The United States cannabis industry requires a constant supply of cannabis for retail sales, edibles production, and the creation of concentrates. The demand for massive amounts of flower is likely to increase as new laws are passed allowing medical patients and recreational consumers to have legal access to the plant. This is one of the reasons that cannabis jobs include so many opportunities in the cultivation sector.
Many people want to learn more about growing cannabis because it has so much potential for future growth and lucrative job opportunities. While growing cannabis is an attractive career path for many, there are some things to consider for those who wish to become involved with marijuana production. Many of these things are relevant to home growers as well as those growing at the commercial level.
Any way you slice it, growing cannabis is farming, and farming includes a lot of uncertainties. Planting a crop definitely does not guarantee a bountiful harvest. Many things can go wrong along the way. Let’s examine some of the most common challenges and pitfalls facing cannabis growers today.
Correct Nutrient Plan
Commercial and home growers usually want to produce as much flower as possible in the shortest amount of time. A major factor in succeeding with this goal is choosing the correct nutrients and applying them correctly. More is not necessarily better if your goal is to grow healthy plants with robust flowers. Overdoing the nutrients in any type of grow setup will result in burned leaves and shocked plants. Yellow, curled leaf tips rather than vibrant green leaves is bound to make any grower’s heart sink.
Establishing a solid nutrient plan for all stages of cannabis growth is essential before starting a grow. Cannabis requires varying levels of specific nutrients and soil additives at different stages of growth. Its needs during vegetative growth differs from its needs during the flowering stage. Fortunately, there are good products and schedules already established for those who don’t want to mix their own nutrient recipes. The best plan for applying soil additives is to be conservative rather than liberal with them. Many growers who use commercially available additives choose to scale back, using half to two-thirds the recommended amounts instead—with very good results. Alterations to the feeding schedule can be made to dial in on a given strain’s optimum needs, but the objective is to not burn leaves in the process.
Pests and Disease
Both indoor and outdoor growers need to be aware of potential pests and disease factors that can greatly impact the grow. Among the most common of these plant enemies is powdery mildew. As the old adage goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and this definitely applies to powdery mildew. Take any measures at your disposal to only include plants (usually clones) in your grow that come from trusted, reliable sources. Any new plants added to a grow should come from a trusted source and quarantined away from established, healthy plants and perhaps even decontaminated with bleach/distilled water (1:9 ratio) or other popular solution. Better yet, don’t add new plants at all to an established grow.
Once the telltale signs of powdery mildew show themselves, plants are in serious jeopardy. Again, remember that prevention is the best of action. Always ensure that your grow rooms have adequate air circulation, and, if necessary, add air filtration and sterilization devices to your operating plan. Make sure humidity levels do not get too high, and be sure to sterilize any tools used in the grow area with hydrogen peroxide. Make sure temperatures stay fairly constant, without wild fluctuations. There is no such thing as being too clean. Commercial growers may want to establish a decontamination area for workers entering the grow, requiring them to step into sterilization solutions and change clothes from what they wore outside the grow space.
Spider mites are another common problem in cannabis grows. These little pests can proliferate quickly, and they prey on your precious cannabis plants by literally sucking plant fluid from them. The impact of spider mite infestation may reveal itself by yellow spots on leaves, or leaves dying altogether. A number of commercial and homemade remedies can help control spider mites, but once you have them, getting rid of them can be a big problem. Fortunately, these pests have a short lifespan, but that provides a grower with little comfort if they are discovered in a once-thriving grow. Once again, prevention is the best medicine.
Aphids and other soft-bodied pests can also impact grows in both indoor and outdoor environments. There are methods to reduce and eliminate them, including biological pest management with ladybugs, but they are a huge nuisance, and every preventive measure should be taken to ensure they never get established in any cannabis grow.
Using insect pesticides on cannabis crops must be conducted in a manner compliant with industry-specific laws and regulations in each legal state. More than one commercial cultivation operation has been caught using unapproved pesticides, which creates a bad PR situation for these companies when the information becomes public. Crisis management in the form of press releases and media relations by company communications and PR departments is a mandatory course of action in these cases. Cannabis consumers want to know that they’re purchasing clean product or they’ll buy their flower from another company. They are many companies competing for their business. Pesticide use should never be necessary for home growers due to the small size and easier management of the grow.
In outdoor grows, larger animal species, including rodents, can sometimes prey on cannabis plants. Installing secure fencing goes a long way toward preventing them from impacting a cannabis crop.
Many of the obstacles facing cannabis growers are avoidable if proper environmental control measures are in place. Three of the biggest things to monitor are humidity, temperature, and air quality; automated systems can monitor and adjust these variables. If any of these three things deviate from the acceptable levels for growing cannabis, problems can result and persist.
The problem with humidity the majority of the time is levels that are too high, which can lead to mold and fungus growth. Temperatures that are too high can wilt a plant and seriously stress it. Combining high temperatures and low humidity can result in an overly dry grow area and the need to water more often. Clearly, these situations are undesirable and avoidable.
Security is always a concern for cannabis cultivators and retailers—and for very good reason. Cannabis flower is a valuable commodity, and unscrupulous thieves will steal it if given half a chance. Nearly every large cannabis company has experiences attempted and successful break-ins. Even with regulations and company policy requiring the use of security cameras and alarm systems, brazen burglars will do their best to steal cannabis. It’s an unfortunate reality of the industry.
Security doors and locking mechanisms that go beyond compliance are a wise thing for commercial operations to consider. Home growers should be as discreet as possible with their cultivation activities and judiciously use locks and air purification systems to avoid detection as well as theft.
The challenges facing cannabis growers can be quite extensive and diverse. Home growers should employ sounds cultivation practices in their relatively small grows, and commercial cultivation operations should have solid operations plans to minimize the inevitable issues that arise. Due diligence and sound business practices will ensure one successful harvest after another!