THE EMERGING CANNABIS INDUSTRY
Over the past few years, the scope of the Cannabis industry has focused more on the enhancement of high-yielding varieties and strains and the development of modern production techniques. Despite being the most common illegal crop in the world, cannabis is believed to be the world's next commodity crop and one of the fastest emerging markets on the globe.
Cannabis is a plant with thousands of small molecules that each have potential to function as food, nutrition value having polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega3 and omega6, and fibers that are used in industries. Cannabis, also known as marijuana or weed, contains 120 unique cannabinoids, majorly including THC, CBD, THCV, CBC, CBG, and CBN. Many of these Cannabis compounds hold medicinal importance.
The restrictions on Cannabis cultivation have been a challenge for scientists to develop methods that enhance productivity and output of these plants. However, some countries have legalized crop growth with some control regulations including Canada, the United States of America, the Republic of South Africa, Netherlands. Spain, Belgium, Uruguay, Jamaica, and Costa Rica.
Even with the legalization of Cannabis, there are some challenges faced by the Cannabis cultivators that limit large scale growing of the crop. Challenges include infection outbreaks of pests and microbial infections, transportations challenges, and uniformity between the Cannabis crops. This article highlights the infection problems of Cannabis culturing and their solutions!
Infection of Cannabis crops and cultivation challenges
Cannabis consumers demand high-quality plants that are pesticide-free and have stable genetics at all levels of production. But, producing high-quality Cannabis in volume is one of the biggest challenges for Cannabis cultivators. What makes it more difficult is the plant’s sensitivity to infections.
Because of prohibitions, people are being forced to grow Cannabis in warehouses and garages. If mother plants are kept for a long time, they build pathogens like molds and mildews. So, if you look at big agriculture industries, their nurseries are always separated from the production space. If you are working with a fewer number of planets then the catastrophic loss due to infection is minimized but when you work with hundreds and thousands of plants, proper plant management becomes a challenge.
TYPE OF PATHOGEN ATTACKS IN CANNABIS
Cannabis is sensitive to viral, fungal, or bacterial infections. Any virus outbreak in crops costs a huge amount of time spent in growing the plants. Especially, if viruses are endophytic or in the dormant stage during detection, they might go undetected. This can cost farmers their effort, money, and time. Some other organisms like aphids and mice act as a vector to Cannabis infections.
In hemp, approximately 900 viruses are detected but only two specific viruses are identified; these viruses are Hemp Mosaic Virus and Hemp Streak Virus. Some other viruses that attack hemp through vectors include Tobacco Ring spot Virus and Tobacco Streak Virus. These viruses cause mottling on the leaves and poor growth of plants. Cucumber mosaic virus and tomato ring spot virus can also infect cannabis.
Bacterial contamination can be on the surface or inside the cell wall of plants. And, if fungus attacks hemp plants, then it takes around 6-9 months to get rid of them. Cannabis growth can also be negatively impacted by excessive use of heavy metals. What can be the possible solution to these issues? Let’s have a look at the prevention of hemp infection.
THE SOLUTION TO HELP INFECTION PROBLEMS
No pesticide is so far federally registered for use on Cannabis and because of infection challenges 84% of cannabis in California isn’t fit for consumption according to a report.
The solution to these problems include:
- Tissue culture with good culturing and manufacturing practices
- Personnel training
- Documentation like batch records and quality assessment and control.
- Maintain clean stock nurseries with a strong pest management program
WHY IS TISSUE CULTURE THE BEST SOLUTION FOR HEMP PROBLEMS?
Tissue culture is a technique to grow a whole plant from single cells or a group of cells. It has the potential to grow thousands of plants using just one plant. This technique can help culturists to reduce crop loss. It can provide a clean mother plant for future cultivation that will be pesticide-free and disease-free. Also, it enhances the storage efficiency for high-volume stocks. The tissue culture of plants allows them to deploy new genetics or maintain the original genome of plants. It gives plants improved vigor and uniform genetics that also satisfies the phytosanitary standards and regulations.
The tissue culture of Cannabis has four stages:
- Initiation, which requires 1-2 weeks
- Multiplication, which requires 2-3 weeks
- Rooting 2-4 weeks (very difficult to set)
- Acclimation, which requires 1-2 weeks
The most common technique in tissue culture to eliminate viruses is meristem culture. The two meristems used for the purpose include apical meristem and lateral meristem. You can also do auxiliary node culture and wait for two weeks to check for any contamination in the cultures. Avoid using TDZ hormone in Cannabis culture as some researchers have observed the growth of unhealthy plants after using it in their growth media for hemp. The best alternative is to use the best combination of auxin and cytokinin to obtain pretty good growth of plants.
The other way to avoid pathogens from plants is by using water with 3-5% hydrogen peroxide every day with or without nutrients. This slows down the pathogen and endophytes attacking your plants.
HOW CAN PPM SAVE CANNABIS CULTURES?
Some endophytes or pathogens can still evade the process mentioned above. The complete prevention of contaminants can be achieved by using Plant Preservative Mixture (PPM) in growth media. This compound has the potential to kill any microbes attacking your cultures whether it's airborne, waterborne, or came through any human contact. Not just this, PPM can also prevent endophytes from spoiling your cultures. You just need to add 1-2 ml PPM per liter of the prepared media to get good results. The best part is the chemical can be easily autoclaved as it is heat stable. And, if accidentally you freeze the chemical in ice, it will still give you the same best results after being thawed. It’s a superb solution to all your contamination problems.
The points of consideration before doing tissue culture are the cost, labor requirement, and timeliness of the process. Pathogen testing will also be required before performing the process to avoid any contaminants from spoiling all your cultures. You need to use proper hormones and media for your cultures and keenly observe them at all their stages.
Let us know what plants are growing in your lab, share your story with us, and we will feature it on our social media platforms to boost the enthusiasm of other culturists.
Excited to hear from you!
- Chouvy P.-A., Macfarlane J., 2018. Agricultural Innovations in Morocco’s Cannabis Industry. International Journal of Drug Policy, vol. 58, p. 85-91.