As marijuana usage becomes legal in more states, it brings up the question of cannabis farming techniques. Some states only allow established companies to be growers, while others let individuals cultivate plants in their backyards. Whether operations are large or small, consumers wonder about sustainability. How can farmers make marijuana growing a greener process to protect local soil, water and ecosystems?
Current growing processes are mostly done indoors, whether for perceived efficiency or complying with legal requirements. However, this creates a significant carbon footprint because of its energy usage. The plant also needs a substantial amount of water, which leads to wasteful watering practices. Legalization is on the horizon for many areas, but with this integration comes concerns about environmentalism. Agriculturists are offering regenerative farming as an answer.
The Basics of Regenerative Marijuana Farming
Although sustainable agriculture has been a hot topic for years, these growing methods don’t always serve marijuana farmers well. Agriculturists in the cannabis industry define sustainable farming as growing crops to maintain a consistent output. Sustainable farmers do enough to keep production steady, but their methods come at the expense of natural resources. This practice produces significant yields, but it doesn’t always consider the welfare of the plant, environment or farm animals.
Regenerative farming focuses on the welfare of the plant as well as the planet. This process emphasizes the importance of the plant’s life cycle, meaning farmers grow it from seed to maturity. Many also create seeds, producing genetically unique strains native to those farms. Regenerative agriculture encourages biodiversity through crop rotation, no-till farming and cover cropping. Conscious cultivation looks at everything a plant needs to survive within a diverse ecosystem — not an individual farm.
Impact of Cultivation Emissions
Marijuana plants release carbon dioxide — which is natural to all plants — and biogenic volatile organic compounds. BVOCs produce the herb’s distinctive smell, and they pose a greater health risk than most would assume. Toxic ground-level ozone can arise when VOCs and nitrogen oxide emissions combine. These BVOCs can cause ozone to form at a rate of 2.6 grams per plant each day. They also become highly concentrated in indoor areas, which threatens the health of workers and farmers.
Nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides, and rodenticides also contribute to indoor and outdoor pollution. Growing indoors increases the risk of disease and infestation, leading many farmers to douse their plants in pest killers. While this prevents plant death, it doesn’t bode well for those buying cannabis. Organophosphate pesticides have dangerous effects on the brain, and inhaling marijuana treated with pesticides can send these toxins to the bloodstream.
California has lowered exposure by introducing pesticide residue limits, though there’s still much work to do for legislators on the federal level.
Regenerative Farming Solutions
Agriculturists are continually experimenting with methods for making marijuana growth eco-friendly. Their innovative techniques prioritize plant health while preserving natural resources.
1. Outdoor Growing
This plant thrives in full sun, and it needs all the natural light it can get. Growers in legal states should find ways to move their operations outdoors to reduce energy strain. Doing this would require less equipment, cutting expenses as well as electricity usage. Greenhouses provide enclosed but full-sun alternatives to dark basements and warehouses. Garden beds will need to be drained regularly, especially in rainy climates. Chemical-free pest deterrents such as natural predators, chicken wire and crop rotation serve as great pesticide substitutes.
2. Water Conservation
Drip irrigation and deep water culture can reduce the amount of water going toward cannabis growing. Drip irrigation supplies water to precise locations in the garden, providing a less wasteful solution to sprinklers and hoses. The water flows through a low-pressure, low-flow system, which controls how much flows out at a given time.
Deep water systems enable plants to grow in H2O, eliminating the need for recurrent watering. Oxygen-rich, nutrient-filled water is vital for this method’s success — without soil, there’s no organic matter present. Submerging the roots in properly aerated water prevents them from drowning, allowing them to grow without intensive maintenance.
3. Solar Energy
Those reluctant to switch to outdoor growing can use solar energy to keep their plants alive rather than relying solely on the energy grid. Because cannabis warehouses use so much energy, it’s more realistic to use solar for some of their lighting sources instead of all. The cannabis company Canndescent recently installed a massive solar system to power half its operations.
Large businesses can benefit from this method. It’s a gradual step to revamping energy usage instead of uprooting normal operations. Easing into the process still makes an environmental difference, and incremental upgrades offer a practical solution for becoming greener.
4. Soil Health
Natural fertilizers introduce beneficial microorganisms into the soil, which boost plant growth and create bacterial ecosystems. These organisms drive photosynthesis by supplying plants with necessary nutrients and releasing carbon into the ground. The dirt grows richer from absorbing carbon, which lessens harmful emissions in the air. Outdoor farmers can boost soil health by composting organic matter and introducing farm animals, which will produce nutrient-rich manure.
Turning the Cannabis Industry Green
Cannabis farming can transform into an eco-friendly practice if more farmers adopt conscious methods. Large corporations and small operations alike will benefit from using regenerative techniques to produce their crops. Healthier practices make way for abundant crops, improved industry standards and well-paid agriculturalists.
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