Propagation and Root Zone Management for Controlled Environment Cannabis Production
Cannabis producers lack reliable information on the horticultural management of their crops. This thesis research was designed to improve horticultural practices for controlled environment cannabis production; topics included propagation, growing substrates, fertilization, and irrigation. To optimize the procedures for taking vegetative stem cuttings in cannabis, several factors were evaluated on how they affect rooting success and quality (Chapter Two). These included number of leaves, leaf tip removal, basal/apical position of cutting on the stock plant, and type of rooting hormone. Removing leaf tips reduced rooting success and cuttings with three fully-expanded leaves had higher rooting success and quality than those with two. Also, a 0.2% indole-3-butyric gel was more effective than a 0.2% willow extract gel to stimulate rooting and cutting position had no effect on rooting. Coir-based substrates with different physical properties were evaluated during the vegetative and flowering stage of cannabis production; optimal organic fertilizer rates were established for each substrate (Chapters Three and Four). During the vegetative stage, cannabis performed well in both tested substrates despite the ≈11% difference in container capacity (CC) between them. During the flowering stage, the substrate with lower CC increased floral dry weight (yield) and the concentration and/or yield of some cannabinoids, including THC, compared to the substrate with higher CC. The optimal organic fertilizer rate varied by substrate during the flowering stage but not during the vegetative stage; higher fertilizer rate during the flowering stage increased growth and yield but diluted some cannabinoids. Finally, the effects of controlled drought stress timing and frequency during the flowering stage were explored on floral dry weight and secondary metabolism (Chapters Five and Six). When drought was applied during week seven of the flowering stage, through gradual substrate drying over eleven days, floral concentration and content per unit growing area of major cannabinoids were increased. When drought was applied over a period of ≈8 days during week seven, cannabinoid content was similar to a well-watered control; though, dependent on drought timing, the content of some terpenoids varied. This research provided evidence-based information that can help growers improve the quality and yield of their cannabis crops.