When you grow legal cannabis for profit, it means that you, as a cultivator, must maximize your yield, prevent pest infestations, and operate at top efficiency to able to offer competitive prices and cash in an ever-growing market. With more and more states legalizing cannabis every election cycle, it has become more essential than ever for growers to maximize their production.
1. Start with Good, Healthy Genetics and Foundation
To maximize your growth, you first have to start with the basics. With the industry booming, there are more and more genomes out there, so you need to ensure you are purchasing and growing plants that won’t start to genetically drift. When you first get the seeds, you should find the phenotype that is doing the best in your region. Test the phenotype before you put it into full production. That way, you can eliminate any issues early on. You have to slowly find the genomes that work best for you and your business.
Maximizing Grower Production
For example, one of the most popular strains for growing a high-yield plant is the Jack Herer strain. It is well-respected throughout the world and is known to flower fast and produce high yields. As a bonus, it is resistant to disease and pests, which can save you trouble down the road. However, this plant is known to grow rather tall, so you will need plenty of growing space. Jack Herer thrives in dry, Mediterranean-type climate and the outdoor yields can exceed 20 ounces. When grown indoors, it can produce more than a pound on average per plant.
Big Bud is another high-yield strain. When grown indoors, you can harvest around 12-24 ounces. You tend to get more growth when you use a hydroponic setup and the Sea of Green (SOG) method. This method forces the plant to flower at a young age, allowing you to harvest earlier. Having a solid foundation with the soil is essential as well. If you cut corners at the beginning with your soil and amendments, it will show in your end product or your end yields. You want to have a healthy root zone with all the necessary nutrients, which will translate into a healthy plant at harvest time.
2. Control the Environment
If you are trying to grow your plants in one large room, you might find it difficult to maintain the environment. You can reduce the risk of disease potentially affecting the crop and wiping out everything by separating your growing zones.
Russ Zabel, the general manager at Delta T Solutions, says, “Like greenhouse growers with large open greenhouses, cannabis growers using buildings with large rooms will find it more challenging to control temperature, humidity, and airflow. Being able to divide the building space into moderate size rooms allows for better environmental control.”
Because growers are using an indoor space, they have to be extra careful to precisely control the environment. The grow room is typically a self-contained space or a closed room. That means that there is no outside air coming in, so the growers might incorporate carbon dioxide into the room and provide HID lights or LED lights as a light source.
If the growers don’t properly maintain the environment, it can quickly lead to diseases like Botrytis and powdery mildew, which can be detrimental to the crop. Botrytis cinerea, or bud rot, starts in the stem inside of the bud, and then spreads outward, making it almost impossible to detect earlier on. Once the bud begins to mold, it must be thrown away. If the infection is not widespread, you can remove the infected area and allow the plant to continue to grow. Otherwise, you must completely remove the plant to protect the rest of your crop.
Bud rot tends to thrive in environments that have:
• High humidity
• Poor ventilation
• Mild temperatures
• Dense foliage
• Weak plant immune systems
• Dense buds
Bud rot prevention starts with the strain you choose to harvest. Sativa, which prefer to grow in a humid environment, will produce light, wispy, airy buds. With the improved airflow, Sativa is fairly resistant to bud rot. On the other, Indices, which prefer dry regions, will be more likely to grow denser buds that are much more likely to mold if they are grown in a humid climate.
Zabel advises growers to install more horizontal airflow (HAF) type fans to help maximize growth and keep the plants healthy. Using HAF fans help to keep the air moving in the correct places at the right speed, to keep the risk of disease at a minimum.
3. Know What Your Customers Want
In addition, your customers want multiple strains and variety; otherwise, your customers will flock to another grower. When you are growing commercially, every square foot of your space counts. To help maximize your grower production, you should try to find strains that finish around the same time and as the same environment. That way, if you have 10 strains that finish around the same time, use the same nutrients, and thrive in the same environment, you can keep all the strains in the same room, helping to maximize the space with less effort on your part.
4. Extra Phosphorus
At the end of week one of flower, adding a bit of extra phosphorous can help start the bud production a bit sooner. Adding phosphorus into feedings, on Day 8 of flower and Day 13 of flower should be considered. Adding this phosphorus can also stop the plants from stretching as much. The phosphorus works with nitrogen to help with root development and growth. Your plants might also require more nitrogen than phosphorus or potassium. However, be careful not to add too much. If your leaves are very deep green in color or have their leaf tips bent, you might have added too much. A phosphorus excess will affect the plant by causing a nutrient lockout of resources like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
You might even experience phosphorus deficiency in your plants. If you notice the lower leaves are dying or turning a blue-green color and the stem is turning purple, then you must add more phosphorus to make your plants healthy again. Phosphorus is the primary nutrient for cannabis plants and is essential to the development of flowers and bud formation.
5. Use CO2
Using CO2 is a great way to boost your yields. Using between 1,250 to 1,350 ppm throughout flower and increase it from Week 1 to Week 7. During the last week, drop the CO2 down to 1,000ppm to help encourage the production of trachomata. Adding more CO2 the plant will begin to photosynthesize quicker and use more nutrients.
6. Utilize Your Root Zone
While you might be more concerned about what the top part of your plant is producing, you should actually pay more attention to the bottom. The bigger your root zone, the bigger your plant can be, which means you can have a bigger yield. Try using boxes that are long so you can have one continuous bed. With beds, you can have a bigger root zone which means that your roots are limited to a small space. Having tons of root space is important because it allows your plants to suck up more nutrients, helping to keep your plants healthy.
If you don’t have enough space for your roots, the growth of the plant will stop until it gets more space. While this doesn’t mean your plant is unhealthy, it just means its growth will be stunted. But having that long bed, your roots can keep growing, and that means a bigger yield for you.
7. Be Prepared for Pests
Unfortunately, in an indoor or greenhouse environment, you most likely will get pests at some point. Luckily, there are established agricultural integrated pest management (IPM) practices that are already proven effective to get rid of pests. IPM uses a combination of methods to keep the pests in check including:
• Preventing pest problems
• Monitoring plants for pests
• Treating pest problems
• Evaluating the efficiency of pest treatments
IPM helps establish a balanced ecosystem and provides an alternative to pesticide usage. A balanced ecosystem helps keep the growth of species in check, ensuring that one species isn’t outgrowing others. By not using pesticides, the plant can stay alive while killing off the pests. In the long run, it can also help you save money while establishing a safe work environment.
The first step to creating an IPM plan is deterring what pests are common in your zone and climate. Look at the local Department of Agriculture, Farm Bureau, or a university agronomy extension for more information. Once you have completed your research to understand how the local pests can affect cannabis, make a plan to prevent those likely pests. Last, implement a pest identification, monitoring, and control system to keep infestations at a minimum. Designing HVAC systems to keep the air pressure positive in the grow room can prevent spores and insects from entering. The airflow will also help prevent the pests from taking up residence on your plants. Airflow and keeping the humidity below 55 percent can also help reduce the appearance of fungus spores.
Following these methods can help maximize your growing production, and keep your product as healthy as possible. Ensure that your plants are healthy from start to finish by giving them the proper nutrients and enough room to grow. By growing the proper strains for your local region, preparing for regional pests, and maintaining the proper environment, you will see bigger harvests. Which is always the goal…?