LED lighting is an integral part of modern grow room design. Image courtesy of ProGrowTech.
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Overcoming Common Indoor Cannabis Growing Obstacles with LEDs 

Cultivating cannabis certainly isn’t easy – and doing it well is even harder. 

The finnicky plant is known for requirements that give Goldilocks a run for her money: it can’t be too hot or too cold. The light must be just bright enough, but it needs just the right amount of darkness, too. Plus, keep an eye on humidity – too much can lead to mold or disease and too little leads to shriveled, dry plants. Coupled with the demands of the industry – record-breaking THC percentages, a seemingly endless supply of flower on dispensary shelves, eye-watering aromas to rival the smelliest skunks – it’s certainly more complex than growing tomatoes.  

We must give cannabis growers credit where credit’s due – they’re true innovators in the horticulture industry. Over years of practice, the most seasoned cultivators come to understand the plant’s numerous quirks and devise creative solutions. Even so, there is the occasional obstacle that leaves even established growers scratching their heads. 

Here are some of the most common growing questions echoed in grow facilities across the nation – and how LED grow lights can offer practical, effective answers to keep both cultivators and their plants happy.  

Why Are My Cannabis Plants Stressed? 

Stressed plants might fail to produce viable buds or fail to reach maturity at all. They might seem small and frail, with wilted leaves – the opposite of the robust trees we all hope for. 

Your lighting could be the culprit. In an indoor setting, improper or insufficient lighting can result in: 

  • Burned plants – The lights are too close to the plant canopy, scorching leaves. 
  • Stretching – Lights that are too far away or not bright enough can result in long, spindly plants. 
  • Stunted growth – Uniformity is key here – ensure all plants receive the same amount of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). 

In order to address stress, growers need to think from an evolutionary perspective. The plant’s natural environment offered endless full-spectrum light from the sun, and its reproductive cycle reflected the shifting of the seasons. How can indoor growers replicate (or amplify) this natural environment for the best results?

LEDs are the closest lighting technology to natural sunlight. With full spectrum and tuning abilities, growers can adjust the indoor environment with exacting detail. Because they run cooler than other lighting technologies, LEDs can be placed much closer to plants, for added efficiency and intensity. LEDs also offer better uniformity than HPS counterparts. Investing in quality LEDs can remove much of the uncertainty when it comes to whether your plants are receiving the right amount of high-quality light.

While LEDs are powerful, growers still need to be careful – there really can be too much of a good thing. Don’t force cannabis plants from the gentle environment of a veg room and blast them with high intensity light when you want them to flower. This can easily result in shocked (or dead) plants. Instead, coax them through their lifecycle by gradually building or cutting back on light intensity – just as cannabis plants would experience in their natural habitat. 

In addition, LED lights make techniques like the “flower-in-place” method possible, developed and drive by ProGrowTech. This approach eliminates the veg room altogether and utilizes spectral tuning to replicate this seasonal shift in light intensity and spectrum. It cuts down on time, labor, space – and results in more resilient mature plants. 

How Can I Boost My Harvest Yields to Meet Demand? 

You might boast the healthiest, prettiest flower – but are you producing enough to meet consumer demand? The appetite for cannabis products is ever-growing in legal states, putting pressure on growers to produce more, without letting quality slip.

The easy answer here is to get a bigger grow facility. More square footage means more room for plants, right? While that’s true, not all cannabis businesses can afford to buy up more real estate to support their grow. Also, keep in mind that higher yields aren’t always guaranteed when squeezing as many plants as possible under a single light. Each plant needs enough room to grow and flourish without being suffocated by the plant next to it. Addressing this common obstacle requires a little more creativity. Growers need to think up, not just out.

Vertical racking is the intelligent design revolutionizing indoor grow facilities. By building up, cannabis businesses get more real estate – without having to purchase and set up a whole new structure – doubling or tripling their harvest yields. Before LEDs entered the mainstream, this design simply wasn’t possible because many other, conventional lighting technologies don’t offer the same level of uniformity required in vertically racked grows.

How Can I Get Higher Cannabinoid Percentages? 

Many growers in the industry are wondering how to elicit higher cannabinoid concentrations in their plants. THC – the cannabinoid known for its psychoactive, pain-killing, soothing effects – has long been the industry darling. But in recent years, CBD – THC’s non-psychoactive, but still medicinal counterpart – has gotten more attention. Additionally, some growers are moving away from flower production (where the focus was on yields) and moving more toward concentrates (where cannabinoids make all the difference).  

Cannabinoids are produced in trichomes, the glandular, dewy structures found on the surface of the plant. Trichomes give cannabis flowers an almost frosty appearance – and if you’re wanting to produce high-potency flower, the frostier the better. More trichomes on your plants are a reliable indicator of higher cannabinoid concentrations.

So, whether your customers are looking for high THC flower or you’re moving into concentrates as a primary revenue source, growing high-quality, high-potency flower starts with excellent environmental controls. Plants are more likely to thrive when they’re in the right temperature, under the right lights and given the right nutrients.

While there’s no magical formula that’s going to win you the Most THC award, LEDs have been shown to have a positive impact. 

  • A 2018 study found that an optimized light spectrum has a favorable impact on the production of certain cannabinoids. For instance, growers could increase the expression of therapeutic cannabinoids, like THCV or CBG, within the final product through adjusting the spectrum.
  • Some have hypothesized that THC acts as a natural sunscreen for the cannabis plant. Studies show UV-B (in small doses) can elicit more THC production. But, be extremely careful when experimenting with UV-B: ensure employees are protected from harmful radiation, and too much can end up burning the plants. 

The bottom line here is: the success of your grow is directly related to the right equipment, time and approach. While cannabis can be a challenging plant to grow well, modern technology has made it easier (and possible year-round!). Growers who want to see record-breaking yields and potencies need to invest in the right tools – especially environmental controls like lights and dehumidifiers – to make those results possible.

Cutting corners when you’re designing your grow facility, especially when it comes to your lighting technology, can cause more costly issues down the road. So, while LEDs might initially seem expensive at first, they’re truly worth every penny when you consider the quality of light and energy savings. 

Lastly, growing cannabis takes patience. Successful cannabis growers who are producing enviable flower didn’t master the art overnight. It can take months of trial-and-error, investing time and money into your grow, dedication and a little bit of luck.

Andrew Myers is CEO of ProGrowTech, which helps commercial horticulture operations increase profitability, yield and energy efficiency with industry-leading LED lighting systems. For more information, visit progrowtech.com

 

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