleviate neuropathic pain associated with MS by blocking the peripheral nerve pain and providing pain relief.
CBD For Treating Multiple Sclerosis
Cannabidiol (CBD) reduces spasticity, pain, inflammation, fatigue and depression in people with MS. It is thought that the combination of these factors will improve mobility in MS patients and lead to a better quality of life. Multiple research studies have concluded that cannabis products containing over a 1:1 ratio of CBD:THC are effective for treating symptoms of MS. One of the primary ways CBD contributes it's therapeutic efficacy is by reducing the overactive signaling between immune cells that occurs in MS, as well as a wide range of other diseases.
Growing Cannabis For MS Patients
As medical cannabis is becoming legal in more states, cannabinoid-based medicines are becoming more readily available. As a result, more and more multiple sclerosis patients are turning to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis to help relieve symptoms associated with the condition. Some patients have even reported coming off medications altogether as cannabis therapy has provided greater relief with fewer side effects. As with any medication, consult your health care provider to ensure that is doesn't interact with any other medications you are taking.
Do you grow cannabis for medical use? Order your Plant DNA Collection Kits today!
Farming Hemp for CBD Production
Most farmers have a plethora of questions when it comes to growing hemp for CBD production. With the implementation of the Farm Bill in late 2018, it’s evident that the consumption of cannabis derivatives like CBD is bound to hit skyrocketing levels.
However, that projection can't be realized when there is a limited production of CBD. To meet the increasing demand for CBD, having high-quality hemp genetics grown from seed will be crucial. There needs to be full consideration of all the different factors from sowing seeds to managing plant growth, harvesting and product preparation.
In this article, we’re going to cover everything about how you can grow hemp to produce the maximum amount of CBD for your effort. We’ll mostly focus on the commercial aspects of hemp, but much of this information will also be useful to people who want to cultivate hemp at home. Hemp and CBD are becoming competitive industries, so having the right strategy to help you succeed is more essential than ever. If you don't believe it, just check out the chart below showing the explosive rise of popularity in CBD, even compared to the popularity of cannabis and THC. This industry is expanding incredibly rapidly and knowing all facets of how this plant is grown and processed will help you be a better producer and consumer of hemp and CBD products.
What is Hemp?
mp consists of many varieties of cannabis that all have low levels of THC (legally defined as below 0.3%), which essentially guarantees the plants will have minimal psychoactive properties. Just to be clear, hemp is not a different species or a subspecies of cannabis. This is because they can be interbred and produce viable offspring, which is the biological definition of what separates species.
In contrast to typical medical cannabis varieties, most hemp varieties have been bred to have large and thick stalks that are rich in fiber, or to produce large flowers with many seeds that can be used for seed oil production. Hemp varieties also typically have lower total cannabinoid and terpene content than medical cannabis strains, except for some molecules such as CBD. This is why many hemp and cannabis growers have started hybridizing different varieties in recent years. Hybrids of hemp and cannabis varieties can be bred to obtain plants that have high overall flower resin (cannabinoids and terpenes) content and produce CBD as the dominant cannabinoid, instead of THC.
Most varieties of hemp, particularly the ones that produce high levels of CBD, are dioecious (meaning they have separate male and female individuals). Plants typically begin showing signs of sex/gender around the age of 8-10 weeks old, or when they are forced to enter the flowering stage by reducing the amount of light exposure over a 24 hour period. This can be a problem if farmers aren’t able to accurately identify male plants as they enter flowering stages. A male plant won’t produce resinous flowers, instead it will pollinate nearby females and cause them to produce less flower resin in exchange for seeds. If you’re intending to grow for CBD, this can be disastrous.
Female hemp plants are relatively easy to grow when subjected to the right conditions. These plants don't consume a lot of water compared to some other crops, which is good news for commercial farms. To grow the biggest and highest CBD producing plants, you’ll want to provide a nitrogen-rich medium for the vegetative stages and a more potassium and phosphorous-rich environment for the flowering stages. Achieving a successful nutrient regime can be accomplished in a variety of ways depending on how you plan to grow. Which brings us to the next point – should you grow outdoor our in a greenhouse?
The advantages and disadvantages of growing hemp in a greenhouse or outdoors is a complicated topic. It can simply depend on differences in local regulations, resource availability or personal preference. However, most often hemp that is grown in a greenhouse can yield denser flowers that produce higher percentages of CBD, which is made in resin glands called trichomes. Greenhouse farming also typically has greater water efficiency compared to outdoor farming, but the energy costs are typically higher due to use of supplemental lighting and environmental controls.
On the contrary, if low-cost land and water are readily available you may want to opt for a multi-acre outdoor field that can be more easily managed with large farming equipment. There are many more considerations to take into account when designing an industrial hemp production facility, so consulting with an expert before investing in any large endeavour is always recommended.
Conditions Necessary for Growing Hemp
Hemp naturally grows over most climatic conditions but doesn’t do well in mountainous or arid environments. The climate ought to be balanced – neither too cold nor extremely hot.
Hemp does well with:
When planting and growing hemp seeds they should be immersed and covered in the soil. Transplanting should only be done a minimal amount of times to most effectively manage your entire growing operation. Transplanting shocks your plants, so doing it too often will slow growth and lower your yields. Instead, try to only transplant a maximum of once, when moving the seedlings from the early vegetative stage to their final rooting location. Transplanting once still allows you to keep young plants in small pots that can easily be moved around and cared for; then, after determining each plants sex it can be moved to a larger container or the ground where the roots will grow freely for the remainder of the plants life.
Is Farming Hemp for CBD Profitable?
Frequent Concerns Among Hemp Farmers
Getting high-quality seeds can be a potentially difficult task when it comes to growing hemp for CBD production. As we mentioned above, hemp and hemp products must contain less than 0.3% THC to maintain compliance with U.S. Federal regulations. Finding a hemp variety that consistently produces these low levels of THC in your growing environment, produces high percentages of CBD, has robust growth traits and is mold resistant, etc. can be a trial-and-error process that requires testing different varieties in different growing methods. Most states in the US that are regulating industrial hemp programs have been issuing lists of certified varieties that should be compliant when grown in local conditions. Talking with experienced hemp farmers and cultivation consultants can help you properly select which varieties will work best for you.
Secondly, differentiating between male and female hemp plants can be one of the most time and resource consuming tasks to do - with severe consequences if not done properly. This is especially true when a grower wants to harvest hemp for CBD production because roughly half of all non-feminized seeds are going to be male. Waiting up to two months to identify plant gender can limit the overall productivity of a farm by not maximizing space and time used to maintain desirable female plants. Further, waiting to visually inspect plants actively costs resources such as water, electricity, labor, nutrients and pest control. Using a DNA testing service like Delta Leaf can eliminate the worry about identifying male plants and make growing hemp from seed more efficient than other methods.
Lastly, now that growing hemp is legal across the US, there can sometimes be stiff competition when it comes to selling the final CBD products. However, this is a rare case as the demand to consume CBD-related products from hemp has been nothing but exploding. Whether you decide to sell your harvested hemp flower to a specialized product manufacturer or embark on your own extraction and product development journey, it's still early and a great time to join the industry.
In closing, CBD is a popular new supplement that is getting huge attention across the world. Getting ahead of the curve is never easy, but there will clearly be many unforeseen opportunities in the hemp and CBD industry for the pioneers who are clever enough to figure it out. Feel free to reach out to us here at Delta Leaf if you think we might be able to help you get started on your own hemp growing venture.
List Of Common Hemp Varieties
The Science of Breeding
How To Do An F1 Cross
Suppose you have an awesome strain, and you want to make a high CBD version. Here’s the traditional way of doing it.
First, you want to make sure your strain doesn’t already produce CBD. You also need to find a male plant from a strain that makes lots of CBD. You can get males by growing a few plants from seeds. Next, you breed these two strains in what’s known as an F1 cross. Let’s draw a Punnett square to diagram how different versions of a single gene are exchanged during an F1 cross. It looks like this:
How To Do An F2 Cross
Identifying High CBD and High THC Plants
At Delta Leaf we can identify whether a plant contains the Bt allele, the Bd allele, or both. This saves time and money by identifying the plants you want immediately after germination, instead of waiting months to observe the phenotype. We can also identify whether a plant carries the male, or “Y”, chromosome. Sample collection kits are available here on our website.
Below is a final summary graphic showing the entire process of breeding a high CBD strain. Thanks for reading and good luck with your breeding!
How Are THC and CBD Made?
Determining Levels of THC and CBD
When a male plant pollinates a female plant to make seeds, those seeds get one copy of each gene from mom and one copy of each gene from dad. If a plant has two copies of the Bt allele , then the plant will basically only produce THC. Likewise, if the plant has two copies of the Bd allele then the plant will only make CBD. However, if the plant has one copy of the Bt allele and one copy of the Bd allele, then it will have a mix of THC and CBD.
This is why most strains have either high THC, high CBD, or something close to a even ratio with neither cannabinoid becoming much higher than 15% dry weight. If you're growing cannabis or hemp from seeds, especially if you're considering doing any breeding projects, this information is essential to set the foundation for the work you'll be doing. Check out the image below to get an idea of what the different combinations of THC (Bt) and CBD (Bd) alleles look like at the genetic level.
At Delta Leaf we can identify whether a plant contains the Bt allele, the Bd allele, or both. This saves time and money by identifying the plants you want immediately after germination, instead of waiting months to observe the phenotype. We can also conduct gender identity tests to analyze male vs. female cannabis and hemp plants through detection of the Y-chromosome. Sample collection kits are available here on our website. Please contact us ahead of time if you want to get your plants tested for the Bt or Bd allele so we can discuss the specific requirements of your project.