Sun Grown Moon Made
Indoor vs. Outdoor
Currently, a large portion of cannabis cultivation occurs indoors. This trend is largely due to the prohibition of cannabis forcing cultivators to become clandestine in their operations, thus forcing growers to move plants out from their natural environment under sun to within the privacy of buildings.
Technology has allowed environmental conditions sought out for cannabis cultivation, such as full sun and ventilation, to be replicated in an indoor environment. However, replicating the brilliance of the sun and the dynamic conditions often present outdoors requires a large expenditure of energy, and is significantly taxing on the environment.
Between devices such as high intensity lamps, ballasts, purifiers, fans, atmosphere regulators, pumps, ozone generators, purifiers, vehicles, and CO2 generators, as much as 3% of California’s household energy use is due to indoor cannabis cultivation. On a national level, in 2011, it was estimated that the energy consumption for indoor grown cannabis consumes 1% of national electricity use, or $6 billion per year (Mills, 2012). This equates to the production of 4,600 kg of carbon emissions (a very significant carbon footprint), or that of 3 million average U.S. cars, for every one kilogram of indoor cannabis produced. From a cultivator’s perspective, this means about $2,500 per kilogram spent on energy use, or about half the wholesale value of the finished product.
Shifting to outdoor cultivation can nearly eliminate energy consumption for the cultivation process (Mills, 2012). Such a reduction in energy use leads to less environmental impact and more economically efficient growing. For an even more environmentally friendly approach to growing, cultivators are now holding themselves to higher standards and creating what is commonly known as “sun-grown” cannabis. This is distinct from “outdoor” cannabis in that cultivators differentiate themselves through adhering to stricter standards in an attempt to create the most natural conditions possible. Consequently, sun-growers use higher-quality organic products, locally sourced water, and natural sunlight.
Other Benefits of Sun-Grown
Many cultivators claim that seeds have two types of yield, indoor and outdoor. Outdoor yields are said to promise more yield per plant and with less supervision. Moreover, despite the common misperception that indoor cannabis potency exceeds that of outdoor cannabis, independent testing laboratories have found that potencies are similar when best practices are used (Kovner, 2011).
Being that sun-grown diverges from outdoor because of adherence to the use of organic pesticides and fertilizers, sun-grown cannabis also carries a myriad of environmental benefits due to avoiding the use of harsh and artificial additives.
Growing organically generally minimizes environmental impacts. For example, the production of organic nutrients tends to require less processing, and therefore less energy to produce, compared to conventional nutrients. Additionally, conventional pesticides can leach into local soil fauna destroying soil viability and leading to environmental damage.
The diversity of soil microbiomes reflects the richness and variety of soil microbes in a given area. Organic soil naturally hosts a complex community of bacteria, fungus, and micro-organisms such as nematodes. Non-organic soil tends to be a more sterile growing medium that lacks an abundant soil microbiome. Cultivators have argued that organic soil is preferable because of its rich microbiome, which is thought to enable nitrogen fixation and the facilitation of better water retention, both of which can assist growth and prevent plant disease.
When the microenvironment is optimal, anecdotal accounts also agree that yield is similar, if not better, than conventional methods. This is in part because of the increase in availability of organic amendments and soil, which has lead to higher quality products that have been meticulously adjusted to create optimal growing conditions.
Anecdotal accounts have also testified to the increased potency generated through using organic methods. Cannabis has particular soil needs and requires a specific proportion of minerals and micro-biotic flora to grow to its full potential. Organic nutrients contain necessary trace elements that can provide additional benefits over conventional treatments. Accordingly, when organic methods are adhered to, the complexity of organic products are said by cultivators to produce cannabis that is superior in effect and potency compared to conventionally grown plants.
Plant Health and Aroma
Organic cannabis is also considered by many to surpass conventionally grown cannabis in regards to plant health, and flavor and aroma. Consider a recent comprehensive study led by Washington State University utilizing strawberries (see Reganold, 2010). The researchers aimed to examine the nutritional and environmental benefits of organic farming. They found that organic strawberries are healthier, tastier, and better for the soil than conventionally grown strawberries. The organic plants contained higher levels of anti-oxidants, had a longer shelf life, and were more flavorful. They also exhibited fewer instances of fungal infection, likely due to systemic-acquired resistance, a preferable alternative over chemical mediation for combatting fungus.
The organic soils tended to contain higher levels of nutrients and outperformed conventional soils on tests of microbe diversity such as enzyme activities, micronutrient level, and carbon sequestration. Amazingly, the organic soil contained a significantly higher level of genetic diversity and unique genes. Since genetic diversity offers protection in unpredictable weather conditions, like those perpetuated by global warming, biodiversity is an important determinant of resilience against changing weather patterns. Although this study focused on strawberries, its findings are generally applicable to a wide range of cultivated products and soils used for cultivation.
Terpene Profile for Sun-grown
Cultivators have touted the benefits of using the full-spectrum of light offered by the sun in regards to producing desirable terpene profiles. Terpenes are aromatic organic hydrocarbons synthesized within the cannabis plant that provide cannabis with its aroma. Work has found that terpenes may reduce THC induced anxiety, cholinergic deficit, and immunosuppression, while simultaneously increasing cerebral blood flow, enhancing cortical activity, killing respiratory pathogens, and providing anti-inflammatory activity (McPartland & Russo, 2001).
Terpenoids, an overarching class of organic compounds that include terpenes, are thought to possess a wide range of properties, including antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic qualities, and cancer chemo-preventive effects (Paduch, Kandefer-Szerszeń, Trytek, & Fiedurek, 2007). Cultivators have noted that the creation of terpenes and cannabinoids reflect not only the intensity of the sun but also the UV spectrum and light wavelengths that drive photosynthesis. Consequently, sun-grown cannabis is thought to be the ideal way for producing plants that exhibit the most desirable terpene profile.
Kovner, G., 2011. North coast: pot growing power grab. Press Democrat. /http:// www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20110428/ARTICLES/110429371?Title=Report- Growing-pot-indoors-leaves-big-carbon-footprint&tc=arS.
Mcpartland, J. M., & Russo, E. B. (2001). Cannabis and Cannabis Extracts. Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, 1(3-4), 103-132.
Mills, E. (2012). The carbon footprint of indoor Cannabis production. Energy Policy, 46, 58-67.
Paduch, R., Kandefer-Szerszeń, M., Trytek, M., & Fiedurek, J. (2007). Terpenes: Substances useful in human healthcare. Arch. Immunol. Ther. Exp. Archivum Immunologiae Et Therapiae Experimentalis, 55(5), 315-327.
Reganold, J. P., Andrews, P. K., Reeve, J. R., Carpenter-Boggs, L., Schadt, C. W., Alldredge, J. R., . . . Zhou, J. (2010). Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems. PLoS ONE, 5(9).