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The Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant, and its Lifecycle

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The Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant

Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant

By 2027, it’s projected that the legal cannabis market in the U.S. and Canada could hit $47.3 billion in size.

That will make it bigger than annual global sales for raw metals like nickel and silver put together. It would be a size that even exceeds the North American pork market.

But while almost everyone has a sense of the basic mechanics of mining or ranching, knowledge around the essentials of cannabis are understandably not as well ingrained in our culture.

Cannabis Plants 101

Today’s infographic comes to us from The Green Organic Dutchman, and it breaks down the anatomy of a cannabis plant, the differences between types of plants, and also the basics around cannabis cultivation.

Here are some of the more important things you need to know about the plant:

Plant Anatomy
Commercial cannabis comes from the female species, which have long skinny stems and large, iconic fan leaves. The plant is trimmed down into buds, which come together in a cola at the top of the stem.

Trichomes are a blanket of crystal resin coating the cannabis plant, and they contain both terpenes and cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids
The two most well-known cannabinoids are THC and CBD, which also occur in the largest volume.

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is known to cause psychoactive effects or the “high” felt from cannabis.
Effects: pain relief, anti-nausea, sleep aid, appetite and mood stimulant.

Cannabidiol (CBD) lacks nearly any psychoactive effect, making it preferred as a medicine.
Effects: pain relief, anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, seizure reduction.

Other cannabinoids such as cannabichromene (CBC), cannbigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN), have similar therapeutic properties. Research is also validating the plant’s efficacy in treating medical conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, and Alzheimer’s.

Terpenes
Terpenes are organic, aromatic compounds found in the oils of all flowers, including cannabis. Interestingly, these oils have their own independent medical potential that is waiting to be unlocked.

Cannabinoids and terpenes work in harmony, resulting in an “entourage effect” and enhances the medical properties of cannabis

Sativa, Indica, Hybrid
There are two common types of cannabis plants: sativa and indica.

Sativa plants have long and thin leaves that are lighter in color. Buds are long and wispy, and feature red or orange coloring. They tend to contain high THC and low CBD levels – optimal for daytime use, described as being energizing, stimulating, and creative.

Indica plants have leaves that are wide, broad, and deep in color. Buds are dense and tightly packed, featuring purple coloring. Indica usually contains medium levels of THC, and a higher amount of CBD. Its effects are often described as being relaxing and calming, which is more optimal for nighttime use.

It’s also worth noting that hybrid strains can often bring together the best qualities of both into one plant.

The Lifecycle of a Cannabis Plant

Every stage of growth of a cannabis plant needs different care:

1. Germination (Seed): 1-2 weeks
Seeds ready for germination are dark brown, hard, and dry. Encourage sprouting by watering seeds in a paper towel.

2. Seedling: 2-3 weeks
Move seeds into growing medium. Plants need the maximum light at this stage, and appropriate water levels. Cotyledon (seed leaves) and iconic fan leaves will grow.

Light: 18-24 hours
Humidity: 70%
Temperature: 20-25°C

3. Vegetative: 2-8 weeks
Plants need flowing dry air, fresh warm water, and increased nutrients – especially nitrogen. It’s important at this stage to separate male and female plants before pollination to prevent female plants producing seeds instead of trichomes.

Light: 12 hours sunlight (18 hours fluorescent light)
Humidity: 50%
Temperature: 20-24°C

4. Flowering: 6-8 weeks
Gradually reduce light exposure to produce medicinal qualities. Increase phosphorous levels and decrease nitrogen. Fertilizers can help stimulate bud formation.

Light: 12 hours
Humidity: 40-50%
Temperature: 20-28 °C

5. Harvesting
Trim and dry the buds. The plant is ripe when buds turn from milky white to reddish orange. Harvest once 70-90% of pistils are browned for maximized taste and effect.

Humidity: 50%
Temperature: 20-25°C

As the cannabis industry matures, consumers will demand the highest-quality products. Growing cannabis in a natural environment is increasingly vital to create a premium end-product.

In the next part of this series, we will dive into various growing methods and the benefits of organic methods on quality and effects of cannabis.

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Agriculture

Balancing the Environmental Costs of Cannabis

Legal cannabis cultivation emits as much CO2 as 92,660 cars annually. Growing cannabis sustainably can reduce this massive environmental footprint.

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Balancing the Environmental Costs of Cannabis

Economic development comes with a massive environmental cost.

Since 1980, heavy industrial activity has caused the doubling of CO2 emissions. As scientists warn of the lasting negative impacts this will have on the planet, nearly every industry is committing to sustainable practices to try to counteract this effect.

Today’s infographic comes from The Green Organic Dutchman, and it demonstrates that while the business of cannabis isn’t always eco-friendly, there are several tried-and-tested ways to reduce its massive footprint.

A HEFTY PRICE TO PAY

Energy is the second-highest cost driver in cannabis cultivation after labor.

There are two main culprits – lighting and HVAC systems (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Combined, they make up a whopping 89% of energy use in cannabis cultivation operations.

Last year, legal cannabis cultivation was responsible for consuming 1.1 million MWh of electricity, and producing 472,000 tons of CO2 emissions. That’s enough to power 92,500 homes, and produce the same emissions as 92,660 cars per year. As legal cannabis production scales, this will only escalate.

Much of this data can be attributed to how the plant is grown.

Growing methodPower consumption (kWh/g)Carbon intensity (lbs CO2e/g)
Indoor1.271.24
Greenhouse0.940.72
Outdoor0.070.05

Indoor cultivation is roughly 18 times more energy-intensive than outdoor cultivation, and produces 25 times the carbon emissions. On the other hand, outdoor production produces lower overall yield per square foot. Since it’s difficult to control the environment, impurities can also end up in the final product.

That’s why many companies opt for a hybrid approach instead – balancing the benefits of precise control, with the use of natural light to lower production costs.

A GAME PLAN FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Many licensed producers are adopting a suite of strategies to relieve this environmental footprint.

  • Renewable energy
    Diversifying the energy sources for cannabis cultivation can reduce carbon emissions. Solar and wind are top choices among cultivators.
  • LED lighting
    LED light bulbs are more than 60% more efficient than other types. They also produce barely any heat, lowering ventilation requirements.
  • Water efficiency
    A single cannabis plant can use up to 23 liters of water per day. Water can be recycled and re-used through innovative techniques such as reverse osmosis.
  • Packaging
    The plastic packaging often associated with cannabis products is a considerable contributor of waste. There are several alternatives, such as paper, glass, and tin. Each of these have their own benefits and drawbacks, depending on what they are used for.

Maximizing energy-efficiency has a domino effect not only on the planet, but on reduced operating costs. These savings can then be passed on to the buyer, which could prove to be a strong competitive advantage as the cannabis industry matures.

Stay tuned for part 6 of this series, where we’ll delve into the scientific evidence for medical cannabis compounds.

The Story of Cannabis: What Investors Need to KnowAnatomy of a Cannabis PlantA Quality Cannabis ProductThe Rise of OrganicA Sustainable Cannabis ProductComing soonComing soonComing soon

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Agriculture

The Rise of Organic Cannabis in North America

Consumer spending on cannabis is projected to hit $10 billion in 2018. As the industry matures, a trend towards organic cannabis will ensue.

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The Rise of Organic Cannabis in North America

Canna-business is booming on the heels of Canada’s momentous decision to legalize cannabis nationwide, and the industry is now projected to bring in close to $95 billion by 2026.

Much like the way organic products have risen to prominence in supermarkets, consumers will start to demand high-quality products as the cannabis industry matures, as well.

Today’s infographic comes from The Green Organic Dutchman, and it elaborates on why investors and consumers alike are anticipating a growing trend towards organic cannabis.

Roots of the Movement

In a nutshell, organic refers to products grown without fertilizers, pesticides, or genetic modifications. By that definition, organic practices also help to minimize the impact of farming on an environmental level.

The organic trend originates in the post-WWII era, as technological advances transformed the efficiency of large-scale agriculture. As practices changed, farmers and scholars worried about the long-term effects that the use of synthetic chemicals could have.

Thus, the organic movement was born:

1940
The phrase “organic farming” is first coined by English agriculturalist Lord Northbourne.

1962
The book “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson raises public awareness of the harms posed by pesticides, launching the contemporary environmental movement.

1972
The International Federation of Organic Movements (IFOM), a worldwide organization for the organic agriculture movement, is founded.

1990
The U.S. passes the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA), defining standard organic production practices.

More recently, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion demonstrates the influence of consumers in catapulting organic products into the mainstream.

The Allure of Organic Cannabis

Consumers are expecting the same quality standards from other products they consume, such as cannabis.

Growing cannabis organically ensures that it is:

1. Safe for consumption

Natural cultivation methods mean that organic cannabis is often a safer end-product.

2. A premium experience

Organic cannabis offers consumers improved flavor and quality, with enhanced potency.

3. Environmentally sustainable

With organic practices, the surrounding water, soil, and biodiversity are unharmed.

Fine Print?

One caveat to choosing organic is the price differential. One gram of organic cannabis can cost 26% more than regular grade cannabis – but that’s because organic cultivation requires more attention to detail.

Nevertheless, increasing consumer demand for less chemically-laden products can outweigh this price differential in many cases. The growing market for cannabis is now on track to bring in $10 billion this year – outpacing all previous estimates.

Stay tuned for part 5 of this series, which will look at the way growing organic cannabis can be complemented by sustainable practices.

The Story of Cannabis: What Investors Need to KnowAnatomy of a Cannabis PlantA Quality Cannabis ProductThe Rise of OrganicBalancing the Environmental Costs of CannabisThe Science Behind the $13 Billion Medical Cannabis IndustryComing soonComing soon

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