The Importance of Pursuing a Pesticide-Free Cannabis Industry
Cannabis cultivators face two critical microbial challenges: minimizing yield loss caused by pathogens and accessing antimicrobial solutions that are both safe and effective at inactivating viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Unlike most crops grown in the United States, there are no federal guidelines regulating allowable pesticides or usage rates for cannabis. Lack of federal oversight has led to varying regulations across legalized markets, and some cannabis cultivators have turned to hazardous chemicals to control pathogens and preserve their crop yields. Such cultivation solutions often compromise the safety of staff, consumers, and the environment, which can in turn damage brand value. A 2019 US nationwide survey of more than 600 cannabis consumers in legal adult use markets found that consumers overwhelming supported environmental standards (79 percent) and quality certifications (77 percent) for adult recreational cannabis products. In fact, consumers favored “paying more” for cannabis that is:
- Grown free from chemical pesticides (92 percent).
- Without chemical fertilizers (88 percent).
- Hasn’t been irradiated for pathogens (85 percent).
- Is grown in a low carbon footprint environment (82.5 percent).
- Cultivated in a manner that conserves water (86 percent).
With emerging research suggesting that pesticides may be harmful to consumer health and well-being, it is crucial that industry leaders and regulators work together to pursue the goal of a pesticide-free market. This mission would benefit businesses, by first and foremost protecting the consumer from exposure to harmful pesticides, while helping to better protect the safety of cultivation employees and minimizing the impact to the environment.
There are non-toxic crop management technologies available now and one of the options on the market is offered by Terra Vera. This proven platform technology, which is modeled after the US military’s approach to treating drinking water to EPA standards, mimics the brilliancy of humans’ own biological systems in fighting pathogens and mimics what white blood cells do every day by converting organic, inert compounds into antimicrobial solutions. The systems are scalable for both large and small agricultural operations in a variety of grow methods: outdoor, indoor, and greenhouse. For example, a 20,000 square-foot cultivation center with a capacity of producing 3,600 pounds of flower annually recently adopted Terra Vera’s on-demand, organic antimicrobial system as a replacement to a more costly popular brand of pesticide to combat harmful pathogens such as powdery mildew, botrytis, and other microorganisms. Results were seen in seconds upon first application. Powdery mildew melted away without chemical reactions such as burning, which often occurs with synthetic pesticides, resulting in 168 pounds of flower remediated. Since adopting Terra Vera’s technology in July 2020, the cultivation center has been consistently passing microbial testing.
Instead of purchasing bottled chemistry, cultivators can complement sustainable integrated pest management processes with Terra Vera’s on-site generation technology, which achieves the following:
- Eliminating the supply chain constraints for chemicals; the user generates the antimicrobial chemistry when they need it.
- Eliminating storage and transportation of hazardous chemicals.
- Avoiding potential accidental release of toxic chemicals to surrounding ecosystems.
- Preventing accidental inhalation or chemical burns.
- Reducing plastic waste in landfills.
- Lowering business’ carbon footprint.
In addition to seeking out vendors offering cutting-edge technology and innovation-driven solutions to replace conventional pesticides, cultivators can embrace simple, preventative measures to minimize outbreaks of bio-contaminants. This includes controlling humidity at the grow site, plant spacing, adequate air circulation, and strict chain of custody throughout the supply chain.
As cannabis enters the mainstream and more states legalize medical and adult use markets, the cannabis sector is emerging at the forefront of cutting-edge agricultural technology and is embracing pesticide-free solutions on a broad, scalable level. It offers great hope for our planet that responsible companies are building infrastructure and operations centered around sustainability while utilizing solutions that are safe, economical, and effective at preserving plant value.
Justin Sanchez is the co-founder of Terra Vera, an agricultural technology company specializing in non-toxic crop management solutions.