Foreword from Casey
In these articles I will cover the biggest problems I have seen in the commercial grows I have been in. There are definitely commonalities across most commercial grows that I have seen and most of the issues can be addressed if you know what to expect and how to prevent them. If we take the time to learn how things go wrong, we can avoid the pitfalls of this industry and provide a cleaner, healthier product that is free of dangerous pesticides and fungicides. Growing safely is cheaper, more efficient, and more ethical.
The Wrong Way
Most grow operations I have been in have pest issues. There is usually something going on when you lift the hood, even if it’s not devastating. I’ve seen fungus gnats, thrips, springtails, countless mites, powdery mildew, mold, pythium and more. It’s essentially impossible to run a ‘sterile’ facility on a commercial level.
Even the biggest greenhouses in the world have pests. However, they have established treatment thresholds: When the cost of the pest damage equals, or is greater than, the cost of treatment, they begin treatment. They follow standard operating procedures designed to handle every pest they run into. They use specialized equipment to apply treatments with great precision and efficacy, reducing pollution and waste. They even keep at least one entomologist on staff. Most importantly, they practice Integrated Pest Management.
Grows today are being designed and built on a scale that only a handful of people know how to properly design and execute. These new grows are being designed by “master growers” who, at best, have run a single 20-30 light room in a basement somewhere. Money is dumped in when it should be spared and then money is conserved on crucial components. These ill-built machines get to “highway speed” and can’t stop. Problems start mounting and amplifying as crops go through. Underpaid, undertrained staff, improper sterilization techniques, inadequate SOPs, and more create a death spiral. The problems build and eventually the operation starts to fall apart. Eventually, investors pull out and mismanagement dooms what remains.
Mismanaged grows lean very heavily on serious pesticides and fungicides: Myclobutanil, Abamectin, Trifloxystrobin, Triticonazole, Piperonyl Butoxide, Spiromesifen, and more. Pesticides of this nature are not approved for use in any edible crops, let alone cannabis. These pesticides are labeled strictly for ornamental plant use only and may have long re-entry restrictions. Since they are not approved in most states, they are applied in secret to avoid detection. Bottles are smuggled into grows in coats and pockets, wrapped in black rubber gloves. They are sprayed late at night, when only those who need to know are there. Workers will complain about dizziness and strange smells. They’ll notice strange oils on their hands and on the plants.
Not only are federal laws being broken, but basic human decency and compassion are being thrown out as well. I personally predict a spike in cancer rates among those who work in commercial cannabis operations. One worker I interviewed got so sick, he had to go to the hospital. When he was admitted, the doctors asked them if he lived in an orchard that was being actively sprayed with fungicides. In truth, he was being poisoned by his work.
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About the Author
Casey Lohrenz is an experienced lead cultivator and consultant for grows. He currently works for Growers House, a distributor of gardening supplies.