As the demand for legal marijuana grows, growers are forced to increase their output to hold onto their customers. But, these people do not necessarily have the skills needed to mass produce cannabis and still maintain its quality.
Luckily for them, more experienced persons in the agricultural field are stepping in to help these small-time growers. These individuals have invaluable experience in the business of mass production, and their contribution is sorely needed.
But, are the principles needed for commercial agriculture the same as those needed for growing marijuana?
While there may be substantial overlap, there is one area that is both vastly different and extremely important. This being water, something that every living thing on this planet needs to survive.
What kind of water do most crops need?
When it comes to commercial agriculture, people are concerned with how much water their crops are getting and not what kind of water. They do not want their plants getting overly toxic water but essentially, to them water is water, and as long as their plants are well hydrated, then they can sleep soundly at night.
When it comes to marijuana cultivation, this is not the case. These plants need water, and they will most certainly die if they do not receive enough water. But, dehydration is not necessarily the worst possible consequence when it comes to hydration and cannabis.
Feeding a cannabis plant incorrect water could be just as damaging as not giving it any water whatsoever.
What is in water?
The most readily available water to both households and industry alike is either tap water or well water. These sources may provide water that is both plentiful and affordable, but it is at this point where it should be noted that this same water comes with a high volume of dissolved solids.
Most notably, these solids are calcium carbonates and magnesium. Neither of these is harmful to any plant, they are essential for proper growth of the said plant, but the issue is the number of solids that are provided along with the size of the particles.
When a plant gets the correct amount of calcium, it becomes the proud owner of connective tissue that is healthy and strong. Magnesium, on the other hand, is essential for photosynthesis which is essential for the plant’s life.
The problem then with the aforementioned water sources is that they come with dissolved carbonate compounds of these minerals that are larger than what is optimal.
Why does the size of the particles matter?
The cannabis plant is not identical to other mass-produced products. It cannot properly or efficiently absorb large particles. When these plants are given water that has such dissolved particles, the pores in the plant get clogged up.
Once these pores are sufficiently blocked, other nutrients that are essential to the plant cannot be absorbed. The term that is used to refer to this occurrence is Nutrient blockout. It does not take an expert to understand that if a plant is not getting the nutrients that it needs, then it will surely not be in its best possible condition.
What can marijuana growers do?
If the water that is readily available not good enough for marijuana plants, then what options do marijuana growers have?
They may be able to source pure water, the water that marijuana needs, but this can become incredibly expensive as the production demands increase. They, therefore, are forced to look into producing their own pure water.
This process involves taking water that has these dissolved solids, removing absolutely everything from the water including both good and bad particles and then putting back only the things that a plant may need.
This entire process is called reverse osmosis, and it produces water that has a low concentration of dissolved solids at high volumes. The systems that do this are quite costly, but the money that is initially spent on them can be quickly made back when the high-quality product that it indirectly produces is sold.
Reverse osmosis comes with its own problems
If it is relatively simple to make the water that cannabis plants need, then why isn’t every grower doing it?
One drawback of these systems may be the start-up costs, but some other factors need to be considered. One of them being whether these systems can be adapted to accommodate an increase in production.
The average reverse osmosis system produces enough pure water to cover an area that spans anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 square feet.
This large size does afford growers the opportunity to expand their business to an extent, but as soon as they set their sights on an area that exceeds 100,000 square feet, then they will need to look into upgrading their entire system.
Waste is also an issue
With the current state of the environment, marijuana growers are not exempt from the stringent laws that are being put in place to reduce the amount of water that is wasted in industry.
This means that as well as having reverse osmosis systems, cannabis growers will probably also need to install reclaim systems.
Not all of these systems are created equal. The generic ones only reclaim and purify the water that is onsite, while the ones that are fully integrated are also able to recycle any condensates that are present. These latter systems create an environment which is almost waste free.
What will happen to the marijuana market in the long-term is still up for debate? One thing that industry experts do agree on is that it is the quality of the product being sold will determine which businesses succeed and which will falter.
When one considers the intricacies of the water that is needed to produce a product of superior quality, it is clear that small growers may wind up holding the advantage over large manufacturers.