Marijuana, hemp cross-pollination a budding conflict
DENVER (AP) — Outdoor marijuana growers are reporting an increase in cross-pollination from hemp farms, a development that could mean marijuana cultivators might lose upwards of tens of thousands of dollars if their plants become unmarketable as flower products.
As the marijuana and hemp industries increasingly share the same cultivation territory, the number of conflicts is likely to increase, particularly in areas with thriving outdoor cannabis cultivation.
Washington state is a case in point. In April, Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5276 into law, opening the state up to hemp production in response to the 2018 Farm Bill in part by removing the previous 4-mile buffer between outdoor marijuana grows and hemp farms.
At least one marijuana farmer has experienced firsthand the consequences of this change in the law.
“We took a big hit,” said Robert Morf, who owns and operates Cheshire Creek, an outdoor marijuana cultivation operation in Waterville, Washington.
He estimated he will lose about $40,000 this year after his midsized, 600-plant farm was cross-pollinated by pollen from the male plants he said came from a neighboring hemp grower.
According to Morf, his flower is full of seeds, reducing the usable volume and overall quality and value of the crop.
He won’t be able to sell it on the wholesale or retail flower market and will take a financial hit by selling it all for extraction.
Morf has grown marijuana for three years “out in the middle of nowhere” with no other cannabis cultivators for 30 miles.
He didn’t have any trouble with his neighbors until the buffer was removed under the new hemp law.
The hemp grower who leased the land from the farmers across the road assured Morf the plants would be grown from clones.
Since Morf was there first with his marijuana operation, it was up to him to give the OK, and he took it on faith the hemp growers would remove the male plants.
He thought “cross-pollination would have been worse for them than it would have been for me.”
Morf contacted his local and state political representatives as well as his contact at the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), but he found no recourse.
To prove it wasn’t his own plants that pollinated his field, Morf pointed out that the LCB’s tracking system will show that he planted from female clones.
“We’ve gone through three years of growing, and the most I’ve seen is a female plant with one bud herming off a stem last year,” he added.
“Herming” refers to a cannabis plant developing both male and female flowers.
Morf has considered suing, but he figures it’s not worth the cost.
“At this point, it’s ‘screw it’ and move on,” he added.
The hemp growers have left the plants cut down in the field and won’t be returning next year to farm that land, Morf told Marijuana Business Daily.
Carefully source your seed
A similar problem is shaping up in the bordering state to the south, Oregon.
Pete Gendron, a grower in Sunny Valley and president of the Oregon SunGrowers Guild, estimated the cross-pollination issue is impacting about 8% of the state’s marijuana production.
In terms of total acreage affected by cross-pollination, it’s an increase from last year, he added.
That’s largely because the number of hemp acres has increased by about 500%.
According to Hemp Industry Daily, Oregon had 11,754 acres in 2018 and increased to 51,313 acres in 2019.
His advice to growers looking to avoid male plants showing up in their fields: Buy your seed from a reputable provider and try to make sure your hemp-growing neighbors are using feminized seeds.
Tell them, “if you pollinate me, you’re going to be pollinating yourself, too,” Gendron said.
“That being said, it won’t save you from field walking,” he added, meaning growers still need to check to ensure their plants haven’t hermed or that no male plants have grown from seed.
“It really only takes one (male plant) to ruin your day,” he said.
In Pueblo, Colorado, the area of the state with the largest amount of outdoor-grown marijuana, the county regulators have been working to allow both hemp and cannabis cultivators to coexist.
Steven Turetsky, managing director of Pueblo-based hemp grower Shi Farms, said hemp farmers have been asked to put their “best effort forward to not grow male plants.”
That’s in part because outdoor-grown marijuana has been a shot in the arm to the local economy.
The general sentiment is that hemp growers should all use clones to ensure the plants are females.
“Obviously, with cannabis, even if you plant from clones, there can be mutation,” Turetsky said. “But it significantly decreases the risk.”
He said he came to the realization that it’s beneficial for his company to act in good faith toward marijuana growers.
By also only using clones, his company has avoided dealing with vendors who might be selling nonfeminized seeds.
“We don’t want seeds, either,” he said.
According to Wendy Mosher, president and chief executive officer of Fort Collins, Colorado-based seed company New West Genetics, a grower will lose about 1% of total cannabinoid content if a field is cross-pollinated.
While Colorado is considered generally favorable to hemp compared to other states with marijuana programs, cross-pollination also is happening to hemp-based CBD farms in Colorado, she added.
When a hemp farm is cross-pollinated, the farmer can thresh the crop to try to salvage some of it.
Mosher said one male in a field a mile away can pollinate a crop, and it can be very difficult to determine the source.
“It’s just impossible to tell where it’s coming from,” she added.
USDA trying to help
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) acknowledges the cross-pollination issue and has set aside money to address it.
In October, the agency awarded $500,000 to a Virginia Tech research team to get better data on pollen drift.
The goal is to predict how and where pollen grains travel.
Researchers will use drones to track pollen, hoping results can inform regulations on how far growers should keep hemp and marijuana apart to prevent damaging cross-pollination.
“Having a validated and reliable long-distance transport prediction model for wind-dispersed pollen is critical to establishing appropriate isolation distances,” plant sciences professor David Schmale said in a Virginia Tech statement announcing the grant.
Can You Smoke Pollinated Females?
Cannabis has been smoked for a long time. A greater population is now embracing its medicinal properties globally. Going deeper into the ingredients that make this plant beneficial is the THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). That is the main ingredient in cannabis. The quality of cannabis is gauged by the THC levels present. THC benefits are varied, including medicinal and recreational purposes.
Female cannabis plants are the most beneficial because they produce buds that are very rich in THC. The male counterparts do not produce enough, and quality buds as their energy is much invested in pollen production for pollination. If they are pollinated, they are subject to producing low-level THC. Non-pollinated females are the best.
Pollinated females are female plants that have already undergone the pollination process. Pollination is the process by which pollen grains from the male anther are transferred to the female stigma. Transfer of pollen to the stigma is enabled by wind, insects, or by artificial means. The sole goal of pollination is to reproduce through the formation of seeds.
Cannabis seed will take about 4-6 weeks to develop fully after successful pollination.
Unfertilized females are the best because of better yields, higher THC content, and better crop control. In some cases, you may find that it is not easy to prevent pollination.
Unprecedented occurrences can happen to your plants where a male plant grows and fertilizes your females before you know. Pollination makes your females divert all their energy to reproduction instead of producing more buds that are required for CBD and THC. Pollinated females are beneficial if you intend to have new genetics for the next crop.
The only time to get rid of pollinated females is when you spot the early signs. Losses associated with pollinated females can be curbed early by testing the plant’s gender in a genetics lab immediately after the plant begins sprouting the true leaves. To save you from putting much effort into a low-yield crop, the best action is to uproot all the plants, both male and female, then start all over again.
There are instances that cannabis male is important. That is when the breeders want seeds. In this case, they will grow males in a different field or tent from the field to avoid accidental pollination. Cannabis for any other purpose is best when it is not pollinated.
As you can see the weed leaves look very different from the oregano leaves shown in the first picture of this article.
It is not easy to know whether your cannabis plants are male or female except during the pre-flowering stage. Female plants will show white hairs on the area between the stem and the stock or their nodes. The males do not show this hair, but they develop pollen sacs.
There are signs of female and male plants that begin appearing at the 4th to the 5th week of the plant. That is when the plant transitions from its vegetative stage to the flowering stage. At the females’ flowering stage, the male pollen sacs burst open to release pollen to your females to pollinate them. To know whether your females have been pollinated, there are two major signs to watch out for.
Bracts are leaf-like structures on the budding and node areas of a plant. They are essential in the protection of the female reproductive parts of the plant. Usually, the flowering buds appear at the bracts. Paying keen attention to the nodes will reveal a pollinated female. The bracts are very tiny, but with the help of a magnifying glass, you can take a closer look to know whether these have begun to develop. Male plants will show round balls instead.
Change of pistil hair color
The color of the pistil hair color is white. After pollination of the cannabis plant, the white hairs change to a darker color. Watch out for any pistil hair color change to avoid investing time and resources on an already pollinated crop that will give you a poor harvest.
Just like in human reproduction, cannabis has got the male and female reproductive organs. That means there are different female plants and male plants. Hermaphrodites exist too. These have got both sexes. The cannabis hermaphrodite plants are very destructive. They can damage your entire crop by spreading pollen to your females.
The occurrence of hermaphrodites happens when your crop is exposed to bad weather, damage, poor genetics, nutrients deficiency, and other stresses. They will be subjected to the production of anthers, the parts of the plant that produces pollen. If your plants have been exposed to stress, it is important to watch out for hermaphrodites, which can destroy your crop.
How can you ensure that you plant females that will not be pollinated?
Cannabis experts point out that pollen can spread at a radius of 3-7.5 miles. When the winds are high, they can reach over 30 miles away. That indicates that your females are prone to get pollinated if extra measures are not put in place.
One of the outright solutions to preventing accidental pollination of your females is through planting feminized seeds. Feminized seeds are the legendary strain of cannabis seeds that grow into superior quality plants with many useable seedless buds. It would help if you sourced seeds from a reputable seller to avoid pollination and eventual destruction of your crop. Even if you throw efforts at your females, you will not have to worry about incurring losses. Feminized seeds are a guaranteed quality crop and bumper harvest.
Another way to prevent pollination is to talk to your neighbor and agree on planting the time. For example, if you agree to plant in a two weeks interval, the males in your neighbors garden will mature late, thus making it impossible to cross-pollination your females and vice versa.
Light misting is also another way to prevent pollination. Misting your fields with water knocks pollen off the air, thus preventing them from traveling between the fields. To prevent pollination, farmers can adopt a technique called miles-long setback. The technique helps to restrict farmers from growing cannabis within a four miles wide area. This will prevent cross-pollination in between the fields.
If all the above measures of preventing pollination fail and you end up with pollinated females, nothing will prevent you from smoking your favorite pipe or joint. Smoking pollinated females will not harm your body, whichever strain you puff; however, there are a few things you need to note before you go ahead to puff your favorite stone from pollinated females.
When cannabis pollinates, the buds are expected to produce seeds. A chemical change occurs in the entire flowering structure, causing the buds to taste and smell bad. That change is not restricted to the buds only but the entire flower. The chemical substance spreads in the whole plant leaving it with a bad taste and smell. Generally, the overall quality of the product changes and becomes unpleasant to the senses. If you compare the taste with the quality of non-pollinated cannabis, you find this unpleasant.
Lower THC levels
Even if you were to sift off the seeds from the rest of the buds, the THC content has already been produced. It will not matter. THC levels in pollinated females are lower because most of the chemical energy is directed to reproduction. The seedless buds known as Sensimilla, formed during flowering, produce very quality and high levels of THC and CBD. Smoking pollinated cannabis will have fewer effects than the high-quality buds from females that are not pollinated.
Reports indicate that THC levels in pollinated cannabis buds and seeds are up to 33% less than those from non-pollinated buds. There are suggestions that THC can be released by heating the pollinated buds or seeds. Cannabis seeds are a good source of fatty acids, including Omega 3, Omega 6, and, Omega 9 among other nutrients; however, the THC levels are very low.
It can cause discomfort
Though smoking pollinated cannabis may not cause any harm to your body, some smokers experience some discomfort, including sore throat, headache, and nausea. There could be a form of an allergic reaction that can lead to coughing and sneezing for a considerable length of time.
Pollinated females have got seeds in their buds that when burnt produce harsh and hot smoke that leaves the respiratory tract irritation. Some individuals experience abdominal and gastrointestinal pain. These are minor discomforts that can be ignored because they are not a health threat.
Adverse reactions of burnt cannabis seeds are the production of carcinogenic compounds from cellulose. More so, when smoking these females, produce pop and crackle sounds that can be loud and freak you up. You should sift the buds from the seeds and smoke the buds instead. The seeds can be used for many other purposes. Another recommended way of using the seeds is adding them to your favorite liquor. Keep the concoction for a week and filter out the seeds. If you repeat the process for several months, your liquor will build u high levels of THC.
Can you smoke pollinated females?
The answer to this is yes, you can. You can enjoy your pollinated female puffs if you choose to. It is a personal choice. Be sure to remove any seeds from your buds before smoking.
For the recreational benefits, the pollinated females will give you the ultimate advantage. The feeling of “highness” may not be accomplished due to the lower THC levels but your pollinated females will still be beneficial.
Your body needs essential fatty acids and nutrients, which are present in the seeds from your females. When you ingest the seeds, they will provide you with plant-based proteins, Omega 3, Omega 6, and Omega 7 fatty acids. Arginine, a fatty acid found in the seeds is good for your muscle relaxation, blood vessel dilation, and blood pressure reduction. Another health benefit that you are likely to reap from the seeds is fiber. The seeds are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber. These two are known to reduce colon and intestinal cancer, among other digestion problems.
If you want to try out smoking the seeds, you can dry, grind, roll, and enjoy the puff. Some people claim that one of the best weeds they ever smoked had seeds. Others say that the seeds tasted like crap. The best part to derive the much-needed marijuana pleasure is from the parts that are intended for smoking, which is the bud.
For quality cannabis purchases, consider non-pollinated females. If you are a farmer, you can as well take measures to control your females from getting pollinated so that you get a quality product. The process may look tedious and time-consuming but it’s worth the effort. At the end of the season, you are guaranteed a harvest with high-level THC and CBD products.
If your crop ends up wrong where your females get pollinated, the greatest loss will be low-level THC and CBD cannabis that will have little or no market value. You could consider drying the harvest and storing it in air-tight containers and enjoy maximum puffs until the next crop. Alternatively, you can make cannabis oil. The oil can be used for cooking, and it’s also well known for treating wounds, among other benefits.
Except for the irritation on your throat and less high feeling, the health risks are minimal. It is a plus that you will end up with seeds for the next season. The only documented setback with pollinated females is having a lower THC content than the non-pollinated ones. You will have to be extremely careful to avoid repeating the same mistakes of having males growing on your field.