As we discussed in a previous Silverpeak blog post, the MED will require testing for 13 pesticides that are harmful to both people and plants on every harvest batch effective August 1, 2018. One question posed when developing this legislation was, “Why the need for harmful pesticides in the first place? What can be done to prevent the need to apply harmful pesticides?” With this new legislation, all growers will be held to the same standard tolerance of harmful pesticide traces on their marijuana to protect human and environmental health from harmful chemicals. Before the new MED requirements, there were no regulations prohibiting grows from using harmful pesticides that may ultimately be ingested by the end user. The health risk posed by the application of harmful pesticides in violation of the MED criteria is one cause for concern. The new testing also creates an economic concern for growers: if a batch fails pesticide testing, the MED can then place an administrative hold on the affected crop, which could lead to destroying the crop, a significant economic loss for the offender and possible loss of their MED license.
The basics of horticulture are simple: every plant needs a specific amount of sunlight, water, and nutrients to grow. In all agriculture, and especially in cannabis growing operations ranging from outdoor grows to high tech climate-controlled greenhouses, it is inevitable that destructive insects, molds, and fungus (Agricultural Opportunists, or AOs as we call them) will find the plants. Therefore, the question isn’t how to keep the grow 100% free of these agricultural opportunists, rather what the best way is to control their numbers. All growers must decide far in advance how much or how little to invest in their people, internal horticultural controls, and facility equipment to deal with these AOs to keep them from compromising plant health and vigor. Grows can choose to invest a lot or a little in the depth of experience of the grow General Manager and management team, biosecurity practices, staff training and education, and the facility infrastructure.
Invest in an Experienced Grower and Management Team
Investing in an experienced grower and management team is a critical step in cultivating a large grow facility that operates without using harmful pesticides. The experienced grower invests time in evaluating the facility and developing standard operating procedures for controlling biosecurity, which is specific to each individual grow. The grower will also develop and implement the fundamentals of horticulture to optimize the natural resources needed throughout the grow cycle for each specific grow, including environmental factors such as air temperature, relative humidity, light cycles, cross-contamination, and more. Monitoring these environmental variables is key to managing these AOs so the grow environment is not a magnet that attracts and promotes a population explosion in the grow environment.
For indoor grows, a significant initial investment is needed to implement best horticultural practices to prevent the need to use harmful pesticides. This includes equipment that monitors and regulates the environmental factors noted above. Many cannabis companies do not have the capital to do so or choose to invest in other elements of the company. The risk of choosing not to invest in seasoned growers, preventative practices and/or reliable equipment translates to a facility that operates on the verge of losing control over the environmental variables in the facility, which in turn leads to the spread of AOs. Often, the infestations seem to occur rapidly and within days of harvest time. As a result, the grower needs to decide how to mitigate quickly, and in these circumstances the choices are limited to either using strong, harmful pesticides or scrapping part of all of the harvest.
In facilities that invest to keep their growing environments stable, it is up to them to ensure the support staff is properly trained and regularly educated about the entire process. Not only does the team need to know what to do, but they also must understand why and how. This will ensure that team members are aware of the conditions and practices that produce healthy plants and can recognize early plant signals if the fundamentals are varying too much from the established norm.
The Silverpeak Way
We at Silverpeak started with the end product in mind and went to great lengths to consistently provide cannabis that is free of harmful pesticides. We chose to invest when starting our grow facility because we are passionate about creating a consistently high-quality product that is safe for growers, staff, and consumers. The General Manager at our farm has implemented strict horticultural fundamentals for the team to follow at every step of the grow cycle. Our fully climate-controlled grow facility has state-of-the-art environmental controls to further assist our efforts to assure our plants are as healthy as they can possibly be from clone to harvest. We also manage biosecurity by restricting the number of visitors that enter the facility and require that staff and visitors’ clothes and shoes are changed upon entry and washed daily. Furthermore, we created and cultivate a clean growing environment to prevent external contamination and cross-contamination. To discourage AOs from creating a breeding ground, we keep a close watch on the air temperature and relative humidity and adjust to keep within tolerances that are good for the plant and not so good for AO’s.
As a macro-preventative measure, experienced growers develop and utilize an “Integrated Pest Management” IPM program. At Silverpeak, we have a robust IPM program for plants from the time they become seedlings through harvesting and packaging. Our full-time IPM Manager constantly scouts every bench and provides a map of areas showing signs of AOs. In those potentially vulnerable areas, we use softer solutions such as beneficials, and employ a combination of organic and OMRI-approved natural ingredients to mitigate, therefore ensuring no harmful pesticides touch the plant and make their way to the end user.
You wouldn’t eat food knowing it was contaminated with harmful pesticides. Why would you consume cannabis that has been exposed to those same chemicals? All Silverpeak flower is hand-cultivated, harvested, and trimmed to perfection. The initial investment to grow premium flower and the passion of our entire farm team has allowed us to never need to use harmful pesticides on our flower, ensuring our customers are getting the best product available. Of the thirteen harmful pesticides identified by the MED, we do not have a single one in our grow facility, never have, and never will.