Agricultural Contaminants in Cannabis

Agricultural Contaminants in Cannabis

Many newer growers are jumping into the business in recent years. There has also been a sharp increase in chemical contaminates found in products offered for sale in dispensaries. Knowledgeable growers have observed that larger grows are more likely to be contaminated than smaller ones. This is probably due, in part, to the bigger monetary risk involved. But many other factors could contribute. For example, the larger operation is more likely to be a single cut or mono-crop, while the smaller op probably has a number of strains running, maybe even on continuous harvest. Diverse crops are less susceptible to any disease or insect.

Smaller operations are also more likely to experiment, since the stakes are lower. Experiment leads to greater skills. From my point of view, small operation growers are always much more skilled than the growers. The large scale, unskilled grower must rely on tried and true methods and recipies used by others, which usually means chemical pesticides and fungicides.


New growers ain't got no skills


I've been invited to tour so many large operations I can't even remember. It's always the same. I have to bite my lip so to speak. I've literally never seen a good one. I'm absolutely confident that I could improve the efficiency of every single large grow I've toured by at least 100%, but if I were to declare such a thing in front of the 'master grower' I'd probably get thrown out.

I'm forced to consider that the reason (we cant talk) is the vast distance between that master growers skills and my own. Imagine that you're a slim, frail 70 year old Tai Chi master who could throw the toughest UFC fighter across the room without hurting him. Now imagine that you would actually have to do such a barbaric thing to get his attention! If he were a more rounded fighter, the kid would at least know enough to recognize your skills without having to fight him.

The cannabis community has seen a huge influx of these newbie UFC fighters and average skills are WAY down from where they were 20 years ago. There are older growers who could mentor and assist the newer ones in a huge way, but none of them are interested. The interest must come from the other direction. As a wise person said, "the only thing rarer than a great teacher is a great student".

At present, the skill gap between the average commercial grower and the skilled grower with years of experience is so huge that the younger ones literally would not recognize that old Tai Chi master if he passed on the sidwalk in downtown Mendocino. Even if they did identify one, they'd probably blow it by asking him some infuriating newbie question like, "what nutrient plan do you use?"

Potatoes have a vast catalogue of pests, but cannabis is tough. Grown organically outdoors, not much bothers it other than caterpillars of various kinds late in the season. Most other pests it can live with. The 'organic' grower will simply ignore them because damage will be minimal and, they will be predated on by benificials soon enough if they're left alone.

By organic growing, I mean local soil pre-amended with organic fertilizers and no chemical pesticides that would threaten benificials or anything else. Plants grown like this are less attractive to pests than plants grown with petroleum based fertilizers and/or in above ground net pots with commercial potting soil. Organic growing helps a plant blend in with it's surroundings more from an insects point of view. A plant grown in foreign soil with chemical fertilizers probably even looks a different color to an insect flying overhead. "Hey guys, there's a tasty looking one right down there!"

Newer growers are more likely to put focus on control. They imagine they can control everything they see, which is reasonable because they don't see much yet. Problem is, as we learn we see more and more. Control gives way to observation and the cause and effect process performs a philisophical flip. We stop expecting plants to respond to us, and begin instead to respond to them.

This could be said to be graduating from white belt. It is also the key to understanding a vastly misunderstood point about organic growing in general, and that is that it is less work.

You've probably heard the exact opposite opinion expressed many times in the media lately. Organic growing is not only more difficult, but it's more time consuming and more expensive. I say BS. I think organic methods in the hands of white belts are going to be much harder, more expensive and time consuming, yes. It's that control thing again. But, when I use them as I learned from my grandmother, I do a fraction of the work that others do. I'm sorry if I'm bringing down entire agricultural industries with my statements, but it's what I believe.

It's much easier to understand modern commercial methods of agriculture than it is to understand organic growing, no question about it. The thing is, you don't need to understand organic processes. In fact, soil dynamics are SO complex that a complete understanding is not really possible. Anyone who tries to tell you it is, is probably fairly new to agriculture.

If you doubt me, try reading up on some of the recent discoveries with Terra Preta and the newly emerging Biochar industry. Every paragraph ends with something like, "but, how all these processes interact together is not completely understood yet".

I imagine that at the beginning of the last century, we were sort of like Gallileo with his telescope in regards to agricultural science. Recently, studies with things like Terra Preta are uncovering vast complexities we never imagined. Suddenly, we're looking through Hubble. Control is flying out ya window!