The cannabis industry is rapidly growing and is on pace to more than double in value by 2025. While new cultivators begin to enter the industry, one factor continues to set each grower apart – the health of their canopy. Achieving a plentiful harvest of healthy cannabis is not an easy task. It takes diligence, education, and many years of experience to become masterful at the grow process. From root development to canopy airflow, it is a meticulous process that must be measured and monitored continuously.
If neglected, microbials, pathogens, and pests appear and reproduce rapidly throughout the canopy, potentially destroying or minimizing total harvest yields. However, early detection helps to overcome these hurdles, so the cultivator can focus on growing lush and nutrient-rich cannabis plants.
Here we’ll discuss how to recognize the noticeable signs that indicate healthy plants throughout the cultivation process.
Visual appearance is one of the easiest ways to determine the health of a cannabis plant. Through simple visual cues, a cultivator can get a good indication of plant health and identify deficiencies that require attention.
Here are four initial visual considerations to recognize when looking for plant health:
• Typical leaf color (no discoloration) and consistency throughout plants.
• Strength of leaves – No wilting, dropping, or curling. Ideally, leaves stretching up towards the light.
• Number of leaves – mature plants typically have seven or more leaves.
• Void of spots, variegation, burnt tips.
As operations scale up, these visual cues may be more difficult to distinguish. Pipp Horticulture’s Mechanical Assist Drive System allows for easy observation of the visible appearance of plants throughout multiple aisles at the same time. To view the top-level canopy, install the ELEVATE side rails on each side of Pipp’s vertical racks, take the first deck, slide it into place on the rails, then daisy chain remaining decks down the aisle. From there, hook the ladder on, and the operator is ready to access the second level!
After examining the general visual appearance on the top of the plant, be sure to check on the plant’s root development. Roots are the foundation for cannabis growth, and poor root development can indicate that the plant is not absorbing water or transporting essential nutrients.
When determining if a root system is healthy, check for these indicators:
• Healthy white appearance with little to no browning
• Roots should be plentiful and grow outward to the edges of the container
• No signs of root rot (brown and mushy)
• Not rootbound or tangled
Remember: maintaining healthy roots is essential for producing healthy plants!
The growth environment, including air circulation and ventilation systems, can also play a role in determining a plant’s health. Proper intake and exhaust ensure sufficient amounts of CO2 for photosynthesis and prevent environments favorable to microbial growth.
This is why destratification techniques should be utilized to minimize any microclimates caused by transpiration from plants and other factors. Vertical Air Solutions Air Circulation System keeps consistent airflow throughout every part of a vertical grow and allows cultivators to take control of environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels.
Watch how to maximize airflow throughout the pruning process below:
Brix (symbol °Bx) is a measurement of the sugar/sucrose levels in plants. A higher brix count typically indicates a healthier, more nutritious plant. Use a refractometer to measure Brix (sugar) and ensure that it is in the ideal range for healthy photosynthesis. This range is between 12%-30% and is a good indicator of plant health.
Defoliation is one of the most effective ways to raise sugar levels by redirecting sugars to the most needed parts of the plant. When searching for a Brix Refractometer, there are a wide variety of measurement tools available online and in hydroponic stores.
Runoff is the water stream that goes beyond the root zone of the cannabis plant. This water is full of useful information about plant nutrient levels, fertilizer, and more. Measuring the concentration of solubles (PPM) and soil acidity (pH) in runoff can be an excellent indicator of overall plant health.
When performing these measurements, compare PPM/EC & PH of runoff to input PPM/EC & PH. Runoff should be considerably lower in PPM/EC, showing the plant is effectively taking in nutrients. These levels can easily be determined by using test strips from a local hydroponic store or, for more accurate measurements, use a digital EC/PH/Temp monitor.
Visual Pest Inspection
As discussed, precise temperature, airflow, and humidity levels are all essential to growing nutrient-rich plants. However, these conditions can often harbor unwanted pests and insects. The ability to identify these insects, their preferred environmental conditions, and how fast they can multiply throughout a canopy is essential to plant preservation. Visually scouting for these pests can be done by the human eye or through cameras, AI, and pest control software.
Consider utilizing yellow sticky traps, microscopes, AI, and companion plants in the pest management process. After taking all the necessary measures, the absence of or limited amount of certain pests is a good indicator of plant health.
Trichome color and appearance can help gauge timing for an optimal harvest. Typically healthy trichomes at their peak concentration will have a slightly milky white color, meaning they are full of THC. At this stage, use an HD digital camera/microscope or a small hand-held microscope to observe overall ripeness.
When taking an up-close look, keep an eye out for any burnt or amber colors as this could indicate some damage. Ensuring proper room temperature, humidity, and light exposure throughout the entire growth process can keep trichomes from suffering any destruction.
In conclusion, it’s essential to recognize the signs of an unhealthy cannabis plant before it spread throughout the canopy. Pipp Horticulture’s vertical farming equipment can also assist with keeping plants healthy, increasing ROI, and getting more from every harvest.